Southern Alabama Specialties

Recipes and folklore from the Gulf Coast. Like this favorte recipe, Garlic Shrimp Linguine, gets a nod from Creole cookery and blends new and old world flavors in making one fine dinner.

Grilling Year-round on the Gulf Coast

Life is good on the Gulf Coast as you'll find folks grilling and barbecuing all types of fine foods. Burgers, dogs, steaks, wings, ribs, pork, chicken, beef, seafood, gator, heck ... if it lives around here, we eat it!

Cake Making in the South

A real classic ~ Lemon Pound Cake with Citrus Glaze.

Sunday Dinners are Sacred in the South

An establishment in these parts, sitting down at the dinner table for a family meal is a way of life for many of us. It is quality time well spent sharing our blessings. Enjoy our recipes.

Gulf Coast Seafood Recipes

Platters like this are often on tables around Mobile Bay especially when there is a Jubilee. A Jubilee only occurs in Mobile Bay - find mouth-watering recipes under the Fish and Seafood categories.

March 28, 2013

Making Proper Gravy

How to Make Gravy Like Momma

Southern Kitchen Classics: Gravy Making

Many essential things come from the kitchens of our parents and grandparents. Many are of life's lessons, a few about cooking and a few with recipes. This one is about cooking.

To our ancestors, making a sauce or gravy was not science but today, we know it is just that. Both sauce and gravy consists of thickening agents combined with a aqueous mixture to increase its viscosity without substantially modifying its other properties, such as taste. To do so properly provides body, increases stability, and improves suspension of added ingredients. Thickening agents include: polysaccharides (starches, vegetable gums, and pectin), proteins (eggs, collagen, gelatin, blood albumin) and fats (butter, oil and lards). All purpose flour is the most popular food thickener, followed by cornstarch, arrowroot, potato or tapioca. All of these thickeners are based on starch as the thickening agent. But unlike the last four agents, only all purpose flour is widely used in making gravy as the cornstarch (which is actually a flour too) and root crops yields clear, translucent gravies and will not brown as in making a roux. source

Now in the south and I mean deep south, the terms gravy and sauce are the same. In fact, sauce is rarely use in many parts and as I remember from my youth, 'gravy is spooned from the pan and sauce is served at the table'. Here, I use gravy as a compatible word.

There are many ways to make gravy using flour. Three of the basics are:

  • using a slurry which is flour and cold liquid combined and whisked into a base liquid before raising the temperature needed to thicken the sauce. Using this method does allow you to skip the addition of fat.

  • by making a paste of flour and fat (Beurre Manié) and whisking it into a heated base liquid to thicken

  • and the best is by making a roux of flour and fat ... period

By using the first two methods to make a gravy, the sauce will not maintain stability and both require a long time to cook out the raw flour taste. By starting with a roux, which is mostly equal part flour and a fat, you cook to break down the flour and rid that raw taste before adding the base liquid.

Now, the best pan to use for a gravy is of course a saucier, but a rounded bottom skillet will do nicely too. And, if you are making dark roux, you want to make sure your saucier, pot or skillet is a heavy, 3-ply or cast iron vessel. A good whisk with many tines along with a flat bottom spatula are the basic tools in making roux for gravy.

So what is the best ratio of ingredients: According to Alton Brown, 1 cup liquid with 1 ounce flour and 1 ounce fat by weight is the trick. source  So if you need 3 cups of gravy, increase all by 3. Momma did not weigh out her ingredients, nor do I. Like her, I do the tablespoon method and it goes like this: for every 1 cup of liquid, make a roux using 2 tablespoons of fat with 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour.

Now, let's get to making gravy. Melt the fat (lard, oil or butter) over medium heat and when melted hot, whisk in the flour all at once. Whisk good for 2 minutes which the roux should start to thin out or spread a little on its own. At this point, turn down the heat to low and continue whisking. It is here where the level of thickening power is achieved and it is here where depending on how long you stir and cook it determines the color and flavor.

A rule for type of roux, thickening power and cooking time on low heat goes something like this:

White - 1 part roux - cooks about 5 minutes
Blond - 2 parts roux- about 20 minutes of stirring
Tan Chocolate - 3 parts roux - plan on up to a good hour
Dark Creole Brick Red - 4 parts roux - takes up to 2 hours

You see, the lighter the roux, the more thickening power it will have and likewise, the darker it is the less, meaning the more you will need to thicken the same amount of liquid.

I have always followed Momma's way introducing the roux to the liquid base of both ingredients being hot or at least the liquid being on the warm side and the roux cooled down a bit by removing off-heat or caramelizing vegetables before the liquid's melding. Chef Brown's axiom is that the roux should be room temperature and the liquid base hot. I mention this only because I have much faith in Sir Alton. But momma's way has never let me down. Either way, slowly whisk in about 1/3 of liquid into the roux over high heat forming a paste. This will ensure a smooth, binding gravy. When thickened, add another 1/3 of liquid and whisk until smooth. By using the roux method, the gravy will thicken quickly, at about 150 degrees F. or about the time you first start to see bubbling action breaking the surface. Add more liquid, tablespoons at a time until desired consistency. At this time, your gravy is ready.

Note that gravy made with a flour roux will also cool down quicker than say one made the Beurre manié method. Therefore, it is necessary to thin a roux base gravy down a tad more than you would think knowing it thickens as it cools especially if serving at the table.

As I mention in our family cookbook, Grits to Guacamole, Momma had a flair of making various sauces and would stand over the stove and then cunningly use that same labor intensive sauce over heated vegetables from the freezer. Some of her best sauces or gravies come from a roux base including these:

Béchamel / Creole Creamed Eggs
Béchamel - a white milk gravy made with all purpose flour and butter

Mornay - taking the white gravy and adding cayenne along with Gruyere and Parmesan

Alfredo / Creamy Chicken Alfredo
Alfredo - the white roux gravy adding garlic, Parmesan and a pinch of nutmeg

Soubise - classic Béchamel with the addition of shallots or onion

Velouté / Sweet Onion Apple Pear Gravy
Velouté - a meat flavored sauce using a butter and flour roux along with a base liquid of chicken, fish or veal stock

Paprika - a Velouté with the addition of onion, added butter, paprika and heavy cream

Cheese / Baked Macaroni and Pimento Cheese
Classic Cheese for Mac - the Béchamel blended with cheddar cheese is perfect for vegetables too

Saw Mill / Fried Chicken Fillets
Saw Mill Gravy - the white milk gravy heavily seasoned with black pepper, sometimes with bits of browned ground country sausage

Red Eye Gravy - flour roux with country ham drippings and coffee

Tomato Gravy / Creole Daube
Creole Tomato Gravy - a seasoned roux gravy with the addition of diced tomatoes

Brown Gravy / Momma's Meatloaf

Brown Gravy - pan drippings from cooked meat stirred into a darkened flour based roux

March 24, 2013

Asparagus Coddled in Cheese Sauce

Let the Fresh Flavor Shine.

Asparagus is so good this time of year, it seems to be plentiful in all grocers. But even at the peak of harvest season, a 'good buy' seems to be a tad too much. Why is that? Well, it seems asparagus, which grows to be a big ol' fern if not gathered young, takes a long time to harvest, three years or more in fact from seed germination. The young ones, the kind I used in this recipe, are many times referred to as 'pencils'.  You can find these real thin ones right now in the markets.

'Pencil' Asparagus
And, just so you know, the size does not necessarily indicate how tender or tough the spear will be as thin ones stored for a long time are tough as are big and fresh, day-picked fat ones harvested late. When shopping, look for spears with a bright green color, have compact heads, and the ends look freshly cut, not shriveled. Prepare asparagus soon after purchasing but you can refrigerate them wrapped in plastic for a day or two. The easiest and fastest way to remove the tough ends is to snap each at its natural breaking point rather than peeling away the tough outside and scales. I hold each spear in one hand just pass the tender 'frongs' or tip and with the other hand holding at the cut end, I bend the spear in an arching motion until is snaps at its own breaking point.

For this recipe, I used a pound which on average will feed 2 to 4 folks depending on  serving size of course.You can also cut up your spears into bite-size pieces, which I almost did here, and for every pound of fresh asparagus, I normally get about 3 cups or so. What I like about this recipe is that it allowed the wonderful, fresh taste of the asparagus to come forth with the spears being crisp tender and the sauce lay only a delicate flavor of richness coddling the spears. Enjoy!

Asparagus Coddled in Mild Cheese Sauce
about 4 servings

1 pound thin asparagus
1 quart boiling, salted water
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup + 2 tablespoons milk
dash of Worcestershire
1/3 cup grated mild cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper
1/2 cup buttered crumb mixture

Wash the asparagus and break off the tough ends. Arrange flat in a dish and cover with the boiling salted water. Let set for 5 minutes. Drain and set asparagus aside on towel to dry.

In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and blend in the flour stirring for 2 minutes. Season with the Cajun spice and gradually stir in the milk making a thin white sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Blend in the Worcestershire and remove from heat. Blend in the cheese and then stir in the red bell pepper.

Arrange the asparagus in a buttered casserole and spoon the sauce on top. Scatter the top with the buttered crumb mixture. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F. oven for about 20 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and crumb is brown.

Note: For the crumb mixture I added about 6 garlic croutons and about 4 saltines in a baggie and pounded the heck out of it with a mallet. I then tossed the crumbs with about a teaspoon of melted butter.

March 20, 2013

Shrimp Gumbo with Okra

Arial of Dauphin Island
Dauphin Island, Pelican Girls and Gumbo

Today I want to share a few really good recipes and a very special event I know everyone would love to attend. For those us us who are lucky enough to live so close to Dauphin Island, this event draws a lot of attention and a lot of good eats, even the Iron Chef himself a couple of years back when Alton Brown stopped by to promote our seafood industry right after the BP incident. Dauphin Island is located to the south of Mobile and on Alabama's Gulf Coast, south of Heron Bay. By car, it is a short ride from the I-10 corridor passing through Mobile and by boat, you can find Dauphin Island by navigating here (N30 15'31, 90" W88 06'47.78).

Now one of the stories in my cookbook, Journal of Mobile's Southern Cookery, is the tale of how the Pelican Girls arrived on Dauphin Island in 1704 and how the french pastries or fried 'bugnes' became a favorite along the region, later finding their way to New Orleans (we now call the sweet version beignets). The recipe for a fried Seafood Cheddar Beignet follows the story in the book. In short, the Pelican Girls were brought over for fraternization with the French soldiers and settlers of Mobile which at the time, was the capital of Louisiana. With the Pelican Girls came a very valuable ingredient in southern cookery - Okra. And as told, it is here, on Dauphin Island, where a French-Canadian housekeeper and cook for Jean Baptiste Le Moyne de’ Bienville made a fish stew using the okra from the African slaves of West Indies along with native filé powder made from dried sassafras leaves. Thus, Gumbo came into existence and it is here, on Dauphin Island where such an event should be celebrated historically.

First, about the Festival.

 2013 Gumbo Festival Schedule

Friday – 3/22:

Learn the art of making gumbo from local chefs and gumbo aficionados by visiting five different locations to enjoy live cooking demonstrations, gumbo tasting and live music.

Saturday – 3/23:
The Arts & Crafts Festival runs from 9AM-4:30PM
Children’s Activity Area fun is open 11AM-4:30PM
Enjoy live music from 11:30AM-4:30PM
and the Gumbo Cook-Off and sampling is from 11AM-2PM

All located at the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo Headquarters – 531 Lemonyne Dr.

Enjoy the music of:
Marc Broussard & Bonerama
with special guest Ryan Balthrop

Sunday – 3/24:
West End Beach party
Battle of the Bands
Sandcastle Contest
Beach volleyball
Children's Activities
10AM- 5PM
Tickets $12 advance / $15 gate
Children 6-12 $5
Purchase Advance Tickets here

Also on the island– 

Alabama Gulf Seafood Tasting Tour

Visit Island restaurants during the designated times on the tasting tour and receive a free sample of their Alabama Gulf Seafood specialty. Free and open to the public. *While samples last* Look for the signs!

Saturday 12-6 pm -Skinners Seafood (1100 Bienville)
Saturday 1-4 pm -Lighthouse Bakery (919 Chaumant)
Saturday 3-5 pm -JT’s Sunset Grill (1102 Desoto Ave)
Saturday 8-10 pm- Bienville Bar & Grill (1614 Bienville) Live Music with Justin Fobes
Saturday 4-6 pm- Dauphin Island Chevron & Grill (1000 Bienville)
Sunday 3-5pm- Islanders Restaurant (1504 Bienville) Live Music with Brett LaGrave
Sunday 1-4 pm -Dauphin Island BBQ (906 Bienville)
Sunday 11-5 pm- West End Beach Party- (West end of Bienville)

Now for my recipes:

I make a Shrimp Gumbo much like Dove Gumbo, meaning with a blond to medium roux and very little 'additive' ingredients other than the trinity and a little Creole love. I think the main ingredient should be the forefront of the dish, Alabama shrimp, and the roux is used as a binder as with the okra rather than an added depth as we do when making our seafood gumbos using the nuttier, dark Creole brick colored roux.
Shrimp Gumbo with Okra
bowl of Gumbo from Mobile Bay area -
or in Beinville's times, this would be Gumbo Fevi aux Chevretes

2 pounds medium (31-50 count) Alabama shrimp, raw with heads intact
1 cup dry white wine (I use dry Vermouth)
1 bouquet garni
1/4 cup lard, Crisco or cooking oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup diced onion
2/3 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
8-10 garlic toes, minced
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded and diced
2 cups sliced (1/2-inch) fresh okra or 1 -20 oz bag frozen
2 sprigs of thyme (about 1 teaspoon fresh minced)
1/4 teaspoon ground bay leaves (or 2 medium)
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoons cayenne
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 quarts hot shrimp stock
1 quart hot chicken stock

Serve with:
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
Several varying bottles of hot sauce
White rice

Start by deheading the shrimp and peeling away the shell (and tail) from each shrimp. Place the shells and heads in a stockpot and add a bouquet garni made with 3 sprigs of parsley, a sprig of thyme and several tender sprigs of oregano. Cover with about 2 1/2 quarts of water, the Vermouth and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and simmer for an hour. Meanwhile, devein the shrimp if desired and begin the roux although you must not astray while making roux as constant stirring is crucial. When shrimp stock has cooked, strain through a fine mesh sieve or use a linen lined colander for a clearer stock. Reserve stock and keep warm adding water to make 2 quarts; discard the solids.

In a large, heavy stockpot over medium high heat, add the lard and when heated, quickly stir in the flour. Stir using a wooden paddle lifting the flour mixture from the bottom of the pot constantly until a the roux turns a light brown (color of light brown sugar) to medium (color of peanut butter). Reduce heat to medium and stir in the onions. Stir until onions are soften and add the celery, bell pepper, garlic, parsley, tomato and okra. Cook about 5 minutes stirring occasionally to keep okra from sticking.

Add the thyme, ground bay leaves, the two ground peppers, salt, and slowly incorporate the shrimp stock adding a little at a time until blended. Stir in the chicken stock and decrease heat to low. Cover and simmer about 30 minutes or until the okra begins to break down. Add the shrimp and and cook covered 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to set 10 minutes.

Serve with white rice and garnish with green onion, parsley and hot pepper sauce if desired.

Here are some other recipes:
Gulf Coast Seafood Gumbo
Chicken and Cajun Sausage Gumbo
Cajun Duck and Sausage Gumbo
Making a Good Roux

March 16, 2013

Gulf Coast Garlic Shrimp Linguine

Alabama's Shrimp shines in this recipe. 

With it's common main ingredients, this recipe is one found in practically all cuisines. Garlic and spices like the hot, red pepper along with parsley plays into Italy's Scampi, Spain's Gambas al Ajillo,  a spicy version of Thai's Goong Pong Gari and of course, our America's southern Barbecued Shrimp.

Like a good southerner,  I chose to flash-fry these Alabama wild shrimp with a light crust of flour, which I think helps keeps them tender throughout the cooking and also adds to the creamy sauce. I then incorporate these Gulf beauties into a Creole lemon-wine-butter sauce similar to our heritage white Bordelaise sauce we so adore with crab claws and our much loved seafood dishes.

The Bordelaise recipe today is my take on the American-Italian Shrimp Scampi with a little of our BBQ shrimp way of doing it thrown in for added taste. Enjoy!

Gulf Coast Garlic Shrimp Linguine
Southern Style Shrimp & Sausage Scampi
serves 4 to 6

2 pounds large Alabama or Gulf Coast shrimp, peeled, deep deveined (almost butterflied)
1 tablespoon no-salt Creole Seasoning
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup oil for frying (peanut oil is best, extra light olive oil is okay)
1 pound smoked sliced sausage, optional
2 tablespoons minced garlic or about 12 toes, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 1/2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon bay leaf powder, or 1 large bay leaf
1 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 cups dry white wine (Vermouth is great)
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted cold butter (yes, use real butter here) cut into teaspoon size pieces
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, plus more for plating
1 pound fresh linguine, cooked

Pat the shrimp completely dry. Sprinkle with the Creole seasoning and toss in a paper bag with the flour. Lay on a wire rack until ready to cook.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan or deep fryer to 365 degrees F. A good test is to fry a piece of bacon and when it turns brown the oil is hot and also flavored. Carefully fry the shrimp in batches for about 1 minute each side or until the shrimp turns a light brown. Remove to a wire rack on a sheet pan and keep warm (a 200 degree over works great). Continue frying the shrimp until all is cooked.

Over medium high heat, add about a tablespoon of oil to a large skillet cook the sausage until brown on both sides. Remove to drain on a paper lined plate. Set aside.

Add the garlic to the skillet and sauté over medium high heat for about 1 minute. Add the Worcestershire, lemon juice, crushed red pepper, bay leaf powder, chicken stock and wine. Allow mixture to reduce to half in volume. Season with salt and pepper to taste and incorporate in the butter by whisking it off-heat into the sauce. When emulsified and velvety, return skillet over medium heat and add in the shrimp and green onions. Tenderly toss the shrimp coating with the sauce, cover and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, toss again adding the parsley and serve over warm linguine.

Be sure to serve with crusty hot French bread.

See also these recipes along the same theme:

March 14, 2013

Spanish Style Rice for BBQ Cookouts

Perfect Side-Dish for Barbecue and Grilled Meats

Do you know that March is National Tex-Mex month? Neither do I but since this is my third consecutive recipe evolving around the Mexican/Texan/Spanish tastes, something of a holiday sorts must be celebrated somewhere. Well, at least it is in my house. Actually, today's recipe is in anticipation of getting outside and firing up the grill. I have not cooked much outside this winter as I normally do, except for our Friday night ritual.

I bought my first racks of ribs yesterday and this afternoon I will be barbecuing my favorite, St. Louis style pork ribs using my BBQ Rib Rub and Mopping Sauce recipes. Together, it's so good, most guest like myself never use a BBQ sauce preferring the ribs served 'dry'. The secret, if you can call it that, is the slow process of bringing together the cooked-on rub with a slow baste of the mopping solution. Okay, I better get going, my mouth is drooling.

Back to the rice. This is a side dish based on another one I make and serve with Mexican meals but I added a few southern elements and toned down the Mex a bit to make it appealing to BBQ foods. I'll add a comment after we get through eating.... Hope you try and enjoy it!

Spanish Style Rice for Cookouts
with a little southern flavor
serves 8

2 tablespoons butter (or butter with olive oil)
1/2 cup diced white onion
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/4 ground bay leaves or 1 large bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 -14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes with juice
2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups white long-grain rice, uncooked
1/3 cup chopped toasted pecans
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions

In a large saucepan, heat the butter over medium high heat and sauté the four vegetables tossing to remove a little of the moisture. Cook until onions are slightly brown.

Add in the bay leaf, the  spices, tomatoes and broth. Increase heat to high and at simmer, stir in the rice. Cover and reduce to low. Cook 18 minutes.

Remove from heat and let rest 5 minutes. Fluff with large tine fork working in the pecans and green onions. Keep warm in a serving bowl until ready to plate.

Notes: Do not let set long before stirring or it could become mushy. I removed the rice from the saucepan and into a bowl to prevent this from happening, an experience I remembered from a similar recipe. Or you can reduce the chicken broth by 1/2 cup but as you can see in the pic, I think the rice turned out nice and plumped.

After the fact comment: pure yum - balanced flavor, not too spicy with subtle overtone of Spanish flavor - it was perfect complement for the ribs and would be great companion with other pork or chicken as well as grilled meals. I might would add some dried fruit if serving with game.

March 10, 2013

Oven Cooked Chili Cheeseburger

The Chili is in the Burger.

Still hankering for a little more tasty meals other than the bland foods we tend to eat when we have a cold or the flu, my taste buds motivated me toward a spicy, messy Chili con Carne topped cheeseburger. But before I got too carried away, I decided to go another route: Make a hamburger loaded with the flavors of a big ol' bowl of chili loaded roasted flavor, I mean that is all Chili con Carne really is, right? Meat flavored with chiles.

And one of the best things going is the way I prepared these; you can do so in the oven, anytime of the year. No going outside during the winter, no worrying about the burgers falling apart (it do contain a lot of moisture) and no frying on a stove-top griddle slinging grease all over the kitchen. Yup, a very appealing yet satisfying burger.


Chili Cheeseburger
makes 8 burgers

1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 or 3 garlic toes, minced
1 -4 oz can Fire Roasted (Hot or Mild) Green Diced Chiles, Hatch brand
2/3 can (from a 15.5 oz can) Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes, drained
Recipe for my Taco Seasoning Mix or 1 -1.35 oz package Taco Seasoning
1 1/2 tablespoons good chili powder blend (Mexene will do)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 pounds ground lean (93%) beef
6 Onion split buns, toasted
6 slices Pepper Jack or Monterey Jack cheese
Romaine lettuce leaves, thin onion and tomato slices and sliced avocados if desired

In medium sauté pan, heat oil over medium high heat and sauté onion and garlic until onion is slightly brown. Add drained chilies, tomatoes, taco seasoning, chili powder and cumin. Stir and simmer about 10 minutes to reduce moisture a bit. Let cool about 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

With a large spoon or spatula, mix cooked ingredients with meat. Divide mixture into six portions and shape into burgers. Place on a large roasting pan or bake ware about 1-inch apart. Place in oven and reduce heat to 350 degrees.

Cook about 10 minutes and turn burgers over. Continue cooking about 10 minutes or until desired doneness. Remove and drain on plate. Place cheese slice on each and tent loosely with foil.

Use your favorite salsa or condiment on the buns and add lettuce, onion, tomato and avocado if desired.

March 6, 2013

Roasted Vegetable Taco Soup with Meatballs

Full of Gitty-Up,
this Is a Cowboy's Ambrosia

Folks, this is a most wonderful, well developed and flavorful soup, if I may say so myself. I made it this weekend as I began to recover from a nasty cold and tired of having chicken base soups, which I do love, I hankered for a little more flavor. This one did more than I expected.

I've noticed in the past many Taco Soups using a package of dry ranch seasoning salad dressing but I cannot recall ever making such. Instead, I like the limey, tart tomatillos to replicate what I expect would be an unexpected flavor brought on by the packaged seasonings. By roasting the tomatillos over an open flame, the flesh remains firm while the green skin chars nicely. I think the oven produces a mushy mess and does not char the skin on tomatillos that much. The tomatoes need to roast just enough to make it easy to remove the peel becoming 'stewed-like' while the onions and peppers stay in longer to blacken a bit. This process using fresh ingredients brings out such a richness and depth that that is so worth the little effort.

For the meatballs, I based the recipe on how I do it when making my Sopa de Albondigas and pre-soaking the rice helps speed the cooking time. I like the medium grain white rice here and as noted in my last recipe, it's qualities are best suited for cooking into foods such as this. And because I like Chorizo flavor, I added it to the beef and cooked the meatballs in the oven, unlike most Sopa de Albondigas recipes, to remove its fat.

The broth comes together quickly as the remaining ingredients are pretty much staple cupboard and pantry items and it is the roasted veggies that brings everything together. I like the greenness of the spinach, sorta like lettuce in a taco I guess. So, here is a quick-step listing from my notes on how I made this one, it is one I will repeat many times. Hope you do too. Enjoy

Roasted Vegetable Taco Soup with Meatballs
about 10 servings

Roast over open flame:
4 tomatillos

Roast in broiling oven:
3 roma tomatoes
1 large white onion, quartered
1 red bell pepper, halved
-remove and chop

1/2 cup medium grain white rice
1/2 cup boiling water
-in a bowl and let set for 30 mins, then squeeze dry

Heat in stockpot:
2 tablespoons olive oil

Saute in stockpot over medium high heat:
1 medium onion, diced
2 large garlic toes, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
-remove and let cool

Combine in a large bowl:
1 pound ground lean beef
1 pound chorizo, casing removed
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 /2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
the sautéed vegetables
the soaked (and patted dry) rice
-together and form into 1/2 to 3/4-inch balls; place on baking pans and bake 15-20 at 350 degrees F or until brown; drain on paper towels

Add to the stockpot:
2 carrots, diced
1 large zucchini, diced
2 cups frozen shoepeg corn
1 -15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 -16 oz can red or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
Recipe for my Taco Seasoning Mix or 1 -1.35 oz package Taco Seasoning
-mix together

Stir in:

1 -8 oz can tomato sauce
2 quarts chicken stock
1 quart beef stock
-bring to a simmer over medium high heat.

-Add the meatballs a few at a time until incorporated.

-Allow to come to a second simmer and cook on low 20 minutes.

Stir in:
Roasted vegetables
3 cups fresh baby spinach, washed and drained

-Stir and simmer about 10 minutes

-Serve with a good sprinkle of cheese, tortilla strips or fritos, pico de gallo and sour cream if desired.

Note: Read the post above for a further explanation of the 'how and why' of preparing this soup.