OAXACAN MEATBALLS IN CHILE TOMATO SAUCE

Meatball ingredients: 1 1/2 pounds ground beef and veal, mixed 4 garlic cloves, peeled, pur'eed 1/2 medium white onion, peeled, chopped 6 medium, ripe tomatillos, husked, chopped (see note) 1 tablespoon black pepper 1 tablespoon salt, or to taste 2 eggs 3 slices whole wheat bread soaked in milk Sauce ingredients: 1/3 cup lard or vegetable oil 2 garlic cloves, peeled 4 to 5 large, ripe tomatoes 3 garlic cloves, peeled 1 medium white onion, peeled, quartered 4 to 5 chiles moritas or chipotles, washed, dried, fried lightly in oil 6 chilies guajillos, washed, seeded, deveined, fried lightly in oil (substitute: red New Mexican or California chiles) 1 1/2 tablespoons corn masa dissolved in 3 to 4 cups chicken broth or water Powdered bouillon or salt, to taste

Combine meatball ingredients in glass bowl. Allow to sit 20 minutes then shape into 1-inch meatballs.

Prepare sauce by heating lard in heavy skillet. Brown garlic, remove, and discard. In a blender or food processor combine tomatoes, garlic, onion, chiles. Blend, then strain. Add to pot and simmer 40 minutes or until sauce releases its fat. Add corn masa and season with bouillon or salt. Add meatballs to sauce and simmer 20 to 30 minutes.

To serve: Accompany with white rice or beans and corn tortillas. Use for tacos or as a main course. For a formal presentation, make tortilla baskets for meatballs by frying tortillas in a sieve. Serve on individual plates, decorating with ribbon of sauce and parsley.

Note: Tomatillos are small green tomatoes with a special flavor, available in large supermarkets or Spanish grocery stores.

Try meatballs as a buffet dish or hot cocktail hors d'oeuvre. Vary their size to suit and serve from a chafing dish of heated sauce. Serves 8.

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