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Meatball Madness: Chipotle Pork

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The chipotle pork meatballs were the one familiar recipe of the Meatball Madness batch. I made these over and over again after coming home from Mexico City in 2007. I love this dish. The sauce and the meat are flavored with bacon and chipotles. Wood smoke of one sort or another is integrated into every single bite, some time doubly or triply.

The bacon I used was home-cured and smoked with hickory sawdust over the last warm weekend. I experimented with one thing that I wouldn't do again here. I cut the rind into slivers and mixed it in with the meat. I felt it in every meatball I ate. That skin is just a little too chewy for something like that. Next time I'll toss it in a stew.

Otherwise, this was my great success of the evening. It was a little too spicy for some folks, but I thought it was perfect.

The recipe is from Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday. The other variation I made was adding dried, ground chipotle pepper to the seasoning of the meat. This built up the heat and smoke from within instead of it just coming from the sauce. Again, I like spicy foods, so your mileage may vary.

After the jump, the step by step:

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This is my home-cured bacon. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

I sliced some pieces off and cut them into lardons. The recipe calls for mincing the bacon in the food processor, which I unfortunately had to follow, given my current lack of a meat grinder. After mixing the bacon and some garlic cloves, I added some salt, 2 eggs and half a cup of breadcrumbs along with the ground pepper and a touch of cumin.

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At this point, the ground pork and mint come in. It all goes for another whir in the processor. I had to remove some of the bacon mixture and do it in batches.

Once it's all mixed, it's time to form the meatballs, then roast in the oven at 450 until it's just browned, about 15 minutes.

While it was baking, it was time to work on the sauce. One can of diced tomatoes in juice and the better part of a small can of chipotles in adobo go into the food processor along with a few garlic cloves, salt and oregano and it all got pureed until it was smooth.

When the meatballs began browning, I poured the puree over them and tossed to coat. Then back in the oven until the sauce became sludgy, another 15 minutes or so. At that point, the meatballs came out, but the sauce needed to be finished.

This is an interesting part of the recipe. You're basically re-hydrating the sludgy puree. I pit the roasting pan on the fire and poured in just enough homemade pork stock to loosen up the crispy bits on the bottom of the pan. I didn't add a whole lot, so the sauce was still pretty goopy. Tammi thought it was thicker than it needed to be and I would probably add more stock the next time around.



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