Makes about 24 1 1/2-inch meatballs
For the meatballs
- 3 corn tortillas (or use 1/3 cup tortilla crumbs, crushed from tortilla chips in a plastic bag or the food processor)
- 1/2 small onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 tablespoons crumbled cojita cheese (if Cojita cheese is unavailable, use Havilah in the meatballs and shred Jack or Herdsman on top)
- 1 egg
- 1 pound ground pork, or a combination or pork and beef
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano, preferably Mexican
- 1 teaspoon salt
For sauce and serving
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
- 2 chipotles (from a can of chipotles in adobo, seeds removed)
- One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 small onion, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- About 4 cups of long-grain white rice, cooked from 2 cups dry rice
- Cilantro leaves
- 4 tablespoons cojita cheese
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Heat a cast iron pan over medium-high heat and drizzle with oil. Toast the tortillas until they are golden and crisp, flipping once, about 2 minutes a side. Place on a plate or rack to cool. When cool, break the tortillas into pieces and place in a mini food processor. Process until you have crumbs–it’s fine if they’re a little uneven.
- Transfer the tortilla crumbs to a medium mixing bowl.
- Place the onion and garlic in a mini food processor and pulse until finely chopped. (Or, grate the onion and mince the garlic by hand.) Transfer the onion and garlic to the mixing bowl with the tortilla crumbs. Add the cheese, egg, meat, oregano, and salt and stir to distribute everything evenly. Add 2 tablespoons of water, and stir that in too. Form into balls of about 2 inches in diameter – you should get 20 to 24. Arrange them about 1 inch apart on the baking sheet.
- Bake until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Cut a meatball open to be sure the meat is cooked through, then set aside.
- Meanwhile, make the sauce. Blend the garlic and chipotles in the food processor until smooth. Add the whole tomatoes and process again until smooth. Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a big frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until limp and slightly brown. Sprinkle with salt. Add the tomato-chipotle mix, 1 cup of water, and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let the sauce simmer until thickened, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for salt, adding more as needed.
- Add the meatballs to the sauce and let cook until the meatballs are warm through, about 10 minutes.
- Scoop rice into a bowl. Add 4 to 5 meatballs, then top with 1 tablespoon cojita cheese and some torn cilantro.