Recipe: Eloy Mendez’s Albondigas

Note: When we were putting together the “Mexico in L.A.” issue, we suddenly started discovering great Mexican food all over the city. But this particular recipe came from a rather surprising place--one of the world’s best California-Italian restaurants. Eloy Mendez works at Campanile, where he has become famous among the waiters and kitchen-workers for the albondigas that he occasionally cooks up for staff meals.

1 1/2 onions

4 cumin seeds

1 pound ground beef

1 pound ground pork

6 whole peppercorns, freshly ground

6 whole cloves, freshly ground

5 mint leaves, chopped

2 to 3 hard-cooked eggs, coarsely chopped

2 pounds tomatillos

4 cups boiling water

5 cloves garlic

1/4 pound long green chiles, roasted and peeled

1 1/2 cups cilantro sprigs

Salt, pepper

1/4 cup oil

Chop 1 onion. Grind 2 cumin seeds to make about 1/8 teaspoon. Combine beef, pork, ground cumin, ground peppercorns and cloves, chopped onion and mint in bowl. Mix thoroughly with hands. Form into 1-inch meatballs, putting pieces of hard-cooked egg inside each meatball. Set aside.

Place tomatillos in boiling water with garlic, remaining 1/2 onion and 2 cumin seeds. Cook until tomatillos are tender. Place in blender with green chiles and 1 cup cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Puree mixture.Heat oil in 5-quart Dutch oven. Add pureed chile sauce and meatballs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer about 20 minutes. Stir in remaining cilantro. Makes 6 servings.

Note: If all-beef meatballs are desired use 2 pounds beef.

Each serving contains about: 530 calories; 384 mg sodium; 169 mg cholesterol; 39 grams fat; 14 grams carbohydrates; 32 grams protein; 1.33 grams fiber; 66% calories from fat.