Shrimp Meatballs in Tomato Sauce from "The Baja California Cookbook" by David Castro Hussong and Jay Porter (Ten Speed Press, 2020)
Photo: Oriana Koren
Photo: Oriana Koren

Kitchen Curious: Shrimp balls in soupy tomato sauce make light summer supper

Chef David Castro Hussong’s description of the “not fancy or pretentious” dishes in the newly released “The Baja California Cookbook: Exploring the Good Life in Mexico” (Ten Speed Press, $30) that he co-authored with writer and restaurateur Jay Porter makes me yearn for shared dining experiences.

The recipes, writes Hussong, “are all suitable for a weeknight dinner at home, for grilling on your patio some Sunday afternoon when friends drop by, or, for that matter, a bonfire wedding reception on the beach with longneck beers and a makeshift bocce ball game.”

My immediate family has mostly kept our “pod” closed due to COVID-19. Friends don’t drop by these days. Weddings have been delayed.

The day I prepared Hussong’s summer-perfect Shrimp Meatballs in Tomato Sauce, I longed to have more than three of us gathered around the table poking forks into tender seafood balls and lapping up the delicate, tomato broth.

Hussong’s recipe appears here pretty much as it was published. However, I made a few adjustments to the meatballs because I wanted the mix to bind better. I used 5 tablespoons breadcrumbs instead of his 1 tablespoon, and an entire egg instead of only the white. Also, using my hands, I squeezed the meatball mixture over a strainer to rid it of excess moisture. I saved the juices, incorporating them as part of the 4 cups of water needed for the tomato sauce. Lastly, I shaped the shrimp balls into a dozen smaller rounds instead of the prescribed 6.

The upside: I’ve got time to perfect the technique — or make it further fit my own style — as we wait for the day when we can entertain a crowd again.

Use fresh or frozen shrimp to prepare a light supper of shrimp meatballs in tomato sauce. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Shrimp Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
  • 1/2 onion, peeled and halved
  • 1 chipotle, from a can, in marinade
  • 1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined, heads removed
  • 1 tablespoon panko crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon fresh curly parsley, minced, divided
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tomatoes, stemmed
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons neutral cooking oil, such as canola oil
  • Chop an onion quarter and the chipotle as fine as you can. Chop the shrimp as fine as you can.
  • Put the shrimp in a bowl with the panko, black pepper, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Add the fine-chopped onion and chipotle and 1/2 tablespoon of the parsley. Use your hands to quickly mix it together. Add the egg white and mix it again, this time until you have a somewhat pasty, homogeneous mass.
  • Form the mixture into 6 meatballs of equal size. Place them on a plate in the fridge.
  • Place the tomatoes, garlic, and remaining onion quarter in a blender and liquefy the mixture.
  • Warm the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, taking care not to get it so hot that it smokes. When the olive oil is hot, add the tomato paste to the pan. The paste should fry a little and, after about 5 minutes, start to bubble. If it starts to blacken or burn at any point, lower the heat.
  • Once the tomato paste has started to bubble, add the tomato mixture from the blender, the bay leaves, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Stir lightly and then add the water. Bring the mixture to a boil and then turn the heat to a low simmer, stirring occasionally.
  • After the sauce has simmered for 5 minutes, get out a new frying pan and pour the cooking oil into it. Place over very high heat. When the oil is hot, add the meatballs. You may have to cook them only 1 or 2 at the time so the pan and the oil maintain their heat.
  • Sear each meatball for about 1 minute, rotating them in the pan so that all sides of each meatball get browned. Once all the meatballs are seared, take them from the frying pan and put them in the sauce pan with the tomato sauce. Cook for about 5 minutes more, until they are firm and the internal temperature of the meatballs reads 125 degrees as measured with an instant-read thermometer.
  • Place 2 or 3 meatballs in the center of each bowl. Pour the sauce over the meatballs, covering the bottom of the bowl but stopping before the meatballs are fully submerged. Sprinkle the reserved parsley over the filled bowls. Serve immediately.Serves 2-3.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving, based on 2: 423 calories (percent of calories from fat, 46), 49 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 22 grams fat (trace saturated fat), 365 milligrams cholesterol, 2,630 milligrams sodium.

Reprinted with permission from “The Baja California Cookbook” by David Castro Hussong and Jay Porter (Ten Speed Press, 2020).

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