At the age of 32, I went on my first fly-to-get-there vacation. This was not my first flight, just the first vacation that I did not spend with family at the Cape Cod homestead.
And where did I go? To the happiest place on earth...Disney World...with none other than my best-friend-in-the-whole-wide-world, Alan.
Alan and me meeting the Mickster back stage at the Magic Kingdom. Little known fact, in the softest of stage whispers, the gent in the rodent costume suggested we meet up on Treasure Island later that day...uhmmm, yeah, no thanks.
Honestly? I never laughed so hard in my life. Disney is the real life equivalent of the beloved Warner Bros. Saturday morning cartoons from my youth. Both appear to be geared towards children, but I assure you, the humor is all adult-based. From the songs that accompanying everything ("Listen to the Land," "Canada (my favorite planet-da)" and "Hoop-di-doo" to the positively obnoxious "It's a Small World," you can not escape some new ear worm squirreling its way into your long term memory.
Not kidding...hidden Mickeys are totally a legit thing. Kevin and Susan wrote a book, so it must be true. SMILE.
Then there's all the hidden Mickeys. Those hidden artistic representations of Mickey's mouse ears (usually) intentionally littered throughout the architecture and design of Magic Kingdom. I am closing in on 30 years since I visited and I still think I see a Mickey silhouette at the most unexpected times...such as in the foam residue of my Guinness...and we all know Mickey is not a big drinker, so I'm guessing I was scarred for life back in 1993.
Anyway, it was on a client trip to New York when sweet Alan invited me to crash at his pad in Connecticut. It afforded us the chance to visit and to let me take the train into the city versus driving.
Since this was long before iPhones, Maps and in-depth GPS tracking, I arrived in beautiful Stratford considerably earlier than anticipated and found myself at Acapulcos for lunch. Knowing Alan and I would be heading out for a nice meal, I grabbed a quick bowl of soup to tide me over.
The Sopa de Albondigas caught my eye. Described as "a delicious bowl of...meatballs and seasonal vegetables in a clear broth," I said to myself, "Si, por favor!"
It was good, but what I liked more was the concept of this popular Mexican soul food. My mom used to make an Italian based beef soup with hamburger (recipe here), but this spicy delight with little meatballs (the albondigas part) won me over in an instant.
I promptly scoured the internet and settled on this amalgamation of numerous recipes. I tend to use root vegetables for the cooked part, then serve with fresh cilantro, chopped tomatoes, onions, jalapeños and avocado to brighten it up...kind of like a bowl of taco!
I've also included my signature taco seasoning recipe...I use this for all kinds of things and hope you do, too.
Heat oil in large Dutch oven. Add onions and celery. Sauté 10 minutes. Add garlic, cook for 30 seconds or until the garlic is fragrant. Add CMTaco seasoning; mix well with all ingredients in pot and cook until fragrant. Add tomato paste; mix with other vegetables, browning slightly. Add broth, tomato sauce, salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil.
Mix albondigas ingredients. Form into little bite-sized meatballs and drop (raw) into boiling broth. Cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring gently as needed. Add bouillon. Stir. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Stir in 1/2 fresh chopped cilantro.
Serve with additional fresh chopped cilantro added to each serving. Side dishes of seeded, chopped tomato; minced onion; sliced avocado; and minced jalapeño make lovely garnishes.