Spicy meatball tacos

Where food is concerned , one crazy-long-flight-delay plus three-weary-travelers-with-empty-stomachs ordinarily equals low expectations: “Mom, just fill my belly, please!” But add me to that equation and it all gets exponentially more complicated—it’s no longer simple arithmetic.

Maternal imperative (M) multiplied by, parenthetically, longing (l) plus guilt (g), PLUS the need to Gratify (G), multiplied by, parenthetically, the need to impress (i), divided by effort (e), equals irrationally high expectations (on my part) It looks something like this, algebraically:

[M(l+g) ]+ [G(i/e)] = HUH???

My family, having finally landed in Birmingham with their luggage in hand, was grateful that the trip to my apartment was the most painless leg of their journey. I had the answer to my question, “Want to take the scenic route or the highw…?” before it passed my lips. We were “home” in 20 minutes.

I was so proud and eager to have my family in my apartment. I prepared the nest—two rooms were treated to bold, beautiful accent walls (coincidentally named pumpkin spice and spud) and the spare bedroom (my office) got a fresh coat of bright white (a huge improvement from the soul-crushing, institutional beige painted throughout).  I left Valentine’s candy hearts on their beds (3 days late, but hey, V-day has no end date for my kids) and made sure there was plenty of wine, beer, Fresca and snacks. I made granola for breakfast and spicy Mexican meatballs for dinner. And don’t forget that Mixed Berry Galette for dessert, as well. (This is where those irrationally high expectations are planted)

“Should we go out for our first dinner or stay in?” My family was divided but I made an executive decision to stay put.  We had the whole week ahead of us to experience the glory of traditional southern cooking. Besides, I’d waited a long time to see my lovelies, didn’t want to share them with anyone else, and I’d prepared a very special menu.  (This is where those irrationally high expectations take root)

So far so good. That is until I tripped over the first misplaced shoe, swept up crumbs from the couch, put a coaster under a water glass, picked up a soaking wet towel from the floor and had to shout over the TV—all in the first day. The advice, lovingly delivered, “Pick your battles” unfortunately, went unheeded more often than not. (This is where those irrationally high expectations choke out the indigenous plants)

I anticipated making some adjustment to having people in my space but these were my children and my husband, after all and I missed them terribly.  All I wanted was to have a nice time with my family and I was blowing it in a very, very big way.

As if it couldn’t have gotten any worse, my son came down with a violent, nasty stomach virus and spent all night doubled over the toilet.  Two days later, both my daughter and my husband followed suit. Oddly, that’s exactly the time I relaxed and let go of the control-freak, nit-picking. The 2 sleeves worth of saltine cracker crumbs all over my couch meant that my daughter was finally able to hold something down. And the cold wet towels on the floor were a necessary evil to soothe a throbbing headache. I believe what I really craved in the end was to be a mother, wife and care-giver once again, for more than a stray weekend here and there. I needed to be needed and I realized exactly what was missing from the equation:  generosity.

Albondinga Tacos (Spicy Pork Meatball) Tacos

1 tablespoon canola oil

2 chorizo (fresh) @ 4 ounces

1 medium red onion, chopped

2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 scallions thinly sliced

4 teaspoons ground cumin

1 ½ teaspoons chopped chipotle in adobo (optional)

1 teaspoon salt or to taste

½ cup finely crushed tortilla chips

½ cup finely crumbled queso fresco

1 large egg

1 ½ pounds ground pork

Hard shell tacos, warm soft tortillas, salsa, sour cream, shredded lettuce, chopped onions, cilantro and crumbled queso for serving

  1. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add the chorizo, breaking it up with a spoon along with the onion, jalapenos, garlic and scallions and cook over moderate heat until lightly browned and tender, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add cumin and chipotle and cook 1 minute longer. Stir in the tortilla chips, season with salt and transfer to a bowl to cool. Stir in the queso fresco, egg and ground pork and knead gently until evenly combined.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425° and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment. Using lightly moistened hands, roll the mixture into 1 ½-inch balls and arrange them on the baking sheet. Bake in the upper third of the oven until firm and cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil until browned and crusty,  1 to 2 minutes, shifting the pan to avoid black spots.
  3. Transfer the albondigas to a platter and serve with all the fixings. Make ahead: the meatballs can be refrigerated for up to 4 days. Reheat before serving.


  1. Total panic when I could not find the Grace Parisi section of F&W. Dug around and found your blog. Your recipes and ‘voice’ are terribly missed…what I most looked forward to in the magazine! Tell me you are working on your own cookbook? Screw’em, and keep doing what you do. We notice!! Thank you for all the terrific recipes that I use ‘all’ the time.

    • It makes me so happy to know that my work is appreciated (and missed!!!) It will always exist on the F & W website–so don’t worry! I’ve been working on my own stuff & hope to have something to show for it soon. I just finished developing the recipes for the Portlandia (yes, the show!) Cookbook due out in October. That was really fun! Thanks for your encouraging words–it means a lot to me!

  2. I am so happy I found your blog. Where have I been? I did not know about it either. I have been looking for you at F+W too. I even wrote a smart alec message to them about the new “genius” clips that are so old and outdated but probably new and inventive to those who are doing it. I said they should have Grace doing it.
    LIttle did I know……but I did know that something was wrong.
    I am a retired chef, worked in NY/NJ for years and just love the way you cook. Its like we were together in the kitchen- well…we were… sort of even though I am older.
    And I just caught the pie video! perfect. Just the way i do it, BUT I add winesaps when I can get them… sigh… which is not often. And the music, went with it just perfectly too. thanks for that.
    I live way up north and use wild blueberries now.
    I will see if I can follow Portlandia- is it online? and will be chomping at the bit- awaiting the book.
    thank you so much for all you do.

    • Thanks rockyrd! Your words are music to my ears! Literally!! I was at IACP last week & a reader cornered my old boss and asked where I was. & that she didn’t really like the person who’s filled my spot–& coincidentally I ran into them at that very minute. Oh what sweet music THAT was! But I’m in a pretty good place right now & starting to make a new career. Only a little bitter! 😉 But people like you who understand the value of connecting with readers made it all worthwhile, truly. Otherwise what’s the point? We connect through food, through vocation, through passion & through shared life experiences. I really value people like you more than you’ll know. Thank YOU!

  3. I’m another fan who just realized that you’re missing from Food and Wine. I literally searched the masthead for your name and then, when I couldn’t find it, knew why the magazine has been so bad recently. My recipe file is stuffed with your work, I always looked for your recipes in every new issue, and they became standbys that we absolutely love. My F&W subscription is history as of now. But I’m so glad to have found your blog!

    • Thanks so much, Pat! Having a blog isn’t the same as having 2 monthly columns, but I’m happy to be writing and cooking (which I don’t get to do in my job as executive food director at Oxmoor house, a book publisher in Birminghma) Your words are much appreciated, Pat! I hope I won’t disappoint you!

  4. Grace, I just went through an ordeal with F&W only to find you, my favorite part of that magazine gone?? And in Alabama..Southern Living, I hope..following your blog for more info.

    • Oh no! Sorry for the ordeal! I’m at Oxmoor House as exec food director. We publish books for southern living among other magazines like Cooking light, Sunset, All You, real simple, etc..

      • Fantastic, congratulations. I lived in B’ham for a while.
        I have been diligently trying to get into garden writing with a bit of success. Any advice- or it is you keep knocking on doors til somebody answers? My first national magazine piece will be out this year.

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