The recipe for these sweet, braised meatballs is written on a notecard with company letterhead from Andy’s first job. It’s written in shorthand — I can picture him in his beige, cookie-cutter cubicle fifteen years ago, scribbling down the instructions as his mom dictated the exact amounts of peppers, onions, and beef over the phone… her standing in his childhood kitchen 250 miles away. He claims to have eaten porcupines — so named for the spikey effect of cooked rice inside them — no less than once every three weeks from 1977 to 1989 and they were such a staple in his house that it was one of the half dozen recipes sent to me via snail mail from his mother right after we were married. (Which I subsequently misplaced, hence the call.) Now in our 21st-century home, we seem to be continuing the streak. Though we usually make porcupines with ground turkey instead of ground beef. And afterwards, the kids get to watch a little youtube video on the laptop instead heading down to the rec room for an Asteroid marathon on the Atari. But no matter what decade, it’s an awesome Sunday dinner.
Porcupine Meatballs, ca. 1977
Unless you are under four feet tall, you will probably need something acidic (a green salad with vinegary dressing) to cut the sweetness of the braising liquid.
1 pound ground beef (or turkey)
1/2 cup rice
1 tablespoon chopped onion
2 tablespoons chopped green peppers
1 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic
2 cups tomato juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
Combine uncooked beef, rice, onion, green peppers, salt, and garlic in a large bowl. Shape into small balls, about 1-inch wide.
Whisk together remaining ingredients in a deep skillet and bring to a simmer. Drop in meatballs and cover tightly. Simmer for 30 minutes, flipping over about half way through.
Remove cloves before serving.