Saturday, October 16, 2010

Stuffed Porcupines

Hopefully, no one reading this will be disappointed to find that enjoying stuffed porcupines does not require stalking small game with a shotgun in some deserted wooded area. The stuffed porcupines to which this week’s entry refers are actually tasty cheese-stuffed rice-infused meatballs from the American south.
Though this version takes a few liberties with the original, the origin of this recipe is a wonderful treasure with which I was fortunate to be entrusted: a decades-old notebook of recipes kept by my wife’s grandmother back in Meridian, a small town just outside Waco in the sovereign nation of Texas. Written in pencil on the blissfully food-stained pages of a Waco School System tablet notebook, the recipes have authentic warmth that is not taught in any institute of higher culinary learning or on any cable network. These are more than instructions for preparing a certain dish; each is a doorway leading back many years and across hundreds of miles, to the kind of place you know existed in color but that you think of in black-and-white anyway. A place where today’s eager cook gets to mix and measure in joyful earnest alongside people conventional wisdom foolishly says have been gone a long time.

This is the first of what will be several recipes from my wife’s “Grandma Texas.” It is a great pleasure to share them, and an even greater privilege to cook them.

To make about 14 one-and-a-half-inch meatballs, start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees. While it’s preheating, cut about a 2 ounce block of sharp cheddar cheese into ½” cubes, and set the cubes aside. (You’ll need one cube per meatball.) Then, get a large bowl and prepare the meat for the meatballs by combining (by hand) 1 pound of ground turkey (maximum 90% lean), 1/3 cup uncooked rice, 1 egg-substitute egg, 2 tablespoons of diced shallots, ¾ teaspoon dried thyme, a pinch of dried sage, 1 teaspoon of salt, and some fresh ground black pepper. Mix the ingredients thoroughly but don’t overwork the mixture.

Divide the mixture into 1-1/2” diameter meatballs, stuff each with a ½” cube of sharp cheddar cheese, and close. (See the stuffing method below.) Bake the meatballs on a parchment-covered baking sheet for about 50 minutes.
Stuffing method: Flatten each meatball, press a cheese cube into the center, and bring the sides of the flattened meatball up around the cube. Smooth the ball with your fingertips, and roll them gently in your palms to make them round again. Repeat for each meatball.

While the meatballs are baking, heat in a large saucepan 2-quarts of V-8 juice combined with 2 teaspoons of chili powder. (The liquid should be deep enough to cover the meatballs when added.) After baking the meatballs, add them to the liquid, cover, bring back to a boil, and then lower to a simmer for about 10 minutes. After that, set the meatballs aside while you use the liquid to make the sauce as described below.

To make the sauce, separate 1 cup of the hot liquid and add ½ cup of all-purpose flour to it, mixing until combined and there are no clumps of flour. (I know we’re all usually taught to do this with cold liquid. I did it with the hot liquid, and it worked. Go figure.) Add 1 large chopped pepper to the liquid in the pot, bring it back to a boil, stir in the flour mixture, and cook to the desired sauce thickness. (I recommend cooking it down to half.)
Now all you need to do is top the meatballs with the sauce and some grated cheddar cheese, serve it up, and accept the gratitude of a well-fed family or guests! (I’ve found this is especially good served over rice mixed with finely-diced green or red bell pepper and seasoned with Adobo.)

In the photo, you’ll see the porcupines and rice being served with green bean bundles wrapped in turkey bacon. These are from a Paula Deen recipe you’ll find on the Food Network web site.

Enjoy this delicious – and very special – dish. As always, if you’d like a notebook-ready cookbook-style version of this recipe, just let me know and I’ll send it along.

That’s it for this week, y’all. Till next time, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)


  1. I will have to try this soon! Sounds good...

  2. Fantastic! I would love a notebook-ready cookbook style version if it's really no trouble! Thanks, Ben!

  3. My Mom used to make these when I was a child!! You just brought me a blast from my past!

  4. This is a comforting entry to me. My mom made something quite similar to this "as a treat" when I was young.

    I'd really cherish that notebook too.

  5. Thanks Tawnya, Renae, Keri and Mary! There are a number of great looking recipes in the notebook, and I'll definitely be sharing more. Somehow, recipes for things like porcupines, barbecue chicken, and apple pie take on a special credibility when they come from the handwritten notebook of a Texas grandmother.

  6. Hi Ben!
    It'll be my lily-livered English palate but I really don't fancy this you know, therefore I will just HAVE to make it to see why I think so. I'm not being horrible; I like everything that's in it and if Texas Grandmas make it who am I to argue? There's just something.........

  7. Hi Angie...could it be name porcupine? If you do give them a try - and I hope you do - let me know how you like them!

  8. Back at'cha Ben. Thanks for stopping by my page, and I'll be sure to come back to yours. My son now wants to eat porcupines! Nice.


  9. Thanks, Sandra...can't ask for more than that! (He does know it's not actually porcupine, doesn't he? Depending on his age, it may take away the thrill. lol )

  10. we may make these today!

    i'm way behind in commenting, thanks again for all your support. this year has been like no other and it's only november...


  11. Thanks, Alaina. And hang in there. June is coming. (PS...You know it's only hard because you care so much about the kids. It's one of the things I think is so great about you. You know how at the end of every post I say to keep it about the food? Well, you keep it about the teaching and about the kids. We need more of you.)