Let me start by saying that:
- I have never eaten porcupine meat.
- Roadkill is not something I aim to try.
- Obtaining porcupine meat some way other than accidentally running over a porcupine is also not on my bucket list.
In case you have never had a porcupine meatball, this food was given its peculiar name because of the rice inside of it. Someone thought the rice was like little quills, and the name porcupine came about.
I don’t make traditional porcupine meatballs. Those ones look like small Swedish meatballs with white rice here and there inside. While there are some good meatballs for sale at the market, I have had far too many deplorable blobs of previously frozen, questionably-textured lumps of more-filler-than-meat meatballs. I want something real. Something that I know is healthy, filling and meaty. Give these a shot – you won’t regret it.
First things first: the rice.
I like rice. Black rice, brown rice, red rice, wild rice. Even white rice is ok. To stave off boredom, I’ve tried them all. The winner? Wild rice, hands down. The nutty flavour it lends to the meatball gives it the twist it needs. Sweet Baboo likes white rice – only white rice. He has sighed and commented to this effect each time porcupines were brought to the table with what was evidently NOT white rice inside. Strangely enough, the day that I finally gave in and made them with white rice, he didn’t like them and asked me to go back to wild rice. What a relief!
The rice must be cooked first before mixing it in with the meat. You can do this any way you want, but I choose baking – it lets me infuse more flavour. 2 cups of cooked rice are needed, so I combine 1 can of diced tomatoes (roughly 2 cups) with 1/2 cup wild rice and cook it in a covered dish for 1 hour in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven. When the hour is up, it looks like this:
Let the rice cool and then use a spoon to mix the tomatoes into the rice well, breaking up any tomato pieces that may still be intact:
2 cups of rice will make 12 porcupines, so you can adjust the recipe according to however many you want.
The vegetables are next. While I only had peppers and onions on hand, you can choose what makes you happy. Tomatoes are the only exception – they are ok baked into the rice, but add them as a vegetable and the porcupines will disintegrate. Dice your chosen vegetables roughly. You want them large enough that you can see and taste them but small enough that they will not fall out of the meatballs. The size of a small coin is about right. One thing to note is that I never measure the vegetable quantity because I’ve made these so many times. With practise, you just know what to put in. Basically, the aim is to have slightly more vegetables and rice than meat. It may seem counterintuitive, but it is a whole lot tastier than meatballs that only contain meat.
In a large bowl, combine the diced vegetables, cooked rice and 1.5 lbs of raw hamburger meat. Get your hands in there and mix it together well. It should look like this:
Shape the meat into large meatballs. I make mine fist-sized.
Place the meatballs on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and parchment paper.
Bake the meatballs in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 1 hour. When they come out, they’ll look like this:
Let the porcupines cool. Don’t be tempted to try one. They are too dry at this point. This is the time to add even more heartiness and flavour. Add 1 cup of your favourite broth to a covered baking dish. I use pepper soup for this, but choose what delights you.
Sit the meatballs in the soup.
Place the cover on the dish and put it into the 350 degree Fahrenheit oven. The porcupines need to have a steam bath in the soup for 30 minutes.
When the porcupines finally emerge from their second hibernation in the oven, they will be tender, glistening and have a beautiful clear gravy. My picture doesn’t do it justice: