Auntie Lucy’s Recipe Box: Porkapine Meatballs



My mother, known to her many nieces and nephews as Auntie Lucy, liked to try new things. She was fond of Chinese food and liked almost every edible thing you could find on our farm or in the grocery store, including liver and pickled herring. I hated most everything when she urged me to “try it.” She discovered “porcupine meatballs” early on, and they were ideal for a kid who liked only the inside of the stuffed cabbages that Busia, my Polish grandmother, so frequently made.

Auntie Lucy pronounced these delights “porkapine” meatballs, giving them her classic Polish-American accent. She recognized, nevertheless, that the rice in this recipe should be cooked only until it is almost done but never mushy; otherwise, the visual effect that these little balls were miniature porcupines was lost unless the grains of rice poked out of the meat.

2 Tablespoons butter or lard
1 finely chopped and sauteed onion
1 pound ground pork or beef or a mixture of both
1 cup cooked rice
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg
1 small can tomato sauce or equivalent ketchup or tomato soup

Sautee the onion in the fat until soft. Let cool. Combine the meat and onions in a bowl and add rice, salt, pepper, and egg. Using about a heaping tablespoon for each, shape the mixture into balls. Melt more butter in the sautee pan and add the meatballs, browning on all sides over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Turn heat to low and simmer for another 15 minutes. The porcupine effect will appear during this final stage, if and only if the rice has not been overcooked, allowing it to swell a bit more and poke out of the meatballs.

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