The last time I set eyes on porcupine meatballs, I was walking through my elementary school cafeteria. Nose turned up in disgust, I was with my gang of “packers” carrying my Barbie lunchbox and anticipating a noon repast of boiled ham on white bread, an apple and perhaps a Tastykake Krimpet. Compared to those spikey meatballs swimming in tomato sauce, I thought my menu was pretty high end.
This afternoon, 50 years later, I encountered a porcupine meatball recipe in 21 New Ways to Serve Hamburger, a tiny booklet produced by Hunt Foods. It was part of my mother’s recipe and clippings collection and appears to have made it through her culinary life without a smudge or stain. Which can mean only one thing. She never used it. But I was about to christen it officially. I already had a pound of lean ground beef thawing, so I nixed tonight’s meatloaf and literally went old school. Only I’m hoping, I’m thinking, I’m presuming this version is better than the institutional variety served to us baby boomers who proudly toted Beatles and Flintstones and Rat Patrol (my brother’s choice) lunch kettles way back when.
To round out the menu–and my plate–I made an easy side salad with a wedge of iceberg lettuce, the mainstay of most green salads back in mid-20th century America. And I rescued two rapidly ripening avocados from my fridge for use in a dressing I found in my Nana’s 500 Delicious Salads collection, printed in 1940. Everything was in place for tonight’s Old Food Cooking doubleheader.
I made the dressing first to allow it to sit a bit and meld its flavors. The ingredients are simple, and the recipe is quick to pull together, although I almost balked at the directions to “sieve” the avocado. But I did it and believe the effort was worth it. The dressing was extra smooth and creamy.
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
6 drops Tabasco sauce
1 cup sieved avocado (I used two and obviously the riper the avocado, the easier it is to sieve)
Beat (I whisked) lemon juice and milk together thoroughly; add seasonings and blend. Beat in avocado until thick and creamy. Serve with tomato or vegetable salads. Makes about 1 1/3 cups dressing.
Note: the dressing will be quite thick and won’t pour. Use a spoon to serve in dollops. I used about 2 tablespoons of dressing over the iceberg wedge and garnished with chopped tomatoes, fresh parsley and chives.
Next up, those pesky porcupines.
Rice and Beef “Porcupines”
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup raw rice, washed
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used canola)
2 8-oz. cans Hunt’s tomato sauce (I used one can plain, one with roasted garlic flavoring)
1 cup water
Mix beef, rice, onion and seasonings. Form into small balls. Fry in hot oil, turning frequently until light brown but not crusty on all sides. Add Hunt’s tomato sauce and water. Mix well. Cover. Simmer about 45 minutes. 4 servings (I made 12 meatballs. My husband scarfed down five; I had two). I know I’ll make this again, probably in the fall to signal the beginning of the school year. Next time, though, I’ll add a clove or two of crushed garlic to the meat mixture.
I loved tonight’s supper. It was reasonably quick, had a homey-tasting goodness and was fun to eat. And the really nice touch was that there was no laughing-induced milk coming out of someone’s nose like back in fifth grade. We were very well behaved!