My grandmother, before becoming senile, often told us the story of the first time she made porcupine eggs for my grandfather. Newly married and on their own, she wanted to impress him with her culinary skills. She followed the recipe carefully and served the meal to him with a smile.
He complimented the great smell and how beautiful the meal looked. Taking a mouthful, he bit down…and cracked a tooth. My grandmother had missed the step in the recipe that called for cooking the rice before adding it to the meatballs.
Porcupine eggs, aka porcupine meatballs or stuffed peppers, are a great naturally gluten free meal. It is also one of my favorites, as my grandmother used to make it for us a lot (and she almost always remembered to cook the rice first!)
1 C cooked rice
1 lb ground meat (I use turkey or chicken, but beef is okay)
3/4 C feta cheese (or another strongly flavored cheese) – optional
chopped garlic, paprika, diced rosemary, nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste
red, yellow, and orange sweet peppers (the skins on green peppers tend to be too thick)
a bottle of your favorite marinara sauce (or if you make your own, about 3 C)
1 lb cooked gluten free pasta (for serving)
Remove the tops, seeds, and the white fibers from the peppers, keeping them whole. You can use mini peppers as I did, or you can use regular size ones. I like the minis because they’re cute. Rinse them inside and out, dry, and set aside.
Mix together the meat, rice, egg, and seasoning. Mix this very very well…smush the meat up very good. Once the meat, rice, egg, and seasonings are all mixed together well, fold in the feta. (you may have to adjust the amount of cheese depending on the kind you use. Some good alternatives: pepper jack, mozzarella, Parmesan – not that powdery stuff, real Parmesan- or blue cheese.)
Make sure the cheese is distributed through but try not to beat it up too much so when you get a piece of it, you know it. At this point I wear gloves, because I have long nails and I don’t want raw meat in there. Fill the peppers with the meat mixture. Press it in there as firmly as you can without breaking the peppers. It is harder to do with the mini peppers. A good tip is to hold the pepper firmly in one hand while filling it with the other.
You will probably have left over meat mixture. You can just form those into meatballs.
Once the peppers are filled and the meatballs are made, add the bottle of sauce to the crockpot. I use crockpot liners because I dislike having to scrub the bejeebers out of it! Place the filled peppers and meatballs into the sauce. If you used big peppers, they’ll stand up well in the sauce, but the mini peppers you’ll have to lie down.
Cook on low heat for 4 hours, then increase to high heat for another 1-2 hours until the meat is cooked through and the peppers are falling apart. Serve over the pasta.
Everyone in my family claims they dislike peppers, but everyone ate the porcupine eggs with gusto so…yeah, they’re pretty darn good!