Debbie Matthews: Yummy, yummy, road kill

May. 14, 2013 @ 04:59 PM

Most people have heard of porcupine meatballs. But, unless they’re baked, I cannot produce a round meatball. So, I make patties. The Kid decided that with the rice grains sticking out all over them, they look like something that’s been run over by a car.
Thus, my child cheekily christened them “road kill.”
Even though the moniker is dark, and frankly unappetizing, they are one of our family’s favorites. Road Kill Day is a red letter day chez Matthews. It’s one of the meals that The Kid always requests when home from school.
I adapted the recipe from the one my mom makes. Of course being me, I had to play with it, changing ingredients and procedure.
For my mom, porcupine meatballs were a quick and cheap meal. And, since she never knew whether or not my brothers or I would be bringing home strays for dinner, she could bulk it up by adding more rice. I think the recipe came from her mother, who had an even larger family to feed, during the Depression and the deprivations of World War II (I imagine there were many nights when it was more rice than meat).
I started by making her basic recipe. Then, I decided to replace the garlic powder with roasted garlic. I use sherry to deglaze the pan, and instead of water in the sauce, I use beef stock. I also use fresh and dried herbs, and other flavor enhancements.

Road Kill
1¼ pound 85/15 ground beef
1 cup uncooked long grain white rice
15 ounce can of tomato sauce
1 egg
32 ounce carton low-sodium beef stock
¾ cup dry sherry
1½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 shallot diced
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped very finely + 3 sprigs
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 head roasted garlic (recipe follows)
Roasted Garlic
Set oven to 325 degrees. Slice whole head of garlic in half, horizontally. Place garlic on piece of foil. Drizzle a little olive oil on both halves, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a bit of thyme. Put the garlic halves together and place the rosemary sprigs around it. Close up the foil, and bake for 50-60 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool still wrapped. Once cool the garlic cloves will come right out of the skin.
Road Kill directions:
In a large bowl, mix rice, egg, roasted garlic, a splash each of Worcestershire and tomato sauce, chopped rosemary, salt and pepper. Mix well. Break hamburger into pieces and put into bowl. With clean hands, mix meat into rice mixture until it is completely incorporated. Form into four or five patties, about the size and shape of burgers.
Heat a large, heavy pot with a lid to medium, and cover bottom with a thin layer of olive oil. When the oil is shimmering, brown patties on both sides and remove from pot.
Put shallot and 1 teaspoon thyme into pot and cook until they start to brown. Then pour in sherry. When the sherry has reduced by half, pour in the remaining tomato sauce. Add 1 tablespoon Worcestershire and horseradish. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Add stock, holding back about a cup and a half to loosen sauce as it cooks. Taste, and adjust seasoning if needed. Place patties back into pan in single layer.
Turn heat to medium low and cover. Cook 20 minutes, and flip the patties (be gentle, they will fall apart if handled roughly). Cook another 20 minutes, check sauce level, adding more stock if needed.
After 20 more minutes (60 minutes in total), they should be done. Turn to very low to keep warm, and make veg.

There is only one veggie that we ever have with road kill, and that’s cauliflower with buerre noisette. It sounds really fancy and involved, but it’s actually just browned butter. I always use frozen cauliflower, because it’s quick, easy, and the texture is vastly superior to fresh.

Cauliflower with Buerre Noisette
16 ounce bag frozen cauliflower
4 tablespoons butter
Prepare cauliflower according to package directions (I use the microwave). While it’s cooking, melt butter in sauce pan. When it's melted, turn up the heat to medium. Watching constantly (it will burn in a flash), slowly swirl the pan on the burner until the milk solids have turned a rich, golden brown. Pour over cooked veg and toss to coat completely. Makes three to four servings.

I was going to end this week’s column differently. But, I went down to Ninth Street earlier today.
The Kid has a summer job there. I picked up a coffee for myself at Market Street Coffeehouse (714 Ninth St. It used to be known as Bean Traders, but it’s the same great folks and coffee, though), and at Ox & Rabbit (732 Ninth St.). I got a vanilla-lavender milkshake for my industrious child, and a super cute T-shirt for myself. Then I stopped in Whole Foods (621 Broad St.) for a few items.
It was a gorgeous day, and everybody I ran into was in a great mood.
So, I offer a bit of advice: Get outside, go downtown and enjoy the terrific weather and your fellow Durhamites. I promise you’ll have good time, and get a renewed appreciation for the Bull City.
Gosh, I adore this nutty little town of ours.
Thanks for your time.
Debbie Matthews lives, writes and cooks in Durham. Her email address is