Jalapeno PoppersPosted: 14 November 2011
You know what’s really delicious? Bar food. The bad kind. Wings, nachos, onion rings, mozzarella sticks, the list goes on. It’s almost all exclusively deep fried, there’s usually cheese involved, and breading. Oh the breading.
Add in copious amounts of beer and you have a party. And you also have pants that don’t fit. Most bar food that is baked though, tastes awful. Baked chicken wings? Never quite as good. Baked french fries? Awful. Baked onion rings? Ugh.
A few Sunday’s ago I served Senor jalapeño poppers while he watched a football game. I know! I was sort of sickened by the situation myself. So ‘American’ of us. Senor watches maybe half of a football game a year and I usually grumble about being in the same room with such vileness.
This time though, I was in a really good mood. We’d just gotten a giant, beautiful cedar chest to use as a coffee table and honestly, the thing made me so happy I didn’t care what we watched. Football hype and mania usually really grosses me out but Senor and I had a good time laughing at the stupid things the announcers were saying. If you really listen, you realize they are complete morons. This goes for most sports announcers but especially football.
Anyway, I was entertained. Senor was hungry and our chicken was roasting but wouldn’t be ready for at least an hour. I realized that I had the makings for a perfect game-day snack in the fridge. (Even the term ‘game-day snack’ kind of grosses me out. So I made these again for other, non-football related events.) I had a large bag of fresh jalapeños in my refrigerator, left over from salsa fest, 2011 edition. I also had a block of cream cheese and a bag of panko bread crumbs. Obviously Jalapeño Poppers were going to have to happen.
I also had a bag of habañeros leftover but I decided not to go there. Did I tell you that I was worried the habañeros weren’t hot enough while we were making the salsa? They weren’t choking me and I couldn’t figure out why. So I sliced one open and touched the tip of my tongue to the fleshy inside of the habañero and guess what? It was hot. Really hot. I didn’t choke or splutter, but tongue did feel like it had been stung by a bee. It got puffy and numb and I was wholly assured that the habañeros were hot enough. And that I shouldn’t touch raw peppers directly onto my tongue. Lesson learned.
Anyway, back to the jalapeños. We had a huge bag of them. Senor and I had eaten a few sliced on top of nachos and enchiladas and that sort of thing, but fresh jalapeños pack a much heftier punch than roasted or pickled jalapeños. In other words, a little goes a really long way. We were never going to get through the entire bag.
The good news is, roasting them stuffed full of cream cheese and bread crumbs really cuts down on the heat. Roasting them also means they aren’t deep fried which makes them a lot healthier than your standard popper. They taste better roasted anyway. The pepper gets sweeter since it’s not trapped under breading. The breadcrumbs can get nice and crunchy. The cream cheese gets hot and melty but you don’t have that awful moment when you bite into a popper and scalding jalapeño juice bursts out and burns your mouth. All in all, it’s a much better situation.
4 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
Wear kitchen gloves or plastic bags over your hands to keep from burning your skin with the peppers. The burn from peppers will last for hours.
Turn oven on to 400º. Or toaster oven.
Slice the jalapeños in half lengthwise. Discard the stem. Scrape out the inside of each side including all of the seeds. You should have shallow little pepper boats when they’re clean.
Rinse the peppers well.
Use a small spoon to spread cream cheese into each of the pepper boats. Spread the cheese so that it fills the pepper evenly across. You want the top of each popper to be nice and flat.
Once all of the peppers are filled with cream cheese, line them up on a cookie sheet, baking tray, or roasting pan. Anything oven and broiler safe will do. For small batches, you can use a toaster oven as I did here. Larger batches can be oven roasted and topped off under the broiler.
On the baking tray, spoon breadcrumbs over the top of each popper, lightly pressing them into the cream cheese.
Place the poppers in a 400º oven for 20 minutes. Place them directly under the broiler for the last 5 minutes.
When they come out they should be soft and slightly charred on top and bottom.
Serve with an easy dipping sauce – 2 tablespoons of jam and 2 tablespoons of water mixed together. These poppers have an apricot sauce added to the tops.