Thursday, May 28, 2015

lighter stuffed jalapeno poppers

Grilled Jalapenos 04

I don't eat fast food very often, but when I do, it's usually Jack in the Box. (Are you picturing the Dos Equis spokesman as you read that?) As a kid, I loved the spicy chicken sandwich, and to go with it, Mom and I would often split an order of the potato wedges or the jalapeno poppers. These days my tastes are a bit broader, but no matter what main menu item I choose, it's usually still accompanied by a few jalapeno poppers. What can I say? The cheesy/spicy combination is hard to resist.

Grilled Jalapenos 01

For Memorial Day weekend, I thought I would try my hand at creating a lighter, but still satisfying, jalapeno popper. As evidenced by the first photo, I cooked mine on the grill. Unfortunately, my grill (and the house, and everything nearby) sits on a slope. I've been working so hard lately on taking better photos -- and straighter photos -- but I forgot to adjust my camera to accommodate for the slope. Thus, all the grill shots look like they were taken by a drunk person. Or maybe someone suffering from an inner ear imbalance. Either way, they're crooked. (And I wasn't drunk. I only had one amaretto bourbon punch cocktail. I swear.)

A few tips on assembling the poppers:
  • Everyone knows this, but it's worth repeating: When handling the raw jalapenos, take great care not to touch other parts of your body before thoroughly washing your hands (including cleaning under your fingernails). A wicked burn will ensue if you forget and touch sensitive areas like your eyes.
  • The key to getting the panko breadcrumbs nicely browned is spritzing them with a bit of olive oil just before cooking. I don't have a spritzer and probably would have forgotten to use it even if I did, so my breadcrumbs didn't change color much.
  • The filling amount in the recipe below yields just enough to moderately fill each jalapeno half. If you want to really mound up the filling or if you're using large jalapenos, you'll want to double the recipe. (Any leftover filling is delicious on crackers.)
These turned out creamy and tasty, with a satisfying crunch and spicy aftertaste. They're not a complete substitute for the cheddar-filled, deep-fried Jack in the Box version, but they're delicious and a choice you can feel much better about. Winner, winner, jalapeno dinner!

Lighter Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers
Adapted from a Gimmie Some Oven recipe
Yields 20 medium-small poppers

10 medium-small jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise and seeds removed
4 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup whipped cream cheese
1/2 cup goat cheese
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
olive oil (if using a grill)

Preheat the oven or a gas grill to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or rub a grill-safe tray/basket with a bit of olive oil. Set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together the cheeses, paprika, and garlic powder. Season with salt and pepper.

Press a spoonful of the cheese mixture into each jalapeno half. Press a few bacon crumbles onto the filling in each jalapeno half. Then sprinkle/press on breadcrumbs.

Spritz the top of the stuffed jalapenos lightly with olive oil. Bake (or cook in closed grill) until the filling is hot, jalapenos are cooked, and panko is golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Place a sheet of foil on top if panko browns too quickly in the oven. (Note: it is normal for the jalapenos to "pop" and hop around a bit while cooking, especially on a grill.)

Serve immediately.

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