Tis the season! Â Tis a lot of seasons actually: Â football, holiday, holiday party and — at least around here — jalapeno. Â We planted jalapeno plants in our garden a little late this year, so only recently harvested the ripened jalapenos. Â (Just in the knick of time too, before we lost them to our first frost.) Â We got a pretty decent crop and wanted to do something a little different with them. Â Continuing our football season theme of trying to make various “bar foods” at home (see, e.g.,Â wings and tater skins), we decided to try jalapeno poppers. Â We found this recipe on the site allrecipes.com and made a few changes to attempt to make it a teeny bit more healthy. Â The jalapeno poppers turned out great and were easy to prepare. Â They took some time start-to-finish, but according to reviewers of the original recipe, they can be assembled in advance (and frozen even), then cooked just prior to serving. Â We think it’s the filling ingredients that make these poppers so good: Â cream cheese, cheddar cheese and bacon. Â We added some chopped up homemade pickled jalapenos for an extra kick (we used this recipe for amazing pickled jalapenos — not too spicy and not too pickly — just right.) Â If you have access to good-sized jalapenos (little ones would be tricky to work with), we highly recommend these for any upcoming holiday (or football-watching) gatherings.
Fresh bacon bits are best. Â We roasted the bacon, but you could also cook it in a skillet on the stove. Â If roasting, place a large sheet of foil on a cookie sheet, lay out the bacon, and cook it in the oven preheated to 350 degrees, turning once or twice, until the bacon is crispy — about 25-30 minutes. Â (This is way more bacon than you need for the poppers recipe, but we used the extra bacon in sandwiches and on a pizza later in the week.)
When the bacon is done, place it on a plate lined with paper towels to drain off any excess grease.
Combine the bacon bits, cheddar cheese, cream cheese and pickled jalapenos in a large bowl.
The cream cheese will be easier to mix with the other ingredients if you allow it to soften at room temperature for a little while. Â We forgot that step, so we attempted to soften the cream cheese by setting the bowl near the fire in our fireplace. Â It didn’t really work that well, but nice fire!
Prepare the jalapenos by cutting them in half and scooping out the seeds and white parts with a spoon. Â We also had a couple of Anaheim peppers (the big green one and the red one) and decided to make poppers out of them as well.
Spoon a generous amount of the filling into each pepper half. Â You may need to press/shape the cheese into the jalapenos with your fingers to make sure the cheese stays put.
If you have any extra filling, KEEP IT. Â The filling makes a delicious snack when spread on crackers.
The stuffed jalapenos go through a two-step breading process. Â First, dip them in milk, then in flour and place them on a rack to dry. Â Allow the jalapenos to dry for about 10 minutes.
Next, dip the jalapenos in milk, then breading (we used panko, but regular breadcrumbs would also work.)
Allow the jalapenos to dry for another 10 minutes or so. Â If you didn’t get a very good coating the first time, you can re-dip the jalapenos in the milk and breading a second time.
Bake the jalapenos on a rack placed on a cookie sheet in the oven preheated to 425 until they are browned — about 30-35 minutes. Â (And go ahead and cook some stuffed mushrooms with the jalapenos if you feel like it.)
We decided to fry a couple of the stuffed jalapenos for a taste test. Â We thought we would like the fried ones better (isn’t everything better fried?), but were pleasantly surprised that we actually preferred the baked poppers instead.
Although the breading got more crispy with the fried version, the overall flavors came together better in the baked poppers, plus the jalapeno cooked more and the cheesy filling got more warm and melt-y. Â Set out a little bowl of ranch dressing for dipping and voila! — restaurant “apps” at home.
Ingredients: Â (adjust amounts according to serving needs)
- 3-4 slices bacon, cooked until crispy, then crumbled into bits
- 6-8 jalapenos, halved and de-seeded
- 1.5 cups low-fat cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup low-fat sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 1-2 pickled jalapenos, chopped
- 1 cup low-fat milk
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup panko (or regular breadcrumbs)
- Cook the bacon if not using leftover bacon bits.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Combine the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, bacon bits and pickled jalapeno in a medium bowl and mix together well.
- Cut the jalapenos in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and white parts with a spoon.
- Spoon a generous amount of the cheese mixture onto each jalapeno half and press/shape it with your fingers to ensure that the cheese sticks to the jalapeno.
- Working with the milk and flour in separate bowls, dip each stuffed jalapeno in the milk, then in the flour until well-coated, then place each coated jalapeno on a rack to dry for about 10 minutes. Â Repeat this step with milk and breading in separate bowls — dip each jalapeno in the milk, then the breading until well-coated, then place the jalapenos back on the rack to dry for another 10 minutes or so.
- Place the rack with the jalapenos on a cookie sheet and bake until browned on all sides — about 30-35 Â minutes. Â Serve with ranch dressing for dipping.