Monday, April 30, 2012

Baked Jalepeño Poppers

I thought I’d miss the fried version of jalapeño poppers but I think I like these better.  The baked topping has all the crunch I crave in a bar snack and baking them means I can make lots and reheat them.  They even freeze well after the first bake.

We make two basic fillings- one with veggie cream cheese mixed with grated cheddar and the other with equal parts soft goat cheese and cream cheese topped with crispy bacon pieces.  Try the goat cheese version using a nice aged goat cheese like Pico or le Boucheron to pass these around at a grown up cocktail party like a wedding rehearsal dinner.  Add the cheddar version to a Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Here’s the basic recipe for 12 jalapeño poppers using 6 whole jalapeños.  The recipe can be doubled and tripled. 

Baked Jalapeño Poppers
Ingredients
6 jalapeño peppers, split lengthwise
3 oz cream cheese, softened
3 oz soft goat cheese (try an aged version, rind and all)
2 strips cooked bacon, chopped in large pieces
1 egg + 1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup flour + salt and pepper
1/2 cup bread crumbs

Method
  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F.  
  2. Prepare peppers.  Seed and de-vein the jalapeño halves.  The curve of a serrated grapefruit knife makes this easy or use a regular serrated knife.   
  3. Place pepper halves in a lightly oiled metal baking dish (like a cake pan or 8X8 brownie pan).  Bake at 400˚F for 10 minutes while preparing filling.  
  4. Mix cream cheese and goat cheese together with a fork.  Turn off oven and remove peppers from oven.  Allow peppers to cool a few minutes so they are easy to handle.  When cool, fill each pepper with about 1/2 ounce filling (a little under a tablespoon) and press a few bacon pieces into each.  
  5. Cover and refrigerate for about an hour (or overnight).  Cooling stuffed jalapeños makes easier breading them before baking easier.   If you are in a hurry, skip this step.  A touch messier but it won’t ruin the final result. 
  6. Preheat oven to 400˚F.  
  7. To bread chilled peppers, set out three small dishes.  Place flour mixture in the first, egg/water mixture in the second and bread crumbs in the third.  Have your metal baking pan ready (lightly oiled).  
  8. Dip the filled side of each pepper into flour, egg and then bread crumbs.  Place in baking pan.  
  9. Bake at 400˚F for 20 minutes, checking halfway through to make sure filling is not oozing out of peppers.  Poppers are ready when top is crisp and cheese is soft and melty. 

Alternate filling:
4 ounces plain or veggie cream cheese plus 2 ounces grated cheddar or Monterey jack cheese.  Bacon optional.

Handling Hot Peppers
The oils from cutting and prepared any hot pepper can linger on your hands and give you a jolt if you rub an eye hours later if you do not wash (not rinse) your hands including nail beds with hot soapy water after you are finished prepping them.  Once roasted, jalapeños retain very little volatile oil and handling requires less concern.  If you are very sensitive, wear food safe gloves when working with peppers.