Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers

I know what you're thinking.  Yes, I did just stuff these babies with cheese and wrap them in bacon.  No, there aren't any left.  Sorry.  You'll just have to make your own.

My husband thinks it's a little strange that I call these "jalapeño poppers."  Apparently, some people who categorize such things think that in order for a jalapeño to be considered a "popper," it must be breaded and deep-fried.  In my opinion, a "popper" is something that you "pop" straight into your mouth because it's so delicious you can't be bothered with such civilities as a knife and fork.  If you want to be a stickler, feel free to call them "jalapeños that have been stuffed with all sorts of cheesy deliciousness, wrapped in bacon, and grilled until they give off such a tantalizing aroma that you burn yourself trying to eat them."  But while you do that, I'm going to snag the last one.

I ended up buying a lot of the ingredients since I made these to share with friends, but if you wait long enough, locally grown jalapeños will start showing up en masse at the co-op.  Mine were $1.68/lb (I think) at Kroger.  Cilantro is $.50/bunch at Kroger, and as I've probably mentioned before, you can always rinse and chop the leftovers and freeze them for guacamole.  Green onions are under a dollar at Kroger and Meijer, and they freeze well too.  I used fresh Parmesan cheese because I had a little left over from my lamb, but the powdered stuff in a can works just as well here.

The finished poppers are surprisingly mild--the grilling (or broiling) process takes out some of the heat, although they definitely have a kick.  Before cooking, however, the raw jalapeños pack a punch, so you'll want to wear rubber gloves when handling them.  If you don't have gloves, wear bags over your hands.  You'll look dumb, but it's worth avoiding getting the juice into a cut on your hand (my hands burn even if I don't have any cuts) or in your eyes (not. fun.).

Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers
Yield:  10-12 poppers (serves 5-6)
Time:  1 hour

2 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 T. Parmesan cheese
1 small tomato, finely chopped (about 1/4 to 1/3 cup)
2 T. thinly sliced green onions
2 T. chopped fresh cilantro
coarse-ground pepper, to taste
10-12 large jalapeño peppers (mine were 3-4 inches long)*
10-12 slices bacon, uncooked (one per pepper)*

Combine first six ingredients; set aside.  (If the cream cheese is too firm to mix easily, microwave for 5 seconds to soften it a little.)

Grab your rubber gloves.  Rinse the jalapeños thoroughly.

Cut off the stem end of each pepper.  Using a small paring knife and beginning at the cut end of the pepper, cut a slit that goes to the opposite tip.  Don't cut the pepper in half.  Carefully spread the pepper open so you can cut out the seeds and ribs (the especially spicy parts).  You should end up with this:

Still wearing the gloves, fill each pepper with cream cheese mixture.  Roll each one up in a single strip of bacon.

Grill or broil poppers until bacon is cooked and peppers are tender, about 3 minutes on each side.  If you're grilling, you may want to either place perforated foil under the peppers or put them on skewers, so they don't fall through the grates.

*You can also use smaller peppers (2 inches or so), although it's more time-consuming.  Use 12-15 peppers, and cut them in half lengthwise if you have trouble getting the seeds out (keep the halves paired; the stuffing stays in better that way).  Wrap each one in just half a slice of bacon; secure with a toothpick if needed.  Line your grill or broiler pan with foil, as the cheese tends to leak out of the small poppers more easily.

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