I love jalapeño poppers. They are yummy and make great appetizers that just about everyone loves. It just seems when I looked up jalapeño popper recipes that there was only three ways they are made: either battered, use a breading and fried or wrapped in bacon (don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against bacon. It’s sooooo good but it’s loaded with sodium and fat). Not to mention, cleaning them without splitting them and stuffing them with the cheese filling is always never fun or easy. Plus you lose the jalapeño in all the bacon and breading, not to mention the poppers are usually greasy. So I’m going to share my top-secret jalapeño popper recipe that I came up with to address these problems.
Like with any recipe, you are looking for balance in the flavors among all the ingredients. The best way to start getting that balance is with quality ingredients. I start with my jalapenos. If I don’t have enough on my jalapeño pepper plants in the garden (summertime only) then I usually like to head out to the local Mexican grocery store. Not only do they get loads of jalapenos in but they are usually fresh and cheaper than in the large chain grocery stores (buying from ingredients from ethnic markets is a great way not only to save money but to get better quality ingredients). I buy the biggest and fattest peppers I can get (obvious reasons, since there will be more of a cavity to fill and they are easier to handle when stuffing and cooking).
You can also vary the amount of heat in your jalapenos by how you clean them. The majority of the “heat” in a jalapeño is located in the white ribs and seeds on the inside of the pepper. For poppers, you always want to clean out the insides but removing the seeds and ribs, you make the cavity to hold the filling. Anyone who has sensitive skin should wear gloves for the cleaning process to avoid burning the skin (yes, jalapenos will burn you). For those who like more heat, get rid of the seeds(they just don’t look good in the poppers) and cut out less of the ribs. Or you can take the ribs, chop them finely and add them into the cream cheese filling. As you can guess, for those who want the jalapeño flavor without the heat, get rid of as much of the seeds and white ribs as you can.
After finding my wonderful jalapenos, it’s off for the rest of the ingredients. I always use the 1/3 less fat cream cheese (I’ve said it before, I don’t like the texture of the fat-free and it just doesn’t have as much flavor) then mix in whatever flavor of regular cheese I’m in the mood for. Monterey Jack, Colby Jack and blue cheese are all awesome in jalapeño poppers. Mix in some finely chopped shallots (I prefer shallots over onions in a small dish like this because they have a softer flavor that melds better) and minced garlic, then add small pieces of rendered Spanish chorizo to the top (you can also use bacon or pancetta) and you have beautifully yummy jalapeño poppers without all fat and grease.
When it comes to chorizo, there are two kinds. One is cured and the other is uncooked. For this recipe you want the cured one which can usually be found in specialty food stores such as Whole Foods or local specialty markets. You can also order it online.
The filling for the poppers can be varied in any way you choose and to match your flavors. The cooking methods are easy as well because you can cook these poppers on the grill or under the broiler in the oven on a baking sheet. Below is my top-secret recipe for jalapeño poppers that I promised you (guess it won’t be such a secret anymore). Have fun making and enjoying the melding of flavors from spicy jalapenos, melting cheeses and Spanish chorizo. Your taste buds will thank you.
Jalapeno Popper Recipe
6 to 7 large jalapenos, cut in half and cleaned
1 large shallot, chopped fine
3 to 4 cloves of garlic, minced
6 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese
4 oz. of Colby Jack, Monterey Jack or Blue Cheese
1 1/2 oz. Cured Spanish Chorizo (I like the spicy one), cut into 1/4 inch slices and quartered
Sea salt and Fresh ground black pepper
- After cleaning the jalapenos (use gloves if necessary), lay them aside while you make your filling.
- Turn on grill or broiler to heat up while making the filling.
- Heat a little olive oil up in a skillet over medium heat on the stove for sautéing the shallots and garlic until soft.
- Place the chorizo in the hot pan and allow it to get hot. Drain on paper towels. This rendering removes a great deal of the fat and grease that is in the chorizo and brings out the flavors.
- Place the cream cheese and cheese of your choice in a bowl. Add the cooked shallots and garlic to the cheeses. Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste. Mix well.
- Using a spoon, pack each jalapeño half to level or a little mounded with the cheese filling.
- Put three to four of the chorizo quarters on each jalapeño and push into the cheese.
- If using the oven, place the jalapenos on a baking sheet and place in the middle of the oven, do not place at the top close to the burner, you want the peppers to cook as the cheese is warming up and melting. When the cheese is browning on top it is time to remove the peppers from the oven.
- For the grill, I place the poppers directly on the grate. This will only work for large enough jalapenos though, if you had to get smaller ones, use an old baking sheet and place it on the grill. The jalapeño poppers are done when the bottom of the peppers is blackening and the cheese filling is melting. If you want to brown the top of the cheese, you will have to use the broiler or a small propane torch used for cooking.
Yield: 12 to 14 jalapeño popper halves