Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Stuffed Jalapeños

When my husband and I moved to Texas, it didn't take long for us to discover that if you are grilling or barbequing (if you live in the South, you know there is a difference--and Southerners will gladly set non-natives straight on that), stuffed jalapeños are a necessity. There are a few variations on the recipe, but there is a common theme of jalapeño, cheese and pork product. The whole jalapeño might be "cored" by taking the stem off and cutting out the seeds from the top, or it might be slit open on the side and the seeds removed that way. Then it's filled with a cheese mixture and wrapped in a strip of bacon. A small sausage might be part of the stuffing too. It can be placed on an aluminum pan on the grill, or there are specialty pans designed just for the purpose of cooking stuffed jalapeños that are filled from the top.

After I discovered the necessity of having a stuffed jalapeño recipe, I started experimenting. Coring a jalapeño or otherwise trying to deseed it while keeping it in one piece is a task I soon grew tired of. Wrapping a jalapeño in bacon and trying to get the pepper and the bacon to cook properly was also a hit-or-miss challenge. Finally, I came up with my own fool-proof recipe. I have had native Texans ask me for this recipe, so I consider it an unqualified success. :-)

Aside from the ease of preparation, my favorite part about this recipe is that it doesn't actually require grilling. I've also adapted this to cooking in an oven (which I actually prefer because oven temperatures are easier to keep even). If you don't use all the stuffing, never fear--it keeps in a sealed container in the refrigerator just fine, though I don't recommend keeping it for more than a week or so. If you run out of jalapeños, the filling also makes an excellent spread for crackers.

Tip: When slicing and seeding jalapeños, I highly recommend using latex gloves to keep the residual "juice" and seeds from the jalapenos off of your hands. That way you can avoid getting the hot stuff on other food, etc. If you accidentally touch your eyes after handling jalapeños, you'll be in a lot of pain.

A semi-sweet wine--especially a Riesling--goes great with these.

April's Stuffed Jalapenos

8 Ounces Whipped Cream Cheese (or regular cream cheese, brought to room temperature so that it's easy to work with)
1 Tablespoon Fresh Basil, chopped
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1/4 Cup Bella Sun Luci California Sun Dried Tomato Halves, chopped*
1/4 Cup Real Bacon Bits (yes, the kind from a jar works great and makes it easy--just make sure they are real)
1/4 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 Green Onion, thinly sliced
12 Large Jalapeños

*Ideally, sun dried tomatoes that are dry, not kept in oil, should be used in this. If all you have are the kind in oil, make sure they are well drained before you put them in. Otherwise you end up with an oily filling.

Mix together all ingredients in a small bowl except the jalapeños, and set aside.

Slice your jalapeños in half, length-wise, and cut the seeds out. I also recommend removing as much of the white membrane as possible, unless you like your jalapeños really spicy. The membrane holds most of the "heat".

Spoon your mixture into the jalapeño halves so that they are level-full. (The stuffing expands while cooking, so you don't need to be generous.) Place your jalapeño halves in a broiler pan--my favorite is a disposable broiler pan with ridges in it, because I can cradle each jalapeño half in the ridges to keep it upright.

Directions for the Oven:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the broiler pan with jalapeño in and cook 10-15 minutes, or until the top is a golden brown. (Smaller jalapeños take less time than larger ones, so just keep your eye on them after 10 minutes.) Remove from oven and allow to cool for a couple minutes before trying to move them to a serving plate. They will be very hot.

Directions for the Grill:
Preheat grill to 400 degrees. Place the broiler pan on the grilling rack and cook over indirect heat, with the cover closed, for 10-15 minutes. If the grill is hotter than 400 degrees, then adjust your cooking time accordingly--they will burn easily. Remove from the grill and allow to cool for a couple minutes before trying to move them to a serving plate. They will be very hot.