Tuesday, October 4, 2011
One of my favorite lazy snacks and side dishes is stuffed jalapenos. The simplicity of a couple of ingredients and a few minutes in the oven can’t be beat. It’s perfect for an after-school snack, football season munchies, or a party appetizer.
Cream Cheese, or other soft cheese
Seasoning of choice
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Slice the stem portions from the top of the jalapenos, leaving as much of the pepper as possible. Slice jalapenos in half lengthwise. Remove seeds and veins from the inside of the peppers. Slice off a small bit of cream cheese and smooth into the hollow of the jalapeno. Continue with all peppers until complete, placing on a baking sheet or pan as you go. Sprinkle packed peppers with salt and pepper, or seasoning of choice. Place in oven and turn oven setting to broil. Set timer for 8 minutes and check to see how jalapenos look. They should be soft and very lightly browned on top when done.
Requests for information (aka Questions)....
How do I keep the pepper juice from burning my hands and eyes?
Well, to keep it from burning your eyes, keep your fingers out of your eyes!!! Seriously, pepper juice can be really painful in your eyes. If it does happen, milk on a cotton ball is going to be your best bet for relief. To keep it from burning your hands, coat your hands very lightly with oil to act as a barrier, but be more aware when using the knife after you do. You can also wear gloves. Or you can just enjoy the burn and go for it without any sort of barrier.
How do I remove the seeds and veins?
The seeds and veins are where the heat is in the pepper, and unless you really don’t like who you are feeding, you will want to take them out. I found that a cheap, metal measuring spoon works best for this. The metal is thin and acts almost like a blade and the shape is perfect for quickly evacuating those bits from the jalapenos.
How much cream cheese? How many jalapenos?
When doing your shopping, plan on 1 ounce per whole jalapeno. Jalapenos come in lots of different sizes, so it can be hard to calculate. 1 8oz package of cream cheese will stuff about 8-10 peppers, even more if you mix things in with your cream cheese. Calculating the number of jalapenos can be more challenging. A room full of men watching football can pack dozens of these away in a matter of minutes! As a side dish, I figure 2-3 peppers per person, which makes 4-6 stuffed halves.
What seasonings do you use?
It depends on which way the wind is blowing... I’m finicky that way! I do season liberally with salt; it helps to bring up the flavors. Other than that, it really just depends on what is within reach: smoked paprika, aleppo pepper, cumin, smoked salt, chili powder, Mexican oregano, seasoned salt, crushed red pepper flakes, Penzeys Forward, toasted onion powder, garlic powder, Adobo seasoning, BBQ rub, etc. Simply sprinkle a nice dusting on the top of your stuffed peppers. You can also mix things into the cream cheese like shredded cheddar cheese, crumbled bacon, diced pepperoni, minced onion, left over shredded chicken, chopped black olives... you get the idea. A handful (about 1/2 cup), seems to be the right amount to mix in for 8 oz of cream cheese.
Absolutely! You can make these a day in advance and stash them in the fridge until you are ready to cook. Give them 15-30 minutes to warm up on the counter before you stick them in the oven. You can easily take them over to your friend’s house and cook them up there, too!
Hey! What about bacon?!?!?
Wrapping the jalapenos in bacon is an EXCELLENT idea, unless you are cooking for vegans, they kind of frown on the whole bacon love. If you want to wrap your jalapenos with bacon, you need to partially cook the bacon to assure that it crisps up nicely in the short oven time. Cook those lovely strips for a few minutes, making sure they are still wiggly and flexible so you can wrap them. Let the slices cool a bit so you can handle them without burning yourself, then wrap them around your stuffed peppers and proceed with broiling them in the oven. If you cook the bacon too long and it is crispy, you won’t be able to wrap, but you can still garnish with lovely bacon bits!