Archive, Recipes

Jalapeno “Firecracker” Poppers

 

jalapno bannerThis past July 4th I decided to make my jalapeno poppers for our neighborhood get together. Well… Decided may be a bit of a stretch in this case. These poppers are pretty popular among my friends and they are something that happen to be requested quite a bit when we get together. So in this case let’s just say I knew that they needed to be made or I would be in trouble.

I fell in love with poppers the very first time I tasted a jalapeno stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon. I couldn’t believe this genius idea and eventually had to start trying to make my own. Like a lot of my recipes I took the things that I liked about it and started playing with my own flavors to come up with something unique.

You wouldn’t think that there would be many differences among poppers but there really are.  First you have the ones that you cut the top off of and fill with cheeses like cheddar or pepper jack and then dip into a thick batter and deep fry to crispy goodness. Then you have the ones that are split down the middle and usually stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon before putting them on the grill or in the oven to crisp them up. I have eaten both many times and have had both done several different ways. Different cheeses, different meats, different cooking methods. Whatever it is, they all seem to come out pretty tasty.

For many years I did them the more traditional way with just cream cheese and bacon and grill them for a bit. However that was until I went to a party several years ago and tasted the best poppers I have ever tried. I started talking to the person making them and learned his secret weapon in the war on poppers. Sooo… I did what any normal person that loves to cook would do. I took that knowledge and combined it with my own recipe and came up with an even better version. This is the version that I cook for everyone now and is the version that I am going to show you all how to make today.

Lets get started.

What you need before cooking: sharp knife and cutting board, large baking pan and aluminum foil, cooking spray, frying pan and a spoon.

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Grocery list

Jalapenos (15 to 16 medium to large jalapenos)

Cream cheese (8 oz block Philadelphia Cream Cheese)

Bacon (1 lb (16 oz) Hormel black label)

Maple sausage (Jimmy Dean (16 oz) 1 lb)

Prep:

Start out by cutting the stem end off of the jalapenos. Cut as close to the stem as possible Now cut them in half long ways from the tip to the stem end and scoop out the white membrane inside. Depending on how many jalapenos you got you should now have about 30 to 40 halves ready to stuff.

Go ahead and open the bacon and cut the entire pound in half right down the middle.

Now we start the fun part: cooking, assembling and then cooking some more. Yep, you guessed it. There are a few steps involved in this one.

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In a pan on medium high heat you want to cook the sausage, making sure to get it nice and brown with a few really crispy pieces. This is important because a lot of people tend to just heat sausage or beef up until it turns a grayish color thinking that is how you brown meat. Those people are incorrect in this case. You want to get a some dark brown crispyness in there too because that’s where the flavor comes from.  One of the main things I tell people when they say that theirs doesn’t taste like mine is that they didn’t brown the meat long enough.

Once the sausage is browned you will want to reduce heat to low and drain any excess fat from the pan. Now add the block of cream cheese and stir it all together until you have a nice thick mixture of sausage and cream cheese.  Move this to a bowl and set aside.

Time to set up an assembly line.

On my kitchen island, I like to have the jalapenos right in front of me with the bacon to the right and sausage and cream cheese to the left. Then on the far right (outside of the bacon) have the baking pan covered in foil and sprayed down with cooking oil. Now I work from left to right.  Using a spoon take a scoop of the sausage and cream cheese mixture and fill one of the jalapeno halves smoothing it down to the edges of the pepper. Now take one of the half strips of bacon and wrap it around the filled pepper and set that on the baking pan (cheese side up). Repeat that until everythng is gone or you run out of one of the ingredients.  You will almost always run out of one of the ingredients before the other, just because jalapeno sizes vary and you never know exactly how much filling or bacon you will need.

poppers done

 

About half way through the filling process go ahead and turn on your oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Once you have all of the peppers stuffed and the oven is preheated, stick the pan into the oven on the middle rack and cook for about 20 minutes (or until the bacon starts to crisp up.

peppers in pan

When they are done you may want to lay them on a paper towel lined plate to drain off any excess fat. Then all that is left is to set them out on a tray or serving dish for your guests to enjoy. Or… if you have tasted one and decided to be selfish you can disappear somewhere with the tray all to yourself while your guests entertain themselves. OK, Ok, maybe that’s being just a little bit selfish. I hope that you and your friends enjoy these.

Thanks for reading,

James

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