Stuffed jalapeno poppers -- the spicy peppers typically stuffed with cheese and coated with bread crumbs -- are deep fried until they're golden brown and the filling is hot. The jalapeno peppers will still be too crunchy when the bread coating finishes cooking if you don't blanch the peppers before you stuff them. Stuffed jalapenos are sometimes wrapped in bacon instead of coated with breading. The filling, pepper and coating should be done cooking at the same time when you blanch the peppers first.
The blanching process partially cooks vegetables so they're still crisp but slightly more tender than when fresh. You cook them in boiling water for just a few minutes and immediately toss them in ice water to stop the cooking process after removing them from the boiling pot. This technique is commonly used to prepare foods for freezer storage, brighten the color or loosen skins. In the case of jalapeno peppers you're going to use for poppers, blanching reduces the amount of cooking time necessary to make them tender, so the peppers are soft and tender when the stuffing and coating are done.
Preparing the Peppers
Stuffed jalapeno peppers are only meant to be mildly spicy so the pepper doesn't overwhelm the flavor of the filling. You can greatly reduce the amount of heat by removing all the seeds from inside the pepper. Slice off the pepper caps to reveal the membrane and seeds inside. Cut a small pepper along one side to open it up so you can gain access to the seeds. This also makes it easier to add the filling. Large jalapenos might not need to be slit down the side if you can easily remove the seeds and insert a knife to hollow them out.
Blanching the Peppers
Proper blanching is a very quick process that relies on advanced preparation so you can perform each step quickly. While you bring a pot of water to a boil, have the peppers ready in a bowl beside the pot. Fill a large mixing bowl with equal parts ice and water, and set it beside your sink. Set a colander inside your sink, or use a pot with a strainer basket insert. Drop the peppers in the boiling water for 3 minutes. Pour the water through a strainer or lift the strainer basket from the pot. Dump the blanched jalapenos into the ice water bath and stir gently to cool them as quickly as possible.
Stuffing Blanched Peppers
The peppers can be stuffed immediately after you blanch them because the ice water cools them enough for safe handling. You simply add your choice of filling, such as cream cheese or shredded pepper jack cheese. Small jalapenos must be wrapped around the filling; the pepper should stick to the cheese and hold shape well. If you don't want to make the stuffed jalapenos right away, place the blanched jalapenos in a freezer bag, leaving about 2 inches of head room at the top of the bag for freezing. The frozen peppers store well for up to 9 months.
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