Spice up your next party with homemade jalapeno poppers stuffed with a cream cheese filling. The peppers give a kick of spice, while the creamy filling helps cool your palate. Crispy poppers you order at a bar or enjoy at a tailgater are typically deep-fried. Making them from scratch offers you the option of baking to reduce calories.
Prepare the Peppers
Look for fresh peppers with firm skins and no visible holes or blemishes, and choose peppers that can be eaten in about two bites. Opinions vary greatly on the best way to prepare the peppers for stuffing and breading. Some people like to leave the stems intact to provide a handle for easy breading; just split the pepper lengthwise to add the cream cheese. Or you might prefer to remove the cap, using the opening as an entry point for filling. Remove all of the soft membrane and seeds from inside the pepper if you want the poppers as mild as possible. Blanch larger peppers in boiling water for a few minutes to ensure that they're cooked through.
Cream Cheese Filling
Softened, whipped cream cheese is all you need to fill the poppers. Mix in other ingredients -- such as shredded cheddar cheese, crumbled bacon, caramelized onions or cilantro -- to pack more flavor into every bite. Use a pastry bag to pipe the cream cheese filling into the peppers; the tip makes it easy to control the flow and fill the entire pepper. Avoid overstuffing the peppers or they may burst open while cooking. If you opted to slice jalapenos completely in half, fill each half with the cream cheese and use the filling as a glue to press the two halves together.
Dredging and Breading
For a dry crumb coating, set up a dredging station with three dishes -- flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs. Choose plain or seasoned breadcrumbs, or crushed crackers. Roll each pepper in the flour to absorb excess moisture and allow for a more even egg coating. Dip the flour-coated peppers into the beaten egg, suspending them over the bowl to allow the excess to drip. Toss each pepper into the breadcrumbs until evenly coated. For thicker breading, dip peppers in the egg and breadcrumbs a second time. A dredging station is not needed for wet batter; simply dip the peppers in the batter to coat them.
Cook the Poppers
Jalapeno poppers hold together better while frying when they are partially or completely frozen. After coating them with breadcrumbs, place them on a cookie sheet and freeze them for at least 30 minutes. Keep a large batch in the freezer for as long as three months, then remove and cook them as needed. Preheat oil in a deep-fryer or skillet to about 375 degrees Fahrenheit or over medium-high heat. Fry the peppers for about three minutes or until the coating is medium golden brown. You may also fry them in a small amount of oil in a shallow skillet for about three minutes on each side. Omit the oil completely by baking them on a baking sheet for about 20 minutes in a 425 F oven.
A former cake decorator and competitive horticulturist, Amelia Allonsy is most at home in the kitchen or with her hands in the dirt. She received her Bachelor's degree from West Virginia University. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and on other websites.
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