Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sweet & Spicy Baked Jalapeno Poppers

One of my recent work trips found me in Portland, OR staying at the Hotel Monaco. As often happens when we are out shooting a commercial, there were a lot of long days and late nights where we’d come home starving, but too tired to do more than stumble into the hotel restaurant. In this case, that restaurant was Red Star Tavern. And on the occasion in question, the main kitchen was closed but the bar menu was still in play. So we ordered just about every appetizer on the menu, including the Jalapeno Poppers. That’s not something that I would normally order, but after tasting it, I proceeded to change my stance. It wasn’t fried like normal poppers, and the outside of the bacon was nice and sweet, which paired so well with the spicy jalapeno and creamy stuffing. I decided that it was something I wanted to recreate for myself.

This recipe is dead simple. Just five ingredients. And while I do think I’m going to keep working on the stuffing to make it as flavorful as possible, as is, it’s a great appetizer and was devoured at a recent BBQ at my house.

10 Jalapenos
20 strips Bacon
8oz Cream cheese
Brown sugar

Start by taking your cream cheese out of the fridge and letting it soften. This will take a little time, so plan ahead. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and put your jalapenos on a baking sheet. Roast them for ten minutes and let them cool until you can safely (and comfortably) handle them. Cut them in half down the middle. You can cut off the tops if you want, but I actually think it adds a nice visual element to leave it. Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and membranes. The seeds can be a pain to get out so sometimes I rinse the jalapenos in water to wash them away. If you do that just make sure that you dry them off with a paper towel.

Set these aside and mince up some cilantro. Use as much or as little as you like, and mix it in with your softened cream cheese. Then use your spoon to fill the jalapeno halves with the cream cheese mixture. Wrap a strip of bacon tightly around the jalapeno and fasten it with a toothpick.

Use your hand to rub the outside of the bacon with brown sugar. The first time I did this I just sprinkled the brown sugar on top, which was a bad idea. You want to try not to get much brown sugar on the cookie sheet because it will burn quickly and then smoke. So that’s why I rub the brown sugar on before putting the whole thing on the cookie sheet. Cook for about 20 minutes and serve. Make sure you take the toothpicks out, or warn your guests to remove them. Don’t want to have any toothpick-related injuries at your party!

Looking back at the Red Star menu, it looks like they put sausage in their filling. I don’t know, that seems like overkill to me, but maybe that’s a good thing. 

(click here for printable recipe)

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