I love Summertime! Like that old song says, the livin' is easy. Entertaining is casual and serving small bites, made with the freshest ingredients, is exactly what I love to do. These are such versatile appetizers that you can make one batch and that appeals to three different palates. Okay, three different - spicy loving - palates.
I decided to experiment with a few different fillings this time. The first is a light version with cream cheese and Greek yogurt dipped in egg and panko crumbs. The second, a more traditional version, is filled with cream cheese, and topped with grated cheddar. The last, I call them Heavy J's, are filled with cream cheese and cheddar then wrapped in bacon.
When I made these, I wanted a variety so I divided the ingredients and prepared them all at once. If you have a preference the recipe is easily multiplied (or divided) to meet your tastes and needs.
A few tips: Gloves. Use them. Jalapeño oil is a slow burn that will last under your fingernails for days. If you forget, use dish detergent (like Dawn soap) and COLD water to dissolve and remove the oils. Another tip, let them rest when they come out of the oven. They really are molten. Give them at least 5 minutes to cool and to let the cheese set.
Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 16 poppers
8 Jalapeño peppers, cut in half lengthwise. Clean and remove seeds
6 oz cream cheese
2 oz Greek yogurt
2-3 oz cheddar cheese, plus one tbsp, grated
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 cup cilantro or parsley, chopped
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
3 slices uncured bacon
dash of paprika
salt to taste
6 toothpicks, soaked in water
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Set up a work station with the beaten egg and the bread crumbs in bowls next to each other. Prepare a baking sheet with a lightly oiled rack on top. I highly recommend putting a bit of oil on a paper towel and rubbing it lightly on the rack. Too much oil (or over-spray from the canned stuff) will smoke in such a hot oven.
Mix 2 oz of cream cheese and the Greek yogurt in a small bowl. Add a dash of cumin, paprika and salt to taste. Mix in 1/3 of the chopped cilantro.
Fill 6 of the jalapeño halves with the mixture. Dip in egg, then bread crumbs and set on the baking rack.
The Medium version and the heavy version will use the same filling.
Start by mixing the remaining cream cheese and 2 oz of cheddar cheese together. Add the spices and cilantro that is left over.
Fill 6 of the jalapeño halves with half of the mixture (reserve the rest for the heavy version).
The medium version is dipped in egg and bread crumbs and topped with the extra tbsp of cheddar. This sets them apart and the bubbling cheddar looks great coming out of the oven.
Place them on the baking rack next to the Light version.
If you like the flavor of bacon and the spiciness of jalapeños this one's for you!
Fill the last 6 pepper halves with the remaining filling.
Wrap each with 1/2 slice of bacon and secure with a toothpick.
Place them on the rack next to the others.
Place the rack in the oven and cook for 15 minutes. The light and medium versions will, most likely, be done (golden bread crumbs and bubbling cheese). Remove them from the rack and place the bacon wrapped poppers back in the oven. Continue to bake 5 more minutes or until the bacon is cooked to your liking.
Let all of them cool for at least 5 minutes and remove the toothpicks before serving.