This year has totally been a bumper crop for our jalapenos. Ha! See what I did there? I acted like we always have jalapeno plants, and this year they just happen to be doing really well. Such is not the case – they were a complete random experiment that we predicted total failure for, but the plants proved us wrong.
It all happened one day in the spring when we were walking through the garden center of Walmart on a Saturday. Everyone knows that this is a mistake from the get-go. Mike was trying desperately not to go completely insane as a family of 8 plowed into him with their cart on one side, and a woman who must have been 128 years old shuffled along very, very, VERY slowly in front of him yet still managed to take up the entire aisle and deep-six any possibilities of passing. This, of course, gave me more time for impulse purchases, much to his chagrin. He was trying very hard to steer me toward the door, and I knew that my shopping time was quickly drawing to a close, so I did what any irrational person would do. I grabbed three plants off the rack and quickly stuffed them into the cart when he wasn’t looking. Yup. Two shrivelled up and rather sorrowful looking jalapeno seedlings and one for habanero peppers. Despite my black thumb and our wind-tunnel of a balcony, not only did they all survive but as a thank you for saving them from doom at the hands of Walmart store clerks, they have decided to produce a proliferation of piquant peppers. Look at them, here!
SO MANY JALAPENOS!!!
I can’t wait to make jalapeno cheese bread, tortilla soup, salsa verde, and all sorts of other wonderful things!! In the mean time, to celebrate the first jalapeno harvest, let’s show them some love and wrap them in bacon. Mmmmm…..bacon…….
Oh, one more thing – if you’re thinking that they must be hotter than the fires of hell, you’re wrong. Cooking them in the oven first mellows down the heat more than you would think, and they’re really quite palatable.
Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers
Yields: 30 poppers
Time: 40 minutes prep + 1/2 hour baking + 3 minutes BBQ if you so desire
- 15 jalapenos
- 1 pkg cream cheese at room temperature
- 1 cup feta cheese
- 2 cloves garlic
- handful fresh cilantro
- 10 strips bacon
These are easy, but a bit time consuming as all fiddly little appetizers are. But, on the plus side, the end result is JALAPENO POPPERS WRAPPED IN BACON so it’s kind of worth it in the end. First mash up your cream cheese until it’s smooth and spreadable. I used light cream cheese, which might seem silly since everything gets wrapped in bacon, but there is method to such madness. Light cream cheese tends to be more aerated, and therefore it is easier to whip, spread, you name it.
Crumble in about an equal amount of feta and mix this together. I would have preferred to use the Mexican cheese queso fresco, but sadly my supermarket has it’s limitations. That’s fine, feta and cream cheese will suffice.
I would have rasped in my garlic, but I used a press today so you would get a bit of variety.
Chop up your cilantro, stems and all. It’s not laziness, I swear. The stems have great flavor and add a bit of texture too.
It should be a nice fine mince.
Mix this in with your cheese. By the way, at the end of this all I had about 3/4 cup of this mixture left over. That’s kind of awesome, because it makes a great spread for bagels, a condiment for wraps, or just about anything else that you would add cream cheese and feta to!
Cut the stems off of your jalapenos, but don’t cut take the tops off. We want to have wee pepper boats at the end.
Slice these in half and scoop out the seeds as well as any obvious ribs. After all, this is where the heat likes to hide. You can use an old-fashioned vegetable peeler for this, or a teaspoon. I used my melon baller because I almost never get to use my melon baller, and I don’t want it to feel neglected.
Bet you’re wondering about the bacon. It comes in handy now. Cut each slice into 3 equal pieces. I thought I had a picture of this, but evidently that’s the point where I got up to grab another beer and I forgot.
If you have bored friends and helpers hanging around, you can make an assembly line for stuffing. Oh, what fun!! Ha. Just kidding. Nobody ever wants to help you do this kind of stuff. You’re on your own, despite the fact that the entire tray of these will be gone before you get to the table. So, my solitary friend, these are the next three steps:
- Stuff the peppers
- Wrap each pepper in 1 piece of bacon
- Secure with a toothpick
Here is the evolution of the popper…
Preheat your oven to 350 as you wrap, and put the finished poppers on a rack set on top of a cookie sheet. They should be open (cheesy) side up, with the peppers lying on their backs getting ready to bask in the orange glow of your stove. Into the oven for 30 minutes, they go!
When they come out, they will look like this:
At this point, the bacon is cooked. However, if you’re making these to go with dinner and the BBQ just happens to be going, throw them on the grill for a couple of minutes. They get a truly delightful smoky taste with just a hint of char.
Pile them on a platter and serve!
Music to wrap to: Son of a Preacher Man by Dusty Springfield