Tag Archives: Jalapenos

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers

It seems like there are at least two ways to make Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers. I got interested in doing the bacon wrapped version this summer when I was trying to cut down on carbs; the crusted versions of Jalapeno Poppers that I worked on two years ago are good, but a friend said they liked bacon wrapped better, so I decided to investigate that direction both for the lower carbs and for the “liked better” bit.

On the internet, the method for making bacon wrapped poppers gives half peppers; my friend Bill showed me the method for making whole peppers. I will try to show you both ways in this article. A quick summary is shown in this set of images.

To make the half pepper version, we start by cutting the pepper’s stem down the middle such that each half pepper will have a stem. Then we cut the rest of the pepper in half and clean it of seeds and membranes. The filling is as made for the crusted poppers and made ahead of time. A little is put into each half of the pepper, and then the pepper is wrapped with a half slice of bacon.

In making the full pepper version, we start by slicing the pepper in half as close to the stem as possible. Keep the two halves together so they can fit back to make the pepper whole again. Now the filling is cream cheese in one half of the pepper and a hard cheese like cheddar in the other half. You will need to trim the cheese so it doesn’t hang over the edges of the pepper and keep it from closing. I found that the hard cheese would push into the soft cream cheese and absorb much of the difference in size.

While I prefer Cheddar as the hard cheese, I have made these with Pepper Jack, and Monterey Jack; They are all good.

To close the whole pepper, it is wrapped in a strip of bacon; ideally, it would be about 3/4 of a strip but I have no reason to save bacon bits, so mostly use a whole piece. (The half piece in the photos is a little short). A tooth pick holds everything together.

The bacon wrapped poppers can be cooked on a grill like Bill does, but I decided to bake them in my oven. I lined a pan with parchment paper, set a rack in the pan, and the peppers on the rack. For the half pepper version, keep the open side up. For the whole pepper version, I tried to keep the hard cheese on the top. I baked the poppers at 350 degrees for over 30 minutes- until the bacon looked brown; it takes quite a while for the bacon to render all its fat and crisp up.

Jalapeno Poppers

This year I planted a couple jalapeno pepper plants, and unlike other years, they are really producing. Not many of my local contacts cook with jalapenos, so I was left with needing a way to use the jalapenos. I discovered that I could make jalapeno poppers and a lot of people like them.

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I have made over 100 poppers to date, and that means I have some proofs of what works, and can comment on my experiences. I want to take you through the whole exercise of making these tasty treat. You don’t need to grow your own pepper, you can buy the peppers and make the poppers as a contribution to a pot luck dinner, or for your own entertainment; they are sure to be liked by a majority of the people to whom you offer them.

There are many recipes on the web for Jalapeno peppers; this recipe hides the filling inside the pepper and then breads and deep fries the pepper. I have seen recipes that slice a side off the pepper, and others that do not deep fry the pepper. I have also heard of wrapping the pepper in bacon after it is stuffed, and BBQing the stuffed pepper. I decided I liked this basic recipe and have put my energy into making minor changes rather than trying totally different methods.

The first step is to open the peppers and remove the seeds and membranes. This is the part of the process where the most capsicum is present, and all the warning about not touching your eyes and such hold. In addition, I recommend using latex gloves; one day I did 50 peppers without using gloves, and several hours later I noticed my left hand feeling strange. (I hold the knife and spoon in the right hand and the pepper on which I am working in the left hand). I will go even further and warn you not to have your face over the sink if you are running the seeds and membranes down the garbage disposal; the fumes will really get to your eyes and throat.

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Most of the websites I read say to cut a T shaped slit across the stem end of the pepper and down the side. I tried that, and I couldn’t get the sides of the pepper open far enough to do a good job of cleaning out the seeds and membranes. I discovered that I did a better cleaning job if I cut through both sides of the pepper from the stem to the end. Now the pepper “wings” can be opened far enough to see in and get the insides out. I use a grapefruit spoon- it has a serrated tip- to scrape the insides out.

Occasionally, a wing will break off the pepper; don’t let it bother you with this recipe. I have found that of the 10% of the peppers where a wing has broken off, I have never had a pepper fall apart in the deep fat fryer. The filling and the breading seems to be a good glue and holds the pepper together when you want it to stay. Even though the wing falls off while cleaning the pepper out, it sometimes falls off again up to the point that it gets breaded. So do not fear that you have lost one of your poppers; it will come out okay.

(An interesting side note is that peppers range in the heat they have, and we never know just how hot the pepper will be other than a general range based on type of pepper; a jalapeno is suppose to be one of the mildest of hot peppers, but even they are inconsistent. One blogger I was reading said that he feels that the heat of the pepper is related to the white striation on the skin of the pepper. Thus, in this photo, the near pepper would be hotter than the other pepper.)

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Now that the pepper is open and cleaned, it is ready to fill. This is a simple filling but good; I have had no complaints about it. It consists of a mixture of 1/2 pound each of three ingredients- cheddar cheese, cream cheese and bacon. I use a dessert spoon and scrape the filling into the pepper cavity. Remember, I said that the filling acts somewhat like a glue to hold the wings together, so I start by being generous with the amount I put into the cavity, press the wings together and scrape the excess that pushes out off.

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After filling the peppers, I refrigerate them overnight. I find it is a general rule that you want things cold when you go to cook them. The original recipe said to refrigerate for 15 minutes, so I would assume that is the minimum time, but as I said, I split the process into two days, and refrigerate overnight. In fact, when I start breading and frying the peppers, I only take about 6 out of the refrigerator at a time; this is the number that seem to fit nicely in my fryer, and as I monitor the temperature of the cooking oil, I found that it needs several minutes to come back to the cooking temperature after doing a batch from the refrigerator.

One of the steps of the process that I changed is the breading of the peppers. The process starts like most processes by putting flour on the pepper, dredging the pepper in egg, and then rolling it in the flavored crumbs. I discovered that at this point, a lot of the area of the pepper didn’t seem to have a crumb coating, and I had read somewhere that the coating was better if repeated. So I put the peppers back into the egg and then back into the flavored crumbs. This really does make a big difference in the looks of the final popper.

Jalapeno Poppers

Ingredients

  • Jalapeno Peppers (24-40: the original recipe said 24 but I’ve had enough filling for 40)
  • 8 oz cream cheese softened
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
  • 8 oz cooked bacon, crumbled
  • about 2 cups cooking oil
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3-5 eggs, beaten
  • 40-60 RITZ cracker, finely crushed.

The looseness in the specification of the eggs and crackers is because of the looseness in the specification of the number of peppers. The original recipe was for 24 peppers, 2 eggs and 40 crackers, but only egged and crumbed the peppers once; when I started doing the egging and crumbing twice, I needed more ingredients, and of course, you need more egg and cracker crumb as you do more than 24 peppers, too. I would suggest starting with 3 eggs and 40 crackers, but be ready to add more egg and more crackers.

Cut the peppers lengthwise and remove the seeds and membranes.
Combine the cheeses and the bacon for the filling.
Spoon the filling into the pepper cavity and press the sides of the pepper together.
Refrigerate the filled peppers for at least 15 minutes.

Heat a couple inches of cooking oil in a medium saucepan or a deep fat fryer to 375 degrees F.

Coat the peppers with flour, knocking off the excess.
Coat the floured peppers with egg.
Roll the egged pepper in the cracker crumbs.
Again, coat the pepper with egg, and roll it in the cracker crumbs a second time.

When the temperature is close to the 375 degrees, add a batch (6) of coated peppers and cook for 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve. Let the temperature of the cooking oil recover before adding more peppers.

Pork-Pecan Tacos with Guacamole

Pork-Pecan TacosWhile this recipe appears to be complex, I encourage you to break it down into several distinct pieces that can each be accomplished separately and almost with no relationship to other steps. I will be guiding you through the steps with hints and suggestions as you will find below.

Pork Pecan Tacos with Guacamole

  • 2 lb. marinated center-cut pork loin filet (onion and garlic flavor)

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 3/4 cup reserved broth from the cooked pork loin

  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus additional to taste (divided)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 fresh jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped or miniprocessed
  • 1 pasilla or poblano chile, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped

  • 8 – 10 flour tortillas
  • Guacamole (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

1) Place pork in shallow pan and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Cover with foil and continue baking for another hour. During the last hour of cooking, check to make sure there is liquid surrounding the pork. If it begins to dry, add water, 1/4 cup at a time. This broth will be used later on.

2) Let the meat stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove meat from pan, reserving
3/4 cup of the liquid. Cut the meat into 4 to 6 pieces; with clean hands or 2 forks shred the meat into a large bowl.

3) In a heavy skillet heat olive oil over medium-high heat and saute the pork with the garlic briefly, about 1 minute. Add the reserved broth and simmer about 10 minutes. Taste and season as desired with additional salt.

4) In a small skillet, heat the butter over medium-high heat and stir in the pecans and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Saute for 2 minutes. Add the sugar and saute for 1 minute; add the chilies and continue to saute for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir half this pecan mixture into the pork mixture. The rest should be sprinkled over the top when serving. (optional). Instead of green jalapeno peppers, red jalapenos could be used to add color to the meat.

To serve, heat the flour tortillas. (stack in pie pan, cover with foil and put in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.) Spread guacamole on each tortilla and fill with the shredded pork.

GUACAMOLE:

  • 2 ripe avacados
  • 1 medium-size ripe tomato
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped onion
  • lemon juice
  • garlic salt

Mash avacados in a small bowl. Stir in chopped tomato and onion. Season with lemon juice and garlic salt.

Makes 4 to 5 servings.

Those are the recipes; as you can see, I have broken the ingredient list down into subsets that go with the directions. Now I am going to discuss each step that might use a enlarged explanation.

  • Buying the meat: It once was that we could buy a 2 pound pork loin in a package with a garlic-onion marinade. I haven’t seen it in the marketplace recently. They are doing many other marinades. You can try one of those, and I doubt if it will make a big difference. I also note that inflation has hit on the pork loin in marinade; they use to be 2 pounds but now seem to be only 1 to 1 ½ pounds.If you need to buy a non-marinade pork loin, then I would recommend talking to the butcher. There is something called silver skin on pork that needs to be cut off; it is tough. It might not make any difference since we will be shredding the meat, but what the heck- let the butcher with his expertise take it off. I did one such pork loin, and learning about the silver skin is not worth the effort. You have to first identify it, then slip a sharp, flexible knife (boning knife) under it and peel it away from the muscle/meat.
  • Marinade: If you need to make a marinade, then here is a pointer to a very simple one on Cooks.com.
    Garlic-Onion Marinade
    It has soy sauce, fresh onion, fresh garlic, sugar, ground ginger, and oil. I have used this marinade a couple times and it seems to be easy and straight- forward. My only hint would be to be certain the sugar gets dissolved in the soy sauce. You need to plan ahead if you need to do the marinade; it needs to soak for a day or two. I put the pork loin and marinade in a large freezer bag and put it in the refrigerator to do its thing.
  • Roasting the pork: The package will probably say to roast for 45 -60 minutes. Forget it. Marlys says to roast for 2 ½ hours, and explicitly to tent it after 1 ½ hours, and to continually add liquid. If you don’t roast the meat long enough, it is difficult to shred, so please follow Marlys’s directions, and remember to add the liquid so there is minimal burning.
    No matter how hard you try, the bottom of the roasting pan is going to get some burned sugar on it. I recommend that you use a glass or ceramic pan to ease clean-up. And, a secret my sister Rachael taught me is to get a scouring powder called Bar Keeper’s Friend to help with the clean-up.
  • Caramelizing the Pecans: Although the directions don’t say to do this until after you have the shredded meat in the skillet sautéing, I would do this while the meat is roasting so you know you have the time. Of course, everyone is afraid of fresh peppers- don’t be. Wear rubber gloves if you think they will irritate the skin- I don’t need to protect my hands. And the peppers will loss most of their heat between the preparation- removing the seeds and veins- and the cooking. Where I would suggest being careful is getting rid of the seeds, stems, etc. I notice that when I put them down the garbage disposal, there is a back gassing that will cause me to cough and sputter if I catch it in my face, so don’t be over the garbage disposal when you wash the pepper debris down it. And, now that you have the oil of the peppers on your hands and fingers, don’t touch your face! Wash your hands with soap before proceeding.
    If you know that you will want a little more pepper heat in the finished meat, keep a couple tablespoons of the jalapeno aside now, and then sprinkle it on the meat as a final touch.
  • Shredding the pork: This is not a difficult task. What is happening is that with the two forks, you are pulling across the grain of the meat to separate the fibers of the grain. Cutting the roast into pieces that are a couple inches long makes certain that the fibers are not longer than that. Have fun!
  • Guacamole: I like to seed and juice the tomatoes before cutting them up for the guacamole so that the juice doesn’t get into the guacamole. I just think it makes a nicer sauce.

To convert the tacos into a fiesta, you might want to open a can of refried beans and heat them. When you serve them, sprinkle the top with grated cheese. Some people like a little lettuce with their taco, so you might want to shred a small bowl of lettuce as an accompaniment. And if you want even more of the taste of Mexico, you could also set the table with some sliced ripe olives, and maybe some salsa. I would also include on the table some sour cream; if anyone feels the pepper heat is too much, they can use a little sour cream to cool their mouth and reduce the heat. Don’t use water! It spreads the heat.

There are at least two ways to make/eat a taco; first is to roll the meat and other ingredients into the tortilla. In this case, fold up the bottom of the tortilla first so the stuffings don’t fall out. The other way is to tear the tortilla into pieces (4?) and then put just a little bit of the various ingredients on the piece and fold it only enough to get it into the mouth.

If you make the guacamole ahead of time, or have some left after the meal, you need to cover it with a piece of plastic wrap pressed down onto its surface so no air can get to it. Air causes the avocado to turn ugly brown, and very unappetizing.

Any left-over meat can be reheated in the microwave; and individual tortillas can also be warmed in the microwave.

Enjoy, Errol

Mexican Soup

Mexican soupThis has been our go-to soup for several years. It is where Marlys slowly taught me about cooking. I started as the carrot-peeler and the can-opener, but then slowly got to the place where I was chopping and dicing all the fresh components, and then finally making the soup by myself.

The trick is to do all the slicing and dicing before you turn on the heat and brown the meat; it takes time. I use two large dinner plates- one for the onion, garlic, jalapenos and taco sauce, and one for the carrots. I don’t peel and chop the potatoes until after I have slid the content of the first plate into the soup pot. I salt and pepper the fresh components while they are on the dinner plates. While the recipe says the carrots are chopped into ¼ inch rounds, you may need to make those half-circles or even 1/4-circles; you don’t have much control over how fat the carrots are. The original intent was to have the rounds about the size of a nickel or quarter, but thicker.

Marlys had a thing about kidney beans, and so we went to the pinto beans. Actually, I think you could even use black beans or any other if you have a favorite.

For rice, I have used brown rice.

I no longer measure the hot water; I fill a tea-kettle when I start cooking and turn it on to boil. Then, when the time comes to add the hot water, I fill the soup pot to about 1 ½ inches from the top. Be certain the water is hot, or you will be struggling with getting the boil back.

While the soup is simmering, I set a timer and go back every 10 minutes to check on it, and give it a stir to make certain nothing has stuck to the bottom of the pot where it could burn.

Mexican Soup

  • 3 Tablespoons oil (we use olive oil)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 lb.s ground turkey
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded, de-veined, and diced
  • 1 package (4 Tablespoons) Taco Seasoning mix
  • salt and pepper to taste*
  • 2 or 3 carrots, sliced into 1/4″ rounds (~22 oz.)
  • salt and pepper to taste*
  • 1-2 large potato, 1/2′ dice (~ 22 oz.)
  • salt and pepper to taste*
  • 1 can (~16 oz.) garbonza beans
  • 1 can (~16 oz.) kidney beans (or pinto beans)
  • 1 can (~16 oz.) corn
  • 1 can (~16 oz.) diced tomatoes
  • 8 oz. tomato sauce
  • 4 cups hot water
  • 1/2 cup rice

In a large Dutch Oven or soup pot, brown the meat in the oil.
Continue to saute and add the onion, garlic, jalapenos and Taco Seasoning mix. Add salt and pepper.
When onion is opaque, continue saute-ing and add carrots. Re-season with salt and pepper. When carrots start to wilt, Add potato and again re-season with salt and pepper. When potato starts to turn translucent, add the canned ingredients with their liquid- both beans, corn, tomatoes and tomato sauce. Add hot water, cover and bring all to a boil. Then add the rice. Reduce to a simmer and cook at least one hour covered to blend flavors. Check occasionally and add more water if it is too thick.

* Each of these times, I am adding about 2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper
A soup cup (about 14 oz.) is about 242 calories.