It’s no secret I like to tease you with foodporn pictures and posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. This time however I’m going to do more than tease you. I’m going to teach you to make one of my favorite party and festival dishes, Jalapeño Poppers.
I was first introduced to Jalapeño Poppers about three years ago by a really great friend and BBQ brethren, Jesse Hays, who has taught me so much about grilling and smoking meats. Together we have competed along with several other friends at multiple Memphis in May BBQ competitions and Hot Wings Festivals. He’ll be the first to tell you I always ask him leading up to an event, “Are you making Poppers?” I’m sure he’d also tell you that when the answer was no, I appeared like someone had taken away all my birthday presents and kicked my dog. Jesse is the Popper King and I am but a grasshopper trying to perfect my popper kung-fu. If you like my poppers, it’s because Jesse taught me well.
So here goes. This is how I make Jalapeño Poppers.
Ingredients (for a party of 15-20):
- 3-4 lbs Big Jalapeño Peppers
- 2 lbs Spicy Italian Sausage
- 1/2 lb Chorizo
- 12 oz Cream Cheese
- 1/2 Container Pimento Cheese (Tom’s Tiny Kitchen)
- Hot Sauce (I prefer Crystal)
- Sriracha Sauce (Lee Kum Kee)
- Nikki’s Hot Ass Seasoning
- Kosher Salt
- Red Pepper Flakes
- Black Pepper
- A lot of Bacon (depends on how many peppers you use)
Other things you’ll need:
- Sharp knife
- Carrot peeler/scooping tool
- Baking pans
- Baking racks
- Latex or vinyl gloves (not powdered)
Making Jalapeño Poppers is not a quick project. It’s very difficult to stuff the peppers if the stuffing is loose, hot or runny. For that reason, when I make the stuffing, I put it in a bowl and refrigerate it for a day or two. I’d recommend letting it cool for at least a couple hours.
Preparing the stuffing:
- In a skillet, brown all your sausage and chorizo and drain the grease from it immediately. I recommend cooking it all the way through because if you think you won’t be snitching from the stuffing mix, I’m telling you, you’re crazy. It’s hard to stay out of it!
- In a large mixing bowl Pour the hot and drained sausage on top of the package and a half (12oz) of cream cheese and 1/2 container of Tom’s Tiny Kitchen Pimento Cheese and mix thoroughly until all the cheese is melted.
- This is where is comes down to how hot you want your poppers. To quote myself when a friend just recently asked for my recipe, “There’s really no exact measurements. I love to cook, not bake. Baking is precise, cooking is based on what tastes good and subjective amounts.” Remember you can always add more heat, but you can’t take it away. Work up to what you like and the kind of crowd you’ll be serving. This is how I make my poppers: Add a couple good squirts adding up to approximately 2 tablespoons of Lee Kum Kee Sriracha, 1/4 cup of Crystal Hot Sauce, a few good shakes of Nikki’s Hot Ass Seasoning, about 3 good pinches of Kosher Salt, 1 teaspoon of black pepper and 3 pinches of red pepper flakes.
- Mix completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours to 2 days. You want the mix firm.
Preparing the peppers:
Let’s talk very briefly about jalapeño peppers. According to Wikipedia, jalapeños have 2,500–10,000 Scoville units. Compared to other chilis, the jalapeño heat level varies from mild to hot depending on cultivation and preparation. I can promise you that some jalapeños are very mild and you wouldn’t even know you’re eating one, while others are quite the opposite. It’s simply hit or miss when you buy them. The heat, caused by capsaicin and related compounds, is concentrated in the membrane surrounding the seeds. Handling fresh jalapeños will cause skin irritation. Some handlers wear latex or vinyl gloves while cutting, skinning, or seeding jalapeños. When preparing jalapeños, hands should not come in contact with the eyes, as this leads to painful burning and redness.
- Get your latex or vinyl gloves and put them on!!! The last thing you want to do you is cut, scoop and clean Jalapeño peppers barehanded. Even if somehow you don’t up screaming from the pain of the pepper pulp getting underneath you finger nails, there’s always the chance you’ll mistakenly rub your eyes later in the day. Even after washing your hands profusely, the pepper oils have a way of hanging around a bit. Wear gloves! Wear gloves! Wear gloves!
- Cut all your peppers in half the long way, trying to be as even as possible. You want a nice boat/divot that your stuffing mix can sit in.
- Using your carrot peeler/scoop tool, gently clean the jalapeño seeds and cartilage from the peppers halves. Leave as little or as much as you want. The more you leave however, the more potential heat your peppers will have.
Stuffing the peppers:
- Before I begin stuffing the peppers, I line a few baking pans with my bacon and give it a very quick cook. No more than 7 minutes at 350 degrees. You don’t want to cook it all the way through. You simply want to give it a start since you’ll be wrapping it around your stuffed peppers later making it harder to cooked the layered sections of it all the way through.
- With your gloves still on, take your bowl of sausage stuffing and begin rolling out small logs of stuffing to that will eventually go into the pepper halves. I usually make them big enough to slightly overflow the peppers.
- The next step is wrapping your stuffed peppers with bacon. It’s quite messy so you’re definitely going to want to glove up. Grab your slightly cooked bacon and toothpicks and cover your baking sheets with foil. Between the sausage and the bacon, there’s a lot of grease that will be dripping during the cooking. If it all lands on the foil, that’s one less pan to scrub later. Also, because of the amount of grease, I’ve learned to bake my poppers on a baking rack set on top of my foiled baking pan. If you allow the the poppers to bake in their own grease, they’ll become so soggy and you won’t be able to pick a single one up without all the stuffing spilling out of it.
- Wrap each stuffed pepper with a strip of the bacon you slightly cooked and fasten it in place with a wooden toothpick. There’s no right or wrong way to do this step only what works best for you. I usually get about two and a half wraps per popper, overlapping as I wrap.
- Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 40-50 minutes. You can also slow smoke them on a smoker, but you’re looking at at least 1.5 hours at 250 degrees.
- If you have stuffing leftover or folks who don’t care for food that’s too spicy, try stuffing white mushrooms or baby bellas and toothpick a small square of bacon on the top. Bake or smoke the same ways as you would the peppers.
Enjoy them and please note, they will go fast! If you have a variation or know a what I could improve my recipe, please drop me a line. I love Jalapeño Poppers so much but am always looking for a way to improve the recipe.
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