|Baked Poppers: Made at home|
The first time I had a Jalapeno Popper in a restaurant, I said “Ah ha! This should be Minnesota State Fair Food!” They are perfect little bites of spicy and cheesy fried deliciousness. Not being a fry-at-home person, I never imagined that I would ever make them. Bloggers at The Chubby Vegetarian fixed that for me with baked Better Jalapeno Poppers. The crunchy crust comes from an egg-and-Panko mixture.
While I would never prevent anyone from diving head-first into making an excellent recipe, there are some important popper considerations:
How will you serve them?
If you want a single-bite popper, select bite-sized peppers. Bigger peppers will require knives and forks, possibly complicating an appetizer buffet where guests will need to balance knives, forks, plates, and drinks.
How committed to hot peppers are your guests?
I live in Minnesota, and pepper tolerance ranges from less than zero to top of the Scoville scale. If you are unsure about your guests’ Scoville prefernces, take extra care to remove both the seeds and the ribs in the peppers.
How many people do you plan to serve?
These are fun-to-make-but-slightly-finicky, and making them for a crowd could require a sous chef. If you are serving dozens, make sure that the cheese mixture is soft enough to pipe into the peppers.
Can you adjust the spices?
Of course. The cheese choice is flexible and the open pepper is a blank canvas for your favorite flavors. Consider adding tiny bits of shrimp, crab or smoked fish, too.
Baked Jalapeno Poppers
Adapted from The Chubby Vegetarian
4 to 6 firm, ripe Jalapeno peppers, selected for either bite-sized or knife-and-fork portions, halved, seeded, and ribs removed
2 ounces light cream cheese or Neufchatel, softened
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1/4 tsp granulated garlic
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground chipotle or smoked paprika
Zest of half a lime
1 large egg beaten with a fork
3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 tsp fresh lime juice
Salt and Pepper
1 tsp olive oil
Optional sour cream and chives or scallions for garnish.
- Preheat the oven to 350. Line a small flat baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.
- Place the peppers, cut site up, on the baking sheet.
- Mix the cheeses, garlic, cumin, chipotle or paprika and lime zest in a small bowl. Fill each pepper to the rim with the mixture. A tiny offset spatula is a good tool for making flat cheese tops.
- Add the Panko, lime juice, pinch of salt, and a few grinds of fine-ground fresh pepper into the beaten egg. Mix well.
- Beginning with a teaspoon and finishing with your fingers, cover each pepper with the Panko mixture. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over each popper.
- Check the poppers after 20 minutes. The peppers will begin to sizzle, and will probably need an additional five minutes to achieve a golden brown and crispy top and a cooked pepper. Take care to make sure that the peppers are softened. Your guests may not be keen on eating raw Jalapenos.