This recipe appeared in Trader Joe’s Tuesday on 17 Jun 2008
Fresh jalapeno peppers, medium to large size (you’ll be cutting each pepper in half, so get enough peppers to make 4 or more halves per person)
Cream cheese (room temperature or softened in microwave)
Bacon (regular sliced, not thick)
Frozen, raw shrimp (defrosted)
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Cut each jalapeno in half (lengthwise) & cut off stem. Remove the seeds and white membranes (which are loaded with capsaicin which can taste too hot) with a small spoon or paring knife. I find that a serrated grapefruit spoon gets the job done best. Whatever method you use, be careful not to get any of the pepper juice in your eyes or nostrils. Even if you get the juice on your fingers and wash it off with soap, don’t rub your eyes or pick your nose (not that you would)—it still has the potential to cause a burning sensation hours later! Some extra-sensitive people wear plastic gloves to avoid this situation.
Fill the pepper halves with cream cheese, leveling it off with the edges of the jalapeno. This is one ingredient with which you can get creative. You can mix in any kind of shredded cheese with the cream cheese and/or any spice that you like (garlic, cumin, etc.). TJ’s also sells something called Pub Cheese that comes in 8 oz containers that makes it even easier to add another layer of flavor to these poppers. We like the sharp cheddar flavored one. They also sell cheddar with jalapeno peppers mixed in, but we haven’t tried that one yet. Just be sure to keep whatever cheese you’re using level with the edges of the pepper, or you’ll end up with a bubbled-over mess after they’ve cooked.
Remove the shells from the shrimp & slice each shrimp in half. These shrimp peel easily as they come already deveined. Just continue slicing through the deveined area to create two pieces.
Place one shrimp-half on top of each cheese-filled pepper half. You can omit this ingredient if you have a seafood-hater in your crowd like we do. I usually offer both plain and shrimp-filled when I make these for parties.
Cut the bacon slices into halves or thirds, depending on how large your peppers are or if using shrimp. The bacon needs to be long enough to wrap around the entire length of the pepper. You can use a toothpick to secure the bacon if you’re worried about it shriveling up and falling off, but I haven’t had much trouble with this in the past and find it unnecessary. If you wrap it snugly (starting at the underside of the top of the pepper) in a diagonal fashion with no overlap, the bacon should cover the pepper & shrimp pretty well. A half slice of bacon works perfectly for the larger peppers.
This is the point where the assembly of my recipe ends, but here is another option that sounds good if you’re into crispy poppers. You can try dipping the cheese-filled (baconless) peppers into egg white and then coating with bread crumbs. I have a particular fondness for the texture of panko and almost always use it in recipes that call for breadcrumbs. Wrap the bacon onto the peppers after they’ve been dipped and coated and proceed to the next step.
Bake the poppers on a rack that fits into a rimmed cooking sheet. They should take anywhere from 15-25 minutes to cook, depending on how hot your oven cooks. Check them frequently to avoid burning the bacon. If the bacon isn’t crispy or brown enough (even though the rest of the poppers are cooked through), broil them for a couple of minutes until desired bacon doneness. If using the shrimp, they will turn pink when they are cooked through. I’ve heard of people cooking these on outdoor grills, which makes them a good appetizer choice when you need to bring a food item to a BBQ.
These taste best when served hot from the oven, but are still addictive at room temperature (you can eat more of them faster when they’re not so hot!). Some people like to serve poppers with a dipping sauce (I think that would be gilding the lily in this case), but go ahead and see if you don’t consider these totally delicious all by their lonesome.
WI wine recommendation: We enjoyed this with a glass of Domaine Bott-Geyl 2004 Gewürztraminer Beblenheim from Alsace, France, which is not really sweet and pairs well with spicy foods.