Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Popping the heat
I will never be able to eat a regular hamburger again. I am ruined.
Ever since Ree’s (signed!) cookbook came in the mail, I’ve been experimenting with her recipes. I’ve had both abject failures and stupendous successes. The bacon-wrapped jalapeños fell into the latter category with a resounding thunk.
Last week I stopped by our local butcher shop (I just love saying that) to pick up some ground beef for the baked spaghetti and for our Friday evening burgers (not a tradition but writing it as though it were makes me sound—dum-da-dum—Together) and then ducked into the Latin American Grocer, which is just a little tent perched along the edge of the butcher shop’s parking lot. I bought a generous pound of pinto beans to make Ree’s beans and cornbread (woefully, they slithered into the former category, insipid miseration incarnate—sorry, Ree) and about a dozen waxy jalapeños for stuffing. Stuff the peppers, then stuff myself—that was the plan, Stan, my man-o-man.
Have you ever grown your own jalapeños? If you have, you know that each plant produces an insane amount of hot diggidy-dog peppers. One year I learned how to brine them and ended up canning about ten (or was it thirty?) half-pints. That was in 2007 and since then I’ve opened only one jar, maybe two, max. That jar has taken up permanent residence on the top shelf of the fridge. It gives me the spooks.
I haven’t planted any jalapeños since 2007, but after eating Ree’s stuffed jalapeños I’m tempted to turn the entire garden into a jalapeño thicket. (Not really. The urge to hyperbolize just got the best of me.)
Seriously though, you can tuck away oodles and kaboodles of fresh jalapeños when they come stuffed with cream cheese and cheddar, wrapped in bacon, and roasted in the oven for a slow hour. They have only the slightest bite—just a whiff of heat, really—but couched in billows of creamy cheese and edged in crispy bacon– Well. There will definitely be a jalapeño plant (or two or six) in my gardening future.
And then. And then! I put two of those luscious, crispy babes atop my juicy Friday Night Hamburger and promptly died and went to heaven. It was only for the briefest second, but I was transported to a glorious place, oh yes! Angels sang and harps twanged. I’m dead serious.
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond
About the jalapeños—if you want some heat, leave in a few of the seeds and bits of the white membrane. If minimal heat is key, scrap them out very carefully. Also, the leftover chilled jalapeños were quite spicy, but after a quick zap in the microwave, they were as soothing as a lullaby. Is there some scientific explanation for this weirdness?
Adaptation possibilities include, but are not limited to, the following:
*Add a couple tablespoons of snipped chives or a sliced green onion to the cream cheese mixture.
*Add some canned pineapple or peaches, drained and chopped, to the cream cheese mixture.
*Brush the wrapped jalapeños with some barbecue sauce before baking.
8 ounces cream cheese
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
1 pound thin-cut bacon
Wash the jalapeños and slice them in half, leaving the stems intact. Scrape out the white membrane and seeds (unless you want your ears to smoke).
Using a fork, mash the cheeses together. Smoosh a spoonful of cheese mixture into each of the pepper boats.
Cut the stack of bacon in half. Wrap each cheese-stuffed jalapeño with one of the half pieces of bacon (not too tightly as the bacon will constrict as it bakes) and secure with a toothpick.
Set the wrapped jalapeños on a rack set over a sided baking sheet (to catch the drips). (I used one of my smaller cooling racks.) Bake the jalapeños at 300 degrees for one hour.
Remove the toothpicks and serve.
*Assembled, unbaked jalapeños can be refrigerated for one day before baking.
*Baked jalapeños can be frozen. To serve, simply thaw and reheat.
About one year ago: Honey-Baked Chicken.