Jalapeños lavished with cream cheese, cheddar, and bacon, then grilled to smoky perfection.
It was years ago that we first attempted jalapeño poppers.
My husband liked the tantalizing appetizers he’d ordered in restaurants, and was eager to replicate them.
“Are you worried about hurting your hands?” I asked as he began slicing open the fresh jalapeños.
“No, I think it’s just the seeds that really burn, and as long as we wash our hands right after…”
So we cleaned the peppers with our bare hands.
I, thankfully, was unconvinced by his dismissal. I carefully avoided the seeds, handled the peppers as little as possible, and washed my hands promptly afterwards. But hours later, a burn crept over my thumb and the edge of my palm. It lingered there uncomfortably for three days.
I got off easy.
My husband had been less careful while cleaning the peppers, rubbing the seeds out vigorously with his fingers under the running water.
Let’s call it bravery.
His hand began burning that evening, too, but worse than mine. Crazy hot pepper oil had worked its way down into his skin. For several days, he could think of little else but the burn.
So we laid off the jalapeño poppers. Until now.
We’re a little less brave, and a lot more wise. The resulting appetizer is smoky and delicious, with tingling heat for the palate, and burn-free hands.
Grilled Jalapeño Poppers
- 8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese (or cream cheese)
- 12 jalapeños
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- Spoonful mayonnaise (1-2 tablespoons)
- 5-6 slices bacon, cooked and finely chopped or crumbled
- Chili powder, to taste
- Garlic powder, to taste
- Set out the Neufchâtel cheese (or cream cheese) in a mixing bowl to soften.
- Wearing food-safe gloves*, slice the jalapeños in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, carefully scrape all the seeds and white innards from the inside of the pepper.
- Rinse the cut and deseeded jalapeños in a large bowl or colander.
- Using a hand held mixer or a rubber spatula and some serious arm strength, beat the cheddar cheese and mayonnaise together with the Neufchâtel cheese.
- Mix in the bacon (finely chopped or crumbled… you want bacon-y goodness in every bite).
- Shake a couple shakes each of chili powder and garlic powder into the mix. If your spice bottles have large holes, go easy. You can always add more if it needs it. Mix the powders in and taste the mixture. Add more of whatever you think it needs. You can also add a dash or two of salt, but I found the bacon to be salty enough for the whole mixture.
- Spoon the creamy cheesy bacon-y heaven into the jalapeño halves, filling just about level, or only slightly domed.
- Place the peppers in a single layer in an aluminum disposable pan, cheesy side up. (You may have to grill in two batches depending on the size of your pan.*) Set the pan on the grill. Grill peppers in the pan until they are soft and slightly charred on the bottoms (about 15 minutes). Let cool slightly before eating.
- Chow down while you grill the rest of dinner. 🙂
*If you like to eat spicy food and like to cook, it’s worth getting a box of gloves just for handling spicy peppers. Trust me, you do not want the burning hands.
*If you need to grill more than a single layer at a time, you can pile up a second layer, but the top layer will be crunchier. I think it’s worth grilling in batches.
*If you have extra filling, it’s quite tasty on tortilla chips, Ritz-type crackers, or pretzels. A pre-appetizer of sorts. 🙂