Last week my fellow editor, Neal, wrote about Steven Raichlen's recent visit to talk barbecuing and his new cookbook, Man Made Meals. I also got to meet Raichlen when he was here and after flipping through the book while we talked, decided I would try making the Cheese-Stuffed, Bacon-Roasted Jalapeno Poppers for my Fourth of July party. Sound mouth-watering? It should, because they totally are. Below is my road test of this recipe--what worked, what didn't, and one happy accident to repeat.
First off, the recipe says large jalapenos, and I took that to heart--the ones I used were around 4 inches long and pretty stout. This worked well for stuffing them with cheese, though I quickly realized that cutting the pepper in half versus cutting the cap off (both methods are mentioned), was the way to go because, frankly, I couldn't get the cap back on again.
The recipe suggests you use whatever cheese you like--I decided to try three: colby, pepper jack, and cream cheese. I wasn't sure how full to pack in the cheese (I did the math but what does 2oz in matchstick pieces of cheese look like?), so I went with my usual motto regarding cheese, "more is better." I also skipped the cilantro. It's a polarizing herb and the people that hate it, really hate it and can taste the tiniest bit. I'll try adding the cilantro to the cheese next time when I'm making a smaller batch.
Raichlen's recipe calls for artisanal bacon, which, for the sake of not going to another store, I chose to interpret as "thick-sliced." But somehow I ended up with regular ol' thin bacon, so instead of a half slice per pepper, I wrapped a whole slice around each one (like cheese, more bacon is better in my world...) and they looked pretty good.
You can cook the poppers in the oven or on the grill, and I went for the latter. The grill, in my case, having been lid-down and shoved in a corner since last summer. Much to my chagrin, I had completely forgotten how warped (and, let's face it, kind of nasty) the grates are and how much it resembles a grill you might find on a sidewalk with a free sign taped to it.
But no matter! It was July 4th, the cocktails were flowing and a jacked-up grill is just one of those things you take in stride.
The peppers charred (though admittedly unevenly), the cheese melted and oozed out the sides a bit (I no doubt overfilled them), and some of the bacon fell off, but those Cheese-Stuffed, Bacon-Roasted Jalapeno Poppers were delicious!
There was no consensus regarding the best cheese, though I think my personal favorite may have been the colby. And probably as a result of an uneven grill, the peppers didn't soften as much as they appeared to in the cookbook photo, but having a little crunch left in them turned out to be really nice and I'll definitely try to duplicate that next time.