Better Jalapeno Poppers
Posted on February 2, 2013 by Tim Tolbert
Ah yes, the jalapeño popper, one of America’s true taste innovations and a stalwart on countless chain restaurant menus. The following version comes to us courtesy of Emeril Lagasse, a famous booster of this year’s Super Bowl host city, New Orleans. This recipe elevates the easily botched appetizer and accentuates the rich flavor of a well roasted pepper. These are easy to prep ahead of time and can be finished in the oven when you’re ready to entertain or enjoy on your own with a cold Tecate (preferably) or a Dos Equis. I first tried this popper version on a frosty day after New Year’s on Crystal Lake, just south of Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula. Some foodie friends of mine introduced me to this fantastic recipe and I was pleasantly surprised with the finished product.
These poppers deliver a very pleasing roast jalapeño flavor without all of the grease from deep frying. The panko crumbs crisp up nicely and add a nice crunch to the bite sized torpedoes. The enveloping heat of the oven is also much more forgiving than the deep fryer.
An important element to this recipe is a good egg wash with a light dusting of flower just beforehand so that the egg wash binds and adheres to the panko bread crumb dusting. You’re looking for a good even layer of panko to ensure a nice crisp and crunchy coating when the poppers are ready.
12 fresh jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise, stems, seeds and membranes removed
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack or mozzarella cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or less, to taste
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk
8 teaspoons Essence, recipe follows
1 cup panko crumbs, or fine dry breadcrumbs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.
In a bowl, cream together the cream cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, cumin, and cayenne.
In a small bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, and 2 teaspoons of the Essence. In a shallow dish, combine the panko crumbs and remaining 4 teaspoons of Essence. In a third dish, combine the flour and remaining 2 teaspoons of Essence. Spread 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture into the middle of each jalapeno half. One at a time, dredge in the flour, dip into the egg mixture, then dredge in the panko crumbs, pressing to coat. If necessary, repeat the process. Place the coated peppers, cut side up, on the prepared baking sheet and bake until the filling is runny and the crust is golden, about 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and serve immediately with cold beer.
*Essence (Emeril’s Creole Seasoning) — NOTE: you can use any Cajun Seasoning in place of this if you are short of time or spices. I used Paula Dean’s cajun spice seasoning and it worked just as well.
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.
Yield: about 2/3 cup