Jalapeño poppers (Chile relleno)
When you enter the term Jalapeño poppers into Google, you get almost 200 000 results! That is quite a lot of people writing about / making stuffed chillies if you ask me. But who could blame them?
I come from a family of Spicy food lovers. And I really mean LOVERS! My older brother has been known to drink Tabasco sauce straight from the bottle. My younger brother is famous for emptying half a bottle of VERY hot chilli sauce onto a single slice of bread, topping it with cheese and eating it within 20 seconds. And they’re not the only ones. My aunts, uncles and cousins are all like that. Tobasco sauce is used as Ketchup in our house. The only thing that REALLY makes my family go red, sweaty and clears their sinuses is Habanero Chilli Sauce. It’s actually a bit ridiculous.
I was never one for spicy foods. I didn’t like the fact that after I ate something so spicy, I couldn’t taste the rest of my food. But as my palate matured and my tolerance for spice increased, I started enjoying it more and more. I’m not quite at the level my brothers are at but I do add freshly chopped chillies or chilli sauce to almost everything I eat. And as I’ve been exploring with spicy flavours, I realised that chillies do go with almost everything. There’s nothing quite as delicious as creamy scrambled eggs with a bit of chopped chillies added and don’t give me a cheese sandwich without a good drizzle of peri-peri sauce on it. And then I’m not even talking about the incredible combination of prawns with garlic, lemon and peri-peri on it and the most delicious of sweet combinations, Chocolate and Chilli. My heart goes aflutter just thinking about it.
So what better snack to prepare for my family than these deliciously cheesy and crispy Jalapeño poppers? While I was frying them, my younger brother started hovering around the stove asking when he could taste one and as soon as his asbestos hands could handle it, he bit into one. First there was a “mmm” sound coming from him, and then when the heat hit (I didn’t remove ALL the seeds) he started making “oooohhhhh” sounds. I also had one and soon my husband and kids thought an Opera singer had moved into our house. We were both singing (more just moaning) in high pitches to try to get rid of the pain. My brother made the mistake of drinking a sip of Cola to ease the pain and I almost snorted water out of my nose I was laughing so hard. Carbonated drinks are the worst thing to drink when you’ve eaten spicy food as it intensifies the ‘inflamed’ feeling in your mouth. I usually just jump around and make noises until the pain subsides but some of my family believe an ice cold beer does the trick just fine.
Traditionally Jalapeño poppers or Chile Relleno are stuffed with anything from cheese, nuts and raisins to sausage meat. I decided to keep mine simple and I just stuffed them with a mixture of plain cream cheese and some goat’s cheese. But feel free to experiment with other cheeses or fillings if you feel brave. I served ours with a Chilli Jam I bought at a small shop in Stilbaai in December but I have heard of people who love eating them with a sour cream dipping sauce as well. I personally think dipping them into something sweet makes them taste 10 times better. Whatever you decide to do with them, make sure you have lots of cold beverages and some friends around, you’re bound to get a good laugh out of them.
Makes 10 Jalapeño poppers
10 large Jalapeño peppers/chillies, de-seeded (some recipes call for them to be blanched but I didn’t bother)
1/2 cup plain cream cheese, room temperature
100g soft goat’s cheese
1 cup plain flour
2 eggs, beaten
1-2 cups breadcrumbs with 1tsp salt added
oil for frying
- To de-seed the chillies, make a slit through one side but DON’T cut all the way through. It’s fine if you accidentally do that but it makes it a lot easier to bread and fry if they aren’t cut all the way through. Scoop the seeds out with a teaspoon and discard.
- Mix the cream cheese and goat’s cheese together and fill the chillies. After I’ve filled the chillies, I squeeze the opening closed again and then just remove the excess cheese that will ooze out.
- Heat the oil in a wok or large saucepan
- Place the flour, egg and breadcrumbs in separate bowls.
- Dip the chillies first in the flour, then the egg and then the breadcrumbs (I sometimes double dip them in the egg and breadcrumbs) and then place in the hot oil.
- Allow to fry for 3-4 minutes until the Jalapeño’s are golden and crisp.
- Remove from the oil and allow to drain on kitchen towel.
- Serve while they are still warm with a dipping sauce of your choice.