These are always well received by people who like spicy foods and eat them responsibly (meaning people who take responsibility for what they put in their mouths and don’t blame you if they don’t like it).
WARNING: They are hazardous to make! If you follow directions, you’ll be safe. If not, you get to take a long shower with cold water and plenty of soap! NOTE: Hot peppers contain oleoresin capsicum (OC), a naturally produced oil that spicy food lovers enjoy eating. OC is highly irritating to eyes and sinus cavities (inside your nose). If you touch your face anywhere after handling open peppers or the seeds, you will leave OC on your skin, it will float up on top of any sweat (perspiration in the kitchen is very common), and it may easily travel to your eyes, nose, mouth or razor burns/nicks. Irritation of nasal passages by breathing the vapors is common. It will prove highly irritating to cuts, scrapes, or burns. If you scratch your nose or something, you just abraded your skin and inserted OC into the abrasion. Be careful.
CAUTION: Water activates oleoresin capsicum (OC)! Running water on an affected area will ease the sensation, but when you remove the running water, any remaining OC will be activated and the irritation will increase dramatically! If you get OC on your skin, decide whether to stick it out and finish the preparation or to stop and remove the irritant from your skin completely before returning to work. If you decide to remove the irritant, stop work, go to your shower, and take the time to thoroughly remove the irritant. Use plenty of cool water and use soap to emulsify the OC oil. DO NOT rub unaffected areas. Keep the shower running freely – as it floats OC off your skin, it will run right down to the drain. DO NOT leave any OC oil on your skin – take the time to remove it thoroughly. When you think it’s all gone, wash all affected areas one more time to be sure.
I’m going to share a little story before we get to the recipe. I got the bright idea of cleaning the seeds out of the peppers over the sink; I’d cut the peppers open, then use a spoon to remove the seeds and membranes directly into the sink with the water running to wash it all straight into the disposal/grinder. Attentive readers will remember that the above warning mentions OC is activated by water. The OC in the seeds, etc. that I dropped into the sink was activated by the water and the vapors concentrated in the sink and became very powerful. The vapors rose to my face, I inhaled them, they got in my eyes, and a scratch on my face got OC in it. In short, I maced myself with this bright idea that was supposed to make everything safer. Don’t get creative, follow the recipe instructions exactly.
What you need:
- 1 baking sheet
- 1 kitchen knife
- cutting board
- 1 teaspoon
- 2 qt mixing bowl
- shallow bowl (the size of a soup bowl)
- paper towels
- food-service gloves
What goes in it:
- 1 pound of jalapeno peppers selected from the fresh produce section. Look for peppers as big as your finger or bigger.
- 1 packet dry mix italian dressing powder (I use 2 packets).
- 16 oz cream cheese.
- 8 oz of shredded 4 cheese mexican blend.
- Panko bread crumbs
- OPTIONAL: 4 oz bacon bits
NOTE: If you get 1/3 less fat cream cheese, it is MUCH easier to work with and still tastes good. The caution is that you depend on the shredded cheese and the bread crumbs to prevent the cheese filling from running out of your poppers and burning to the bottom of the oven. Don’t scrimp on the cheese or the bread crumbs!
What to do:
Read what NOT to do (the “WARNING:” paragraph above).
Read what TO do in case you do do what you should not do (the “CAUTION:” paragraph above).
Unwrap and place the cream cheese in the mixing bowl to soften. Leave the shredded cheese in the fridge.
Put the food-service gloves on.
WARNING: From now on, DO NOT touch your face until your peppers are in the oven and you have washed your hands for the second time!
Wash the peppers. Dry them thoroughly with paper towels. Make sure they are really dry.
Cut the stem end off the peppers and split them in half lengthways. Using the spoon, remove the seeds and membranes. This may be done over the sink but DO NOT run the water until after you are completely finished removing all the seeds and membranes from all the peppers. NOTE: The safest way to dispose of the waste is to deposit it directly into a trash bag and remove it from your home.
Quickly wash any remaining seeds from your peppers. Place them on paper towels open-side-down to dry. Strip off your gloves. Wash your hands and your spoon thoroughly using plenty of water and soap.
Empty the dry italian dressing powder (and bacon bits if used) onto the cream cheese. Using your clean, dry spoon, mix thoroughly. The more you mix, the more workable your cream-cheese filling will become – it will be easier (and safer) to fill your peppers. Then add the shredded cheese and mix evenly.
Prepare your assembly area. At one end, reserve a place for your jalapeno peppers, then place your cheese filling mix next to that with your spoon ready to go, then your shallow bowl filled with bread crumbs, and finally your baking sheet.
Preheat the oven to 425 fahrenheit for baking. If your broiling element is in the top of your oven, put the baking shelf 4″ under the broiling element. You are going to bake first, the shelf placement is preparation for later!
Put on fresh food service gloves. Retrieve your jalapeno peppers and put them in the place you reserved at the starting end of your assembly line.
Using the spoon, fill the peppers with cheese filling. Then roll the cheese side (top) in bread crumbs. Be sure to completely cover the cheese. Finally, place them bread-crumbs up on the baking sheet.
Place in the oven to bake for 12 minutes. If you have a top broiler element, go ahead and bake the poppers on the shelf you set up earlier.
Strip off the gloves and thoroughly wash your hands again. It is now safe to touch your face.
This part will happen fast, so pay attention! After 8-12 minutes baking, switch your oven to broil. Your oven should automatically set itself for its maximum heat setting. If your oven has a top broiling element, your peppers should already be in position! KEEP WATCH! My oven takes about 4 minutes to get to broil temp during which time my poppers are continuing to bake. Once it hits broil temp, the poppers brown fast – less than 2 minutes. As soon as the poppers are toasty-brown on top, turn off the oven and move the baking sheet to the top of stove to cool for a couple minutes.
Transfer to a serving dish and enjoy!
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