If you are looking for a jalapeño popper that looks like this, then sadly, this recipe is not for you. If, however, you are a popper purist looking for the authentic, crispy-fried variety, then you have come to the right place.
I’ve been looking for a good jalapeño popper recipe for some time now, and, after several failed attempts to find anything I could truly be proud of, I’ve finally cobbled together a version that lives up to the high bar set by frozen versions sold in bars around the country. I tried everything: versions with fresh jalapeños, versions with cream cheese, fine breadcrumbs and egg batters. These same iterations, were either raw, greasy or simply exploded in the frying oil. My winning version utilizes a combination of quality pickled jalapenos, a combo of cheddar and jack cheese, hot sauce and a buttermilk/panko batter. Served alongside some buttermilk dip, and you have a appetizer that has few equals in the fabulous world of fried food.
Making poppers from scratch can be a bit of a time consuming process. See if you can enlist the help of a friend to get a popper assembly line going. The execution is quite simple: simply seed and devein the chiles, stuff them with shredded cheese, batter, freeze and fry. When it comes to packing the jalapenos with cheese, it’s okay if they are not completely sealed. They should still have a crispy, well-sealed crust after frying due to the double dipping procedure. Look for the best quality canned jalapeños you can find. I like El Mexicano or La Morena brands for this type of application. If you want to get a little more gourmet with it, feel free to add an herbed cream or goat cheese and stuff them with crumbled bacon.
- 12 pickled jalapeños, preferably with stems left intact
- 3 ounces coarsely grated Cheddar (1 cup)
- 3 ounces coarsely grated Monterey Jack (1 cup)
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups panko bread crumbs
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- Canola or vegetable oil for frying
- Cut a lengthwise slit from stem to bottom of each chile. Make a crosswise incision at stem end, forming a T.
- Pry open each chile as if it was a book to expose the ribs and seeds, then devein and seed using the tip of a paring knife to scrape the inside clean.
- Stir together cheeses, hot sauce, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 3/4 teaspoon salt.
- Fill/pack the chiles with cheese mixture, pressing seams closed after filling, so that cheese is compacted and chile retains its shape.
- Stir together bread crumbs, oregano, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in another shallow bowl.
- Pour the buttermilk into a high sided bowl or drinking glass. Working one at a time, roll the chiles in flour until uniformly covered shaking off any excess. Dip the chiles in the buttermilk, letting excess drip off, then coat with the bread crumbs. Repeat coating with buttermilk and panko to form a second layer. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet and repeat with the remaining chiles. Once all of the chiles have been coated, place the baking sheet in the freezer until frozen through.
- Heat 2 inches oil to 325°F in a medium saucepan. Fry chiles in 3 batches, stirring occasionally, until golden brown all over, 5 to 6 minutes per batch. Transfer to several layers of paper towels to drain. Return oil to 325°F between batches.
Makes One Dozen Poppers