Jul 24, 2010

Grilled Jalapeño Poppers with Goat Cheese

A fair warning: This recipe is not intended for fickle stomachs, young taste buds or digestive tracks teetering the golden years.

That being said…

Are you the type to throw back raw chilis and shots of Tabasco to watch others squirm? Do you laugh in the face of triple pepper icons on Mexican menus? Devour platters of Indian and Thai at heat levels only Indian and Thai locals can tolerate?

Tell me…must your pizza hide under a blanket of red pepper flakes, your nachos drown in hot sauce and every bite be saturated in something spicy to merely gain entrance into the rockin’ hot party that is your mouth?

Then fire-loving friend, read on, because these little poppers are one heck of a delicious punch in the mouth.

Never once did I dare ponder improving the jalapeno popper. Who doesn’t love a deep fried, cream cheese-stuffed pepper just the way it is? 

Well...my waste line, that’s who.

Thankfully, this lightened version ditches the oil and takes raw, unbattered peppers to the grill, stuffed with a mouthwatering mix of goat cheese, cream cheese, cheddar (or parmesan), tomato and sage. A smokey-charred pepper with gooey, melty, flavorful cheese and a sprinkling of cilantro? Um, yes, poppers can definitely be improved.

To start, wash and slice the jalapenos in half, then rip out the seeds and tap the back of the peppers over the sink to release any strays. Those babies are hot and you want them all out of there. You may also want to wash out the peppers' insides to reduce the heat.

And remember that your taste buds are not all that can be burned from this meal...please, please wear rubber gloves when cutting and cleaning the peppers. Especially if you wear contacts. No one likes a burning eye socket. Or anything else for that matter. (See below.)

When I was a teen, my youth pastor’s wife told me the story of her husband’s near death-by-salsa experience. He was chopping peppers, ungloved, when nature called. So after a quick hand rinse with soap-less water, into the bathroom he went. Remember that he is a guy, and guys are a little more hands-on in this department. His screams still haunt the family at night.

So wear gloves.

While the peppers drain on a paper towel, mix the stuffing. It's quite effortless, really, if you don't mind chopping a tomato and a few green onions. I used rather large jalapeños, so I doubled the filling recipe to ensure proper mile-high cheese mountains.

And for those who simply can’t take the heat (wussies!) you can tame the torture by baking the peppers before you stuff and grill them. Basically, the longer the peppers cook, the less severe they become. We baked some of our leftovers and they were much milder.

When the peppers are stuffed, hand them off to the grill master in your domain and let those babies sizzle. They tend to be a bit wobbly, so leaning them on each other for support will help prevent any cheese from escaping.

Once the peppers are black on the bottoms and the cheese is melty, you'll have something serious to bite into. Think “stuffed pepper meets jalapeno popper.” At a smoky bar. In hell. Where they plotted revenge on your mouth for every distasteful, foul, mocking, saucy and sarcastic word ever sputtered.

But as hot as they are, they're equally as addicting. Bite after torturous bite, I couldn’t find an ounce of restraint in my being. My eyes were watering. My face was flushed. My sinuses were beyond cleared.  But I ignored my body's surrender signals and continued to stuff my face with gooey, cheesy, peppery grilled goodness like my life depended on it, stopping only to fan my eyes and gulp down water, which, by the way, only fed the flame.

Seriously, don’t blame me if you singe your nose hairs with every plate-to-mouth motion. And if you dare try these delicious peppers, I recommend you first make sure you have on hand an icy cold glass of milk, a starchy food, and above all, a ton of guts.

Grilled Jalapeño Poppers with Goat Cheese
(Grilled pepper poppers; Jill Hough, Cooking Light, June 2009)
Yield: 16 servings (serving size: 2 pepper halves)

1/2  cup  (4 ounces) soft goat cheese
1/2  cup  (4 ounces) fat-free cream cheese, softened
1/2  cup  (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese (or shredded cheddar)
1/2  cup  finely chopped seeded tomato
2  tablespoons  thinly sliced green onions
2  tablespoons  chopped fresh sage
1/2  teaspoon  kosher salt
16  jalapeño peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded (about 1 1/2 pounds)
Cooking spray
2  tablespoons  chopped fresh cilantro

Prepare grill to medium-high heat.

Combine first 7 ingredients in a bowl, stirring well. Spoon about 2 teaspoons cheese mixture into each pepper half. Place pepper halves, cheese side up, on grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill peppers 5 minutes or until bottoms of peppers are charred and cheese mixture is lightly browned. Carefully place peppers on a serving platter. Sprinkle with cilantro.

Nutritional Information: Calories: 84, Fat: 4.8g (sat 3.1g,mono 1.2g,poly 0.2g)
Protein: 7.1g, Carbohydrate: 3.5g, Fiber: 0.9g, Cholesterol: 11mg, Iron: 0.6mg, Sodium: 334mg, Calcium: 117mg.


Pam said...

Oh, I love this recipe! It looks delicious with the goat cheese and lots of heat! Yum! A must try!

Elle said...

Yay a new posting! I must confess that I stop by here daily as I really don't want to miss anything. These look so tantalizing that I wonder if in your former life you were really a world famous chef and food photgrapher. :) And what fun -your poor youth pastor! Again thanks for doing these amazing light (I really need to keep eating healthy) recipes - I am so happy to have this blog as you really make me feel like it's possible to make light food that looks and tasts good.

By the way, as you're considering your future recipes, could you consider doing some kind of "fried" chicken and mac n cheese? My attempts at these have not always been great, especially the mac n cheese. They just seem so blah and not flavorful.

So off then into the dark kitchen void you chef in disguise - Cook on my talented caped food super hero - you are fighting for us all!

Elle said...

PS - Luke, don't despair that I've guessed her super chef-in-disguise secret - that just means that you're her lucky sidekick who gets to taste all the delectable goodness.

LBDDiaries said...

Alpha Hubby grows habaneros = LOVE's hot; the hotter the better. These won't register on the radar of hot for him but he will LOVE the flavors and heat together. Eats raw jalapenos in his salad so you know he will like this (loves anything grilled). Thanks for the healthier version!

Rachel said...

This recipe looks fantastic! I ALWAYS drown my pizza in jalapeno juice, so I'm definitely going to try this out!

Mary said...

Every Sunday during the NFL season I have "Football Mania" at my house. We basically eat and watch football all day. This recipe is going to be perfect for the season opener! Thank you for sharing!

Carrie said...

Wow! This looks like love to me! My favorite things in the world (within reason) are goat cheese, cilantro, and sriracha. This seems like it would fit. Do you think it would be as good minus the cream cheese or with the ratio leaning a little heavier to the goat cheese?

julie said...

Ok, this is a must try! My friend just gave me about 15 jalapeno's from her garden and I need to use them up. I think this may be the answer. They look delicious!!

Rachel Cotterill said...

I love jalapeno poppers - but this recipe sounds much easier to make, as well as healithier. I might try the wussy variant first, though..... ;)

the VA foodie said...

We're growing jalapenos now and this will be great for our bumper crop! I'll have to use cream cheese since my sidekick doesn't like the gc but I can't wait to make these!

Florida Girl Meets the Midwest said...

Um, I usually avoid jalapenos, ever since I mistakenly rubbed my eyes during a jalapeno chopping episode. Painful stuff. But I have to admit, these look good enough to eat. Maybe I will give it another go.

Florida Girl Meets the Midwest said...

PS, as per your profile, did someone actually wear a pink thong on Halloween and call herself a flamingo? Sounds ridiculous enough to have happened in real life.

Me, Myself and Pie said...

Elle - No, I am not an under cover chef, although that was probably one of the sweetest comments ever! Thank you! I actually did find a great recipe for baked fried chicken. I'll have to make that soon. And I'd love to find a CL mac n cheese recipe, too.

Florida girl - you would not believe some of the "costumes" I've seen on girls in college. *shocking* Flamingos, peacocks...all just lingerie with a few feathers. No lie.

Me, Myself and Pie said...

Carrie - I think you definitely could use all cream cheese and nix the goat cheese. Although, when it's all mixed in, even a goat cheese fearing man would probably not notice it.

Anonymous said...

You had me at jalapeno and goat cheese!! And yes, I am the woman with the shot of Tabasco - my husband believes I've burned off all of my tastebuds!

3 hungry tummies said...

Love the warning and I say bring it on! Looks fantastic!

Our Fine House said...

These look AMAZING! We have a ton of peppers in our garden right now, so I plan to put your recipe to good use!

Stopping by from SITS.

~Jen @ ourfinehouse

Chow and Chatter said...

oh these look great great blog Rebecca

Rebecca said...

I'm still wiping away tears of mirth. Call me sadistic, but the gloveless incident was a hoot. My oldest son and husband, for some reason, didn't laugh as hard as I did. lol

What an amazing recipe! I'll be trying this one soon. I'm personally a chili wuss, but we live in Mexico, so I'm in the minority. These will be a sure-fire hit!!!

Home♥Mom.com said...

One word of advice, never pick your nose after picking peppers. LOL I'll have to post my funny story for that to make since but I think people will get it.

Stopping by from SITS and so glad I did, these sounded and def look delicious.

Christy, Home♥Mom

teresa said...

LOL, great story! i made the mistake of touching the tip of my nose after cutting a jalapeno pepper, it burned the whole rest of the day!

these look like so much fun, perfect for a party!

Doreen McGettigan said...

What a great blog; now I know what I can do with all those peppers growing in my yard..I am so hungry now..My stepson is in the hospital and has not been allowed to eat for over a month..his first request was carrot cake and I see one right to my left..thanks! I am a new visiter and follower from SITS..I hope when you get the chance you will stop by and say hello!

Anonymous said...

mmmm This looks Ahhhmazing! I love spicy foods and this just seems so yummy too! Cant wait to try it!

Ingrid said...

LOL, you not only share yummy recipes but you also entertain us! Thanks!

Ma What's 4 dinner said...

Uh yummmmmmy!!! My butt thanks you for this as well as I love the fried version too. AND they're mini! Just like the pigs in a blanket and the quiche! :) This one is a keeper!

Lots of yummy love,
Alex aka Ma, What's For Dinner

Melissa B. said...

I just printed this out for my recipe box. This Tejana says "Thanks, mucho!"

OBX Real Estate

Doreen McGettigan said...

Stop over when you get a chance I have an award for you!

very merry vintage style said...

Oh my... great recipes here! Love your blog name and fabulous photos, too! Visiting from SITS.

Anonymous said...

Don't like Goat Cheese, what now?

Me, Myself and Pie said...

If you don't like goat cheese, try substituting it with another 4 oz. of cream cheese. (8 oz. total.) You could also try feta (although it's usually made from goat's milk), but it will be more crumbly than creamy.

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