Habanero and Jalapeno Poppers

Habanero and Jalapeno Poppers: bacon or vegetarian with epazote.

Habanero and Jalapeno Poppers: bacon or vegetarian with epazote

To keep New Year’s Eve hot, I prepared spicy poppers: some with the “traditional” jalapeno and some with the more adventurous habanero.

These may seem pretty straightforward to prepare (just take a bit of time), but I’ll give a few suggestions and tips, after having made them a few times.

Ingredients

Popper ingredients

Ingredients:

  • fresh jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise, seeded, and deveined
  • fresh habanero peppers, halved lengthwise, seeded, and deveined
  • cream cheese, softened to near room temperature
  • bacon, strips cut to half length
  • epazote, dried & crushed
Halve, seed, and devein t

Halve, seed, and devein the peppers.

When preparing these on a broiler pan under the broiler, wrap the top of the pan in aluminum foil and cut slits in the foil (where the slits in the pan are) so that bacon grease will drain. Also, pour a half cup of water into the bottom of the pan to keep the drained fat from burning and be careful to not tip the pan.

DSC06972

Add water to broiler pan to keep drained fat from burning.

Carefully fill the pepper halves with cream cheese, optionally wrap with bacon (tucking one end underneath, perhaps with the help of a knife tip, so they stay wrapped), and place them cheese-side down (at first) on the broiler pan.

Pepper halves filled with cream cheese

Pepper halves filled with cream cheese

Place them under the broiler and cook the bottom side of the poppers before the cheese melts.

Cook the bottom sides first so the cheese doesn't melt out.

Cook the bottom sides first so the cheese doesn’t melt out.

Once the bottoms are done, flip them upright with tongs and complete the cooking. I sprinkled the vegetarian poppers (without bacon) with epazote for a extra dash of flavor before it gives way to the heat.

Flip the peppers with tongs and complete the cooking under the broiler.

Flip the peppers with tongs and complete the cooking under the broiler.

Now you have a spicy appetizer for your parties, and one that intially tastes of cheese and bacon or spice, then after 20-30 seconds the heat kicks in nicely. :)

Vegetarian habanero and jalapeno poppers with cream cheese and epazote.

Vegetarian habanero and jalapeno poppers with cream cheese and epazote.

Even though some people that eat these poppers might think you’re trying to kill them, you’ll know you really love them.

Love people.Cook them tasty food.

Love people.
Cook them tasty food.

Happy new year to you all! Love people and cook them tasty food.

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Rigatoni and Mornay Sauce

Rigatoni and Mornay Sauce

This is pretty much an upscale version of mac and cheese.

For 6-8 servings, it’s rigatoni (1 pound dry pasta), prepared al dente, mixed with chopped stewed tomato (1 can, drained), one finely diced large jalapeno (with seeds), all tossed with cream sauce, then put in a baking pan (10″ x 10″ x 2″), topped with more cream sauce, and sprinkled with red pepper flakes, dried oregano, and optionally 1/4 pound of bacon pieces (cooked in advance). Then it was baked for 30 minutes at 375°F until lightly browned. Set for perhaps 10 minutes then served topped with thinly sliced fresh jalapeno pepper.

The somewhat thick sauce is a Béchamel sauce, of butter (~1/4 cup) and flour (~1/3 cup) roux with milk or cream (~2 1/2 cups), with a bit of shredded sharp white cheddar (~1/4 pound) and powdered garlic added:
“Mornay sauce”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mornay_sauce

Related recipes:
A friend recently inspired me by posting this recipe:
“Macaroni and Béchamel Sauce”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8VI6FzZXfs

Also, I’d recently seen an episode of Cook’s Country (from America’s Test Kitchen on PBS) with this recipe; if you want to make your own mac-and-cheese, this is a great place to start:
“Macaroni and Cheese with Tomatoes”
http://www.cookscountry.com/recipes/Macaroni-and-Cheese-with-Tomatoes/23438/

Poached Tilapia with Creamy Shiitake Ragoût

Poached Tilapia with Creamy Shiitake Ragoût

I poached the tilapia fillets in the cream sauce with the vegetables, i.e., a sauce of vegetable stock, heavy cream, cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, dijon mustard, fennel seed, thyme, salt and pepper. I used dried mushrooms, but the texure of fresh mushrooms would likely be better with this delicate fish.

I prepared couscous in vegetable stock and served it layered in the middle.

This was inspired by a related recipe for Pan-Seared Cod with Creamy Fennel Ragoût.

Lettuce Wraps

Lettuce Wraps

Failing to find a recipe that used a significant amount of whipping cream and Romaine lettuce, I settled on these lettuce wraps using just the lettuce. :-)

They’re much as set out in the recipe below except I used bacon (optional) and fried firm tofu… to see if I could cause a bacon/anti-bacon explosion. Oh, and I added chopped peanut… so, y’know, it was a typical sort of asian lettuce wrap meets BLT.

“Lettuce Wraps”
http://chinesefood.about.com/od/fusionrecipes/r/lettucewraps.htm

Here’s that P.F. Chang’s version that everyone seems to like:

“Ginger Chicken Stir-Fry Romaine Wraps with Citrus Soy”
http://www.pfchangs.com/chefscorner/ginger_chicken_stirfry.aspx

Pita Pizza

Pita Pizzas

I’m temporarily drinking fake (non-alcoholic) beer, so perhaps some ersatz pizzas are in order!  These two were prepared in a toaster oven on pita bread brushed with olive oil:

  • BBQ sauce, garlic, swiss and Gruyère cheeses, applewood smoked bacon, white button mushroom, red onion, and jalapeno.
  • Kyopoolu (sauce), swiss and Gruyère, bacon, mushrooms, red onion, oregano, and fennel seed.
Which was better?  Hmm, both were awesome, it’s a tie.
An aside: I find Clausthaler Golden Amber and O’Doul’s Amber to be the most palatable of non-alcholic beers that are widely available in the states.