Stuffed chilis can take on many forms. The small ones known as “poppers” are very popular as an appetizer. Preparing them can be a bit time-consuming, but is well worth the extra effort. They taste nothing like the frozen ones you buy in a supermarket.
Rellenos historically are stuffed and baked Poblano peppers. The concept here is the same, only bite-sized and deep-fried. (Atkins participants need not apply.) Years ago, I had the opportunity to sample some called “Banditos” at a streetcorner ice-cream shop in downtown Denver. They were the hottest damn jalapeños I have ever had. They served them floured in a french-fry basket with sour cream on the side. Good eats!
Fresh jalapeño peppers
Shredded Jack cheese
Salt (to taste)
Wash peppers. Leave the stems on. Cut horizontally about a third of the way through the pepper near the base by the stem. Next, make a vertical slit running from this cut down the length of the pepper. The result should look like a T-shaped slit on only one side. Carefully pry open the wall with a slender paring knife and snip out the membrane and seeds. Doing this takes a little practice. Wash out the rest of the seeds with cold water.
Prepare two large plastic storage bags with flour and bread crumbs, respectively. Fill a coffee cup full of milk and another with three beaten eggs. Place aside.
In a mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and shredded cheese. Microwave for 20-30 seconds until just softened. Mix well with spoon.
Carefully stuff each pepper with the cheese mixture. A butterknife works well for this. Gently press the sides of the pepper back together around the cut and wipe away any excess cheese.
Now comes the fun part…. dunk one pepper in milk, then drop it into the flour bag and shake. Remove and then place in egg cup, being sure to evenly coat all sides of the pepper. Remove from egg and toss in breadcrumb bag. Repeat the egg and breadcrumb step for a thicker batter.
In case you’re wondering, the milk is a binding agent… without it, the batter would slide right off the pepper when placed in the deep fryer.
Peppers can also be arranged on wax paper and sealed in an airtight container in the fridge overnight if needed. Make a batch the night before, then deep-fry them when you need them.
Heat a deep cast-iron pan filled with vegetable oil on medium-high. Drip a small amount of water in the oil. If it sizzles, you’re ready. Using a long pair of tongs, carefully set 5-6 peppers in the oil and brown for about three minutes, turning once. Do not crowd the pan as the temperature of the oil will drop.
Remove peppers, drain on paper towels and serve with sour cream, salsa or guacamole. CAUTION: FILLING WILL BE EXTREMELY HOT. LET COOL FOR A FEW MINUTES BEFORE SERVING.