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‘Cheesy filling and crisp exterior are the key to this particular dish,’ Walker says

Spice up next meal with jalapeño poppers

Apr 05, 2018

 

 

(April 6, 2018) I cannot believe it, but it looks like the wave of nor’easters is finally over. Don’t worry, I’m knocking on every piece of wood so my words do not come back and haunt me.

That being said, the harsh winter has played havoc on the season’s first flowers. As the fragile foliage has peeked through the threshold of spring, they must have wondered if they were in the middle of a hurricane.

According to the calendar, we are in the month of April. But the hues of my lawn and heating bills implore me to think otherwise.

Chilly temperatures keep me captive in my home and my palate yearns for something that has a “kick.”

The land of tropical sun sounds quite appealing and jalapeño poppers come to my mind instantly. The cheesy filling and crisp exterior are the key to this particular dish.

Present day takes a stroll down memory lane. I miss my grandmother dearly.

Recollections are one of your best friends. Keep in touch or they too shall pass.

There was no one that could fry foods like Nanny. No, she never heard of the Maillard reaction and its relation to the science of frying. But years of experience can prove to be the best teacher. She knew instinctively how to develop the coveted crust and maintain it.

Allow me to share a few of Nanny’s secrets for successful frying.

No matter what you are frying, always cut the food into similar-size pieces so they will cook at the same time.

If you are frying chicken, place the breasts into one pan and the thighs and legs into another pan. White and dark met have variable cooking times.

Fry in small batches to prevent the oil temperature from dropping too low, which can lead to greasy food.

While we are on the subject of greasiness, always place fried food on a cooling rack as opposed to a plate lined with paper towels.

The crispy food ends up resting on soggy paper towels and nullifies your efforts for crunchiness.

Season foods immediately after frying so the seasoning adheres to the hot food. No matter how well you season the food prior to frying, you will lose some of the flavor in the oil.

If you are not going to eat right away, transfer fried food to a 200-degree oven to keep it warm and crisp.

My grandmother believed fried foods needed some type of acidity to balance the meal. One of her favorite ways to accomplish this was to serve a small side salad of pickled vegetables.

There is no question my grandmother has influenced my style of cooking.

Jalapeño poppers accompanied with pickled vegetables is a way to keep tradition alive with a modern twist.

If jalapeño peppers are a little too spicy, replace them with poblano peppers.

Either way, the crisp exterior is filled with a mound of soft, gooey cheese. Enjoy!

Pickled Vegetables

Slice red onions, radishes, zucchini and yellow squash on a mandoline.

Marinate the vegetables in rice vinegar for 1 hour. Drain, salt and serve with the jalapeño poppers.

Jalapeño Poppers

4 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for frying

2 cloves garlic, chopped

¼ cup yellow onion, finely chopped

18 jalapeños

1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese

½ cup Monterey Jack cheese

½ cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

¼ cup heavy cream

1teaspoon Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon ground coriander

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon smoked paprika

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 eggs

2 teaspoons water

2 cups plain panko bread crumbs

1 cup cornmeal

fresh cilantro as a garnish

 

1. In a small pan, sauté 2 tablespoons canola oil over medium-low heat. Cook garlic and onions until very soft, approximately 10 minutes. Do not allow to burn. Set aside.

2. In the meantime, arrange an oven rack 4 inches from the broiler and heat broiler to high. Toss 2 tablespoons of canola oil and jalapeños on a foil-lined baking sheet; broil, turning as needed until charred all over. Set aside.

3. Blend garlic mixture, cheeses, cream, mustard and spices in a food processor until smooth.

4. Transfer cheese mixture to a piping bag fitted with a plain tip. Set aside.

5. Trim 1/4-inch off the bottom of each jalapeño. Using a small paring knife, remove the seeds.

6. Insert the piping bag tip into each pepper and pipe until the cheese mixture fills the jalapeño. Refrigerate the peppers for 1 hour to firm the filling.

7. In a 6-quart Dutch oven, pour enough oil to cover the poppers. Heat oil over medium-high heat.

8. In a small bowl, whisk the water and eggs.

9. Set up for the dredging follows: a pie plate for the flour, a small bowl for the egg mixture and another pie plate for the combined panko and cornmeal.

10. Dip pepper in flour, then coat with egg mixture, and transfer to panko mixture. Gently press popper into breadcrumb mixture until it is evenly coated. Repeat this process for the rest of the peppers.

11. Working in batches, fry peppers until golden brown. When cooked, place on cooling racks. Add a light dusting of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with cilantro and serve with side of pickled vegetables.

 

Secret Ingredient – Imagination. “The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.”

— Jean Jacques Rousseau

 

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