Friday, January 31, 2014

Cherry Pepper Poppers - Cream Cheese, Bacon, Cheddar and Sweet Pepper Poppers

My beautiful niece stopped by to help me cook. How cool is that? For our Friday night game night snack, we whipped up some cream cheese and bacon stuffed poppers with a twist. Instead of using jalapenos, we used marinated cherry peppers, the kind you pick up at the olive bar at the supermarket.

I first saw this as a post from Bitchin' Kitchen and I knew I had to try them immediately if not sooner.  I made a test batch of six on Thursday and then decided to go for a full-sized batch on Friday.  They are the most delicious poppers I have ever tasted. Sorry jalapeno poppers, I'm dumping you for someone new.  

Let's get started. Here's what you'll need to make these delicious treats.

Marinated cherry peppers, softened cream cheese, five or six slices of cooked bacon, shredded cheddar cheese, panko bread crumbs, two eggs, flour and salt and pepper. You will also need peanut or canola oil for frying.

I like to brush the bacon with real maple syrup and then bake it on a rack sitting on a foil-lined sheet pan in the oven. Bake at 350 degrees for around 20 minutes or until crispy. The sweet and crispy glaze is fantastic. You can also coat it with brown sugar.

It looks a little burnt, but it isn't. I thoughtfully tasted it to make sure. Dice the bacon down to small pieces, so it will work well in the filling. You could also just fry the bacon in a pan and dice it if you like. If you still want the maple flavor, you could add about a teaspoon of maple syrup to your cream cheese mixture.

Let's start off by getting the oil going in a Dutch oven. You can also shallow fry these in a skillet like fried chicken. I've tried it both ways and I like the deep-fried method better. The choice is yours.

Put the softened cream cheese in a bowl and add salt and pepper.

Add the delicious maple glazed bacon.

Follow it up with the shredded cheese. Right around a cup. But make it as cheesy as you like. But it still needs to be creamy enough to pipe into a pepper.

Give it a good stir until the mixture is creamy. Taste for seasoning.

Now grab yourself a sealable Ziploc or Glad bag  and snip the end off a corner to make a piping bag. The hole needs to be small enough to fit inside a cherry pepper.

Now fill the bag with the cream cheese mixture. Only fill it about half-way.

The neat thing about these marinated peppers is that they are already cored and seeded. Remove them from the marinade and make sure to shake off any extra oil and vinegar. Turn them upside down to get it all out.

Filling them is as easy as putting the tip of the bag inside the pepper and giving it a gentle squeeze.
My niece gave me a hand! We made pretty short work of filling the peppers.

Neatness was not so important as they were getting breaded soon. You can push the filling down a little and add more to make sure the peppers are completely filled.  Now it's time for breading stations! 

Start by breaking the eggs in a bowl or container. My husband's hands are making a cameo appearance here.

Then beat the eggs just like my lovely sous chef.

I like to take a pan and put flour on one side, eggs in the middle and panko on the end.

Dip the pepper in egg and then roll in flour.

Then dip the pepper in egg again.

Then roll in the panko.

With the able assistance of my niece, we had the messy breading process finished in no time.

The coverage was a little spotty in some places. But I didn't care.  By now the oil was around 400 degrees, just right for frying.

I put them in the hot oil four at a time. My Japanese strainer, also called a spider, is perfect for this job. Hit up a kitchen supply store and get one soon if you don't already own one.

From the moment these hit the oil it only takes a couple of minutes until they turn a golden brown. Give them a stir to get brown on all side. This won't take long at all.

Put them on a paper-towel lined tray after they're ready.

Finish frying in batches of four or five, depending on the size of the pot you're using.

These poppers have a crispy, crunchy outside and a soft creamy inside. Because the peppers are marinated, they are soft and melt into the filling. The sweetness of cherry peppers is just wonderful with the smoky and sweet bacon. The cheese turns creamy, but shouldn't be blistering hot as these don't fry a very long time.

Some of the breading fell off, but these were still delicious. And none of the filling came out. Now you could make a dipping sauce for this. But these are sweet and smoky and creamy on their own.

My lovely assistant gave them a thumbs up! She said sweet and a little spicy.

I am seriously in love with these poppers! Make a batch for yourself ASAP!

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