I am not a football fan. Sure, I like a good game, but I don’t follow the teams or players, and I have no idea what this whole fantasy thing is about. I do, however, love a good Super Bowl party. But the joy I get from hunkering down on a cold February Sunday to watch the two finalists battle it out has little to do with the teams—or dare I say, even the commercials that everyone seems so gaga about. It’s the food that really gets me.
This year I’ll be celebrating with friends who also love food, and I’m sure they’ll be making clever takes on trashy food like “raven wings,” Rice Crispy-coated California rolls and so on. I’ve offered to bring treats too.
This haute-ing of low-end foods is a trend these days. You can find treasures like tater tots on the menu at fancy restaurants like Philadelphia’s Barclay Prime, where they also serve a $100 cheese steak. (I’ve had the cheese steak and have to admit, it’s actually worth the money.) At Brooklyn’s Do or Dine they serve high-end nachos and foie gras-filled donuts. You get the point: This is a thing. Chef’s are doing it. And I like to do it too.
So this Sunday I’ll be making jalapeño poppers for the gang—from scratch.
Jalapeño poppers are actually based on a Mexican dish called chiles rellenos, which are poblano peppers stuffed with all sorts of cheesy goodness. Poppers are just a trashy, Americanized version, and doing them the right way elevates the snack to a level that you can be proud to present to your football-loving foodie friends.
1 1/2 cups shredded mixed cheese, such as; cheddar, Monterey jack
3 ounces cream cheese
freshly ground black pepper
12 jalapeño peppers
3 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups fine unseasoned breadcrumbs
about 3 cups vegetable oil
Stir together the cheeses and cream cheese with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.
Make a long cut down the length of the pepper and a short cut crosswise near the top of the pepper in the shape of a T. With the tip of a paring knife, remove the seeds and ribs from the peppers. Fill each pepper with some of the cheese mixture, squeezing the peppers shut.
Beat the eggs in a bowl with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place the flour on a plate. Place the breadcrumbs in another bowl. Heat the oil in a heavy pot to 375°F.
Dip a pepper in the egg mixture, then roll in the flour. Dip the pepper in the egg mixture again, then roll in the breadcrumbs. Repeat with the remaining peppers. Fry the peppers in batches until the breadcrumbs are browned and the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes per batch. Drain the poppers on paper towels, then serve hot.
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Ian Knauer has traveled the world for Gourmet magazine, written for too many other magazines to list, cohosted three food television shows and written a cookbook, The Farm. @iknauer | TakePart.com