This dish should earn The Chef hazard pay for handling a bag of spicy jalapenos. You need radioactive-proof mitts to keep off the fiery chile oils. And don't even think of satisfying that itch on your nose -- touch the skin anywhere near your eyes and you will be sorry.
But boy is it worth the risk. Melting cheese cools off some jalapeno spiciness, and a slab of savory turkey bacon brings this appetizer to delicious heights.
I was wary of cooking with turkey bacon - it just doesn't seem right, like lipstick on a pig. I had bought a package at my local 99c only Store a few months ago, and forgot about it collecting freezer burn in my freezer. When I picked up a bag of jalapenos from my local Latin market, I started Googleing recipes. Most whole jalapeno recipes call for stuffing them with cheese, breadcrumb coating and finally deep frying. I wanted to go after a lower calorie recipe though. (If you want an excellent use of whole cooked jalapenos, be sure to check out my L.A. Street Hot Dog video recipe by clicking here.)
The other recipes called for wrapping jalapenos in fatty (but delicious) bacon; that's when I remembered the turkey bacon in the back of my freezer. At first glance turkey bacon looks real -- but upon opening the package I noticed it resembles those fake plastic food display toys in the window of a Japanese restaurant.
I pinched off a piece to try: the texture is baloney-like and the flavor has that liquid smoke tinny taste. This was not a good start, but I was determined to push through and see what happens. And things turned out much better than I anticipated.
After stuffing the jalapenos with cheese, I wrapped them in a turkey bacon slice and roasted a pan full at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. I figured the turkey bacon would dry out and taste like a piece of hot asphalt -- wrong on both counts. The bacon held up well to slow cooking (maybe the steaming jalapeno kept it tender,) and the taste only got better when cooked through. While you will miss that crunchy pork bacon texture, you will sleep better, having not eaten your daily calorie limit with one cheesy stuffed and bacon wrapped jalapeno.
I always find 4 ounce pucks of Mexican cheese, Queso Fresco, and cream cheese cheap enough. You can use any favorite inexpensive cheese, either low fat or regular.
This is a recipe you may want to get out those bright yellow rubber gloves for, when stuffing my Turkey Bacon Wrapped Jalapenos with Cheese appetizers. And make sure to serve with a tall cold drink!
- 12 jalapenos - depending on size. I used big fat ones in the 2 - 3 inch length range.
- Cream cheese - a small container of about 5 ounces. Okay to substitute a firm cheese like mozzarella, cheddar or Swiss.
- Queso Fresco - about 4 ounces of Mexican cheese. Okay to use any favorite cheese you have.
- Turkey bacon - one package. If you insist, it's okay to use regular bacon.
Allow the cream cheese to soften at room temperature. Add it to a bowl and mix in any other type of cheese - I used 4 ounces of Queso Fresco.
Lay each jalapeno on a flat surface to see how it naturally lays flat. You want to slice the side that now faces you, so when the stuffed jalapenos roast, the cheese won't leak out.
Slice each jalapeno lengthways and make one more slice across the top, near the stem, to form a cut in the shape of a "T". Open up the jalapeno and remove seeds and the lighter membrane strands -- this is were a lot of spiciness resides. Be sure not to touch you face when handling jalapenos, because you will inevitably get the heat too close to your eyes.
Fill each jalapeno with cheese mixture. Wrap jalapenos in slices of turkey bacon. You can attach with a toothpick if necessary. Place stuffed and wrapped jalapenos in an oven pan and roast uncovered, about 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Check after about 30 minutes to make sure turkey bacon does not burn black. Mine just got a deep mahogany brown.
The cheese is extremely hot out of the oven, so allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Next time I would just use Queso Fresco and another firm cheese like mozzarella, Swiss or cheddar. The cream cheese mix melted out of a couple of stuffed jalapenos. After they cooled down some, I just unwrapped them and put some of the cheese back in. (Turkey bacon remains flexible, so it's easy to work with.)
If you use real bacon, just bake until it is brown and crispy as you like, about 30-45 minutes.
If you are sensitive to spiciness, then this recipe is not for you. However, taking out the seeds and membrane, plus roasting the chiles, does take out much of the heat. While I found it suited my tastes, my wife could only eat one half at a time. Hey, that left them all for me!
You may want to wear rubber gloves and fish out the seeds with a small spoon or butter knife -- or even wash the seeds out under running water.
If you use smaller jalapenos, then slice the bacon in half, if it is too long.