We’re growing lots of peppers in our raised wall containers so I put several of them to good use at this week’s Home Ec. Home Ec is an event started in Toronto by Joel & Dana at Well Preserved (definitely check ’em out!) that’s spread to Columbus. Basically, people of all culinary skill levels who may/may not know each other, but share a love for food and new experiences come together to enjoy one another’s creations. Each month there’s a theme with June’s being picnic foods.
To me, picnic foods have but two qualifications; they should be delicious and easy to eat. Carving something complex up with a fork and knife is so hard to do if you don’t happen to be at a table or you’re sitting with your plate in your lap. With that in mind–and a healthy crop of jalapeños, I tossed on some gloves and got cutting. Here’s my recipe… Oh, and don’t let the long directions intimidate you–I’m just wordy today.
- 8 oz. cream cheese (or neufchâtel since it’s slightly less fat and a bit softer), at room temperature
- 12-15 fresh jalapeños
- 1 Tbsp onion soup mix (powder ONLY–sift to separate onion slivers for another use)
- 1 lb bacon (or the same number of strips as jalapeños)
- 3-4 Tbsp jelly/jam (I used hot pepper jelly from my gracious friend, Jenny. Peach jam would be outstanding, too!)
- Preheat your oven to 350°F.
- Place an oven-safe wire cooling rack on top of a foil-lined baking sheet.
- Do yourself a favor and put on some plastic/rubber gloves. Then, wash your hands with the gloves on (avoiding getting water under the gloves if you can–it just feels weird).
- Cut jalapeños in half from the stem to the base. Then, using a spoon remove all the seeds and bitter, white ribs from the inside of the peppers. I used a melon-baller–a tool I’ve actually never used for its intended purpose. Oh, and it’s not a bad idea to put glasses on when doing this. Trust me. :’o(
- In a small bowl mash the cheese & powder together really well, then scoop it into the bottom corner of a zip-top bag, squeeze out the air and mash it all into the corner, then cut 1/4″ to 1/2″ off the corner. You can use pastry bag if you have one.
- Now comes the fun stuff! Squeeze enough of the cheese mixture into the scooped out pepper halves to fill them. You should have plenty of filling, but that’ll depend on how big your peppers are.
- Now, cut your stack of bacon in half and wrap each pepper half in bacon starting at the bottom and wrapping around until you’ve covered the pepper. I find it best to experiment with wrapping until you figure out how to get the loose end to be on the bottom of the pepper, but that’s not a requirement; it just cooks up prettier.
- Now that the hard part’s over, pop those babies onto the rack & foil-lined tray, then bake in the oven for 20 minutes or so. Basically, the bacon needs to crisp to meet your preference and the peppers need to be just cooked through, but not mushy.
- As soon as you get the peppers out, transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate to cool. Meanwhile, melt the jelly/jam in a mug or glass dish for 20-30 seconds in the microwave. Then, drizzle or brush onto the peppers.
- Now, try to practice restraint before devouring.
I’ve only made these a handful of times, but every time I make them people seem to enjoy them. I mean, you can’t really go wrong with this combo of ingredients. Even if you’re not a fan of spicy food, the cream cheese cools the jalapeño heat well.
I really enjoyed getting together with the local Home Ec clan and meeting a new member as well. Casual conversation, a tasty meal with dessert, a comfy setting & relaxing, live music in the background–you really can’t go wrong with that. I’m already looking forward to next month’s event.
In the mean time, I’m sure there’ll be many a picnic.
What are your favorite picnic foods?