This is one of my signature recipes that I created and perfected. These are the perfect party appetizers but also work well served as a main dish. You can keep them mild or spice it up to create an explosive culinary delight. Serve with ranch dressing as a dipping sauce and you're sure to please everyone at the dining table.
This recipe takes a lot of prep, so I recommend making a large batch and freezing the extras. If you do so then do not fry the peppers after you stuff and bread them, freeze them immediately after final breading, this allows for a fresh and crisp breading when you thaw them later for serving.
Prep Time: 1-2 Hours depending on batch size
Cook Time: 15 Minutes
Servings: 24 Poppers
12 Jalapeno peppers, whole and washed
12 ounces Cream Cheese, softened at room temperature
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon bacon bits
1 pound mild pork sausage
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1.5 cups milk
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 cups dry bread crumbs
1-2 quarts olive oil for frying
Prepare the Jalapenos:
-You might want to wear some foodservice gloves (or latex, etc) while handling and de-seeding the peppers, unless you want your hands to absorb the capsaicin and burn for two days
-Bring a large pot of water to boil, blanch the peppers in boiling water for 3 minutes, remove and allow to cool on a prep surface (cutting board, counter top, cookie sheet, etc)
-Once the peppers have cooled enough to handle, cut and throw away just enough of the top to remove the stem. Now cut them in half lengthwise.
-Using a large spoon, scrape out the seeds and membranes so the inside of the pepper is nice and clean. Save the seeds and membranes as this will be used for adding more heat to the stuffing.
Prepare the Stuffing:
-The Cream Cheese needs to be soft and at room temperature, so set it out a couple hours early
-Pre-mix the 3 cheeses, bacon bits, and cracked pepper in a very large bowl
-Brown the sausage, drain, and immediately add to the cheese mixture. The heat from the sausage will help to soften the cheese so it is important to do this quickly.
-Mix the stuffing thoroughly
-The poppers will be nice and mild at this stage because the seeds and membranes were removed (that's where the heat comes from), in fact it is so mild at this stage that it is kid-friendly. You may increase the heat of the dish by adding some of the seeds and membranes into the stuffing at this point, however I caution you to only add a small amount at a time, stir, and taste test before adding more.
Prepare the Breading:
-You need 3 bowls large enough to hold the milk, flour, and bread crumbs separately
-Breading is done in 3 stages with a drying period between each stage, it is important you follow the instructions below in order to achieve the perfect crispy breading that makes this recipe so delightful
Stuffing and Breading the Jalapenos:
-Using the stuffing mixture prepared above, stuff each pepper half as much as you can, smooth and ensure the stuffing sticks to the pepper. This takes practice. Stuff all peppers and set them onto a tray as you go.
-Dredge each pepper through the milk and then coat with flour, making sure they are well coated. Set aside and allow to dry for a few minutes.
-Dredge again through the milk and then coat with bread crumbs, again set them aside and allow to dry for a few minutes.
-Dredge through milk one last time and coat with bread crumbs a second time, making sure you coat them as thick and completely as possible.
Frying the Jalapenos (Final Step):
-Add 3/4 inch of olive (or vegetable oil) into the largest frying pan you have and bring to medium heat, 350-365 degrees is the ideal temperature
-Add the stuffed and breaded peppers to the pan, stuffing side down, brown for 3-4 minutes or until the breading is golden brown, turn each pepper over and brown the other side.
-Do NOT crowd the frying pan, you need 1/2 inch of room on all sides of each pepper so you will need to cook them in batches.