Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Eating Out Peppermania!

Sick of all the pepper posts yet? Lordy, I hope not! Because it’s coming time soon to start germinating all of those seeds we mentioned back during X-mas! And life is showing no signs of slowing down my manic pepper seeking behavior. Beyond growing tons of and reading everything I can get my hands on about them, it seems that good ole Fresno is going to be putting on a Fresno Chile Festival. Notice the lack of an “I” at the end? That’s right, it’s a celebration of the species, not the dish. Up until now I assumed the name of the pepper had some relation to ash trees, like our town. But a bit of snooping uncovered that the pepper itself is named for Fresno, CA USA! Of course, the internet doesn’t yield any reasons as to why it was named for the ‘No… But hey, I’ll take it as a compliment anyway. That means I’m gonna have to give a little extra attention to my Fresno plant that I’m overwintering to have some fresh pods to show off this summer. Haven’t heard a date yet, but we’ll post it as soon as we know.

Why the sudden pepper nerdism? There’s a lot of good reasons. They’re fairly nutritious, they bring strong flavors to a dish, they’re very easy to grow and in a garden, some varieties add very striking color to your garden and are just a pleasure to look at. Ok…all that’s true, but there’s also a bit of a goofy macho edge to it too. It’s not like I want to eat pure capsaicin or anything. But I do get a bit of a chuckle when folks react very strongly to what I consider extremely mild heat. For example, I like to toss a couple habaneros into my scrambled eggs. That comes out hot. Usually right at my comfortable limit before I’d dive for the milk. And there is a nice, subtle mood altering effect of a pleasant burn. I liken it to the satisfaction one feels after a brief massage or work out. Sorta like a nice little glow radiating from the mouth and tummy out through the rest of one’s essence. Like heroin, but totally nothing like heroin. Here’s the recipe

Jalapeno Atomic Buffalo Turds

6 med to large jalapeno peppers
½ lb softened cream cheese
4 oz habanero jack cheese
2 tablespoons chopped Spanish chorizo (the hard kind! not raw Mexi chorizo, or cook it first)
6 slices Serrano ham
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and cover a baking pan with tin foil (your dishwasher will thank me!). Grab some latex or nitrile gloves for pepper chopping. They’re just jallys, but they’ll still give you a good sting if you scratch something before washing thoroughly. Take your peppers and lop off the stem end, about an 1/8th inch from where the stem connects to the pepper. Then slice the pepper down the middle. Take a teaspoon and scrape out the seeds and placental tissue (the white stuff) and set aside. Then chop your habanero cheese roughly and place in a bowl, add your softened cream cheese and the spices. Take a fork and mash everything together thoroughly. Alternately you could put this into your food processor and spin it up. Spoon or pipe your cheese mixture into your jalapeno boats until they’re about 2/3rds full. With 6 of your peppers, dot them with pieces of your chopped Spanish chorizo and the other 6, wrap them around the pepper, trying to make sure to tie up the open end of the pepper. Place on the baking pan and toss into the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the ham begins to crisp on top.
Voila! The pepper will still be a bit crunchy and bring a nice green flavor that’s blanketed by the spicy herbed cheese. Depending on if you used the cayenne or not, you’ll find the cheese is actually more spicy than the jalapeno. The regular recipe is actually very mild. Mild enough to introduce non-chile fanatics to a fun little appetizer. And good enough for Rockabilly impresarios Motel Drive to slake their hunger on the road. Make sure to check them out this weekend at the Babylon!