Cheesy jalapeno snacks for the Super Bowl? Score!

Baked jalapeno poppers. PHOTO: GORAN KOSANOVIC FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

WASHINGTON (WASHINGTON POST) - Everything about jalapeno poppers is fun. It is no wonder they are a bar food staple. They require minimal commitment - each is just a bite or two with no cutlery necessary. As the name suggests, you just pop one in your mouth and let the flavour begin. Inside the golden, crisp coating, there is the thrill of the pepper and eating it is a little like accepting a playful dare, because you never know how much heat it will pack. They say one in 10 has some kick to it. No worries though, because the centre is packed with a creamy, cheesy filling to immediately quench any heat.

This recipe delivers all that enjoyment, but in a more healthful way than the typical fried version, so you feel just as good after eating them as you do while you are popping away. These are baked, so while they are amply crispy, thanks to their olive oil-coated panko breadcrumb crust, they are not at all greasy. Also, their creamy stuffing is less dense, taking advantage of a light blend of cheeses, ricotta and whipped cream cheese, spiked with just enough shredded Monterey Jack. You will love serving them at a game-day party not only because they are fun for your guests, but also because they can be made in advance and reheated - which means you will be in on the fun as well.

Baked Jalapeno Poppers

From nutritionist and cookbook author Ellie Krieger
Makes 20 pieces

With a crispy baked coating and light creamy filling, this recipe delivers all the fun and flavour of the typical fried bar food staple in a more healthful way. For this recipe, we like clearing the jalapeno halves of ribs and seeds by scraping them out with a spoon.

MAKE AHEAD: Poppers can be baked, cooled and refrigerated up to two days in advance; reheat in a 160 deg C oven on a baking sheet for about 20 minutes.

Ingredients
57g (1/2 cup packed) grated Monterey Jack cheese
1/3 cup whipped cream cheese
1/3 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
2 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro leaves
10 medium jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise, seeded, stems trimmed to 1.3cm
3 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1 cup plain panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp garlic powder (granulated garlic)
1 Tbsp olive oil

Method

  1. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven; preheat the oven to 190 deg C. Lightly grease a baking sheet with cooking oil spray.
  2. Stir together the Monterey Jack cheese, cream cheese, ricotta cheese and cilantro in a bowl until well incorporated. Use about 2 tsp of the mixture to fill each jalapeno half.
  3. Spread flour on a plate and season with 1/4 tsp of the salt and 1/8 tsp of the pepper.
  4. Beat the egg in a separate bowl. Spread the panko breadcrumbs on a separate plate and season with the garlic powder and the remaining 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp black pepper. Toss the seasoned breadcrumbs with oil until evenly coated.
  5. Toss each stuffed jalapeno in the seasoned flour, shaking off any excess, then in the egg, and finally in the seasoned panko, shaking off the excess. Each piece should be coated all around in the mixture. Arrange the coated jalapenos, cut sides up, on the baking sheet. Roast on the upper rack for 30 to 35 minutes until the coating is golden brown and the cheese has melted a bit.

Serve warm.

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