Not merengue, SALSA!

Here in Houston, TexMex food is almost as essetial as oxygen. Every time you hit a ‘Mexican’ spot, you’re received with a bowl of, hopefully, fresh salsa and chips. I can’t help you with the chips, but I can throw my hat in for the salsa bit.

We like ours a bit on the heated side and I usually make enough for about 3 cps worths. It keeps really well in the fridge.

8 Roma tomatoes, halved and seeded
2 – 3 serrano peppers, halved
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
½ medium onion, quartered
½ cp cilantro, coarsely chopped
½ tsp cumin powder
½ tsp sugar
Âľ tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil

Add 1 tbsp of the oil to a skillet and place over high heat. When it begins to smoke, add the tomatoes, peppers, garlic, and onion. You want to char and smoke the vegetables, but keep a close watch on them or they’ll burn. Try to get some color on both sides, then remove from the heat and put it all into your blender. Add the rest of the ingredients and puree until all veggies are a mush.

Pour the salsa back into your skillet—you can add about ½ cp water to the blender to remove all the salsa bits—allow the salsa to cook over medium low temperature for about 10 minutes. This will yield about 3 cps of salsa, it will keep in the fridge for about a month.

This is muy bueno!

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Pop, pop, Jalapeño Poppers

Have you had these? They’re very popular in Houston, found in most Tex-Mex restaurant menus or at parties. I’ve had them over the years, but I’ve never been able to eat them with careless abandon. For one thing, there’s the heat. Often times they’re simply too hot for me, whether they don’t get all the seeds and veins out or if because it is an especially hot pepper. I just can’t handle too many of them. The other thing is sometimes it tastes like I’m eating a raw green pepper, which isn’t one of my favorite flavors. I managed to correct both these factors.

Nonetheless, I was speaking with a friend about a new popper recipe someone shared with her and about our upcoming holiday luncheon and how anxious we were about enjoying another very popular appetizer, shrimp brochette.  Usually for the shrimp brochette they take shrimp and slit it, add a slice of jalapeño, Monterrey Jack, then its wrapped in bacon and grilled. This is when the muse hit me. Inside out. Stuff the peppers with shrimp and cheese, wrap in bacon. Yeah! And that, my friends, is what I did!

Shrimp Jalapeño Poppers
12 medium jalapeños
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 ozs cream cheese, softened
1/4 cp grated cheese, such as Gouda or Bleu
1/4 tsp Herbs d’Provence
1/4 cp cooked bacon, crumbled
Black pepper, to taste
6 slices thick bacon, halved

Preparing the jalapeños: Let me start by telling you that you should be respectful when handling any type of hot pepper. I don’t think gloves are necessary for jalapeños, but try to avoid touching your face or skin until you’ve washed the oil off your hands. In this case I slit the jalapeños lengthwise, keeping the stems in place. They look cuter that way.  Once you’ve slit them, use a small pairing knife to cut out the seed pod and to scrape out the veins. Rinse them in cool water to wash away any seeds that may be left behind.

Now, here’s something I did to counteract the heat and rawness of the peppers. I blanched them.

Notice the change in color after blanching

Take a medium pot and fill it with water, add a bit of salt and bring it to a boil. Add the cleaned peppers and turn off the heat. Leave the peppers in the water for about 3 minutes, drain and submerge in cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain and set them over a towel to soak any water that may be left behind. Set aside.

 

For the filling: I used medium-sized shrimp, (14-16 count) this size will be large enough to keep it from overcooking, but you could use smaller ones and not chop them. Chop the shrimp coarsely (I think I ended up with about 4 pieces from each shrimp). Add the cheeses, bacon, pepper, Herbs d’Provence and mix until well incorporated.

Assembly: Preheat oven to 400°. Take the halved bacon slices and stretch them out a bit to make them uniform in thickness. Stuff the bottom of each pepper with about 1 tbsp of the filling, close the top on in, wrap with bacon. Secure the bacon with toothpicks. Place the poppers on a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the bacon is golden brown.

You’re done!