Whether breaded and stuffed with cheese or fried and wrapped in meat and bacon, every variety of jalapeño popper served at a Super Bowl party or sports bar dates back to 1993 when Anchor Food Products, a maker of Wisconsin-based processed snack foods under the McCain Foods umbrella, recorded a trademark for the exclusive use of the term “jalapeño poppers” with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Although Anchor Food no longer owns the brand after failing to renew it in the 90s, the company created many variations of the popper, which may have been inspired by Mexican chiles rellenos, and still sells a number of frozen versions today.
When native of Austin Liz Solomon Dwyerthe founder of NYC-based Tacos King David (which can be found in standalone locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan as well as various partner retailers throughout the city) had their first experience with a popper, it wasn’t Anchor’s…it was Sonic.
“Remember when you bought a car and your friends started dating after high school? We went to Sonic to get Route 44 Strawberry Limeade and jalapeño poppers,” Dwyer told InsideHook. “They are just awesome. Like spicy, like cheese. It’s all in one. They are one of my favorite dishes and I will probably order them if they are on a menu. But they’re usually Sonic-level, which is delicious, but also bad.
Poppers weren’t originally on Dwyer’s menu at KDT and when she decided to create a version and put them on, she wanted her variation to be satisfying and delicious, but not as calorie-dense and clogged. arteries than most versions. So, as perhaps Anchor did before the branding process, it turned its attention south to chiles rellenos.
“A chile relleno is a stuffed poblano pepper, sometimes with cheese, sometimes with meat, and often both,” says Dwyer. “In New York, it’s usually a poblano pepper breaded and fried then stuffed with cheese. They are soft and look soggy. Good chili rellenos are not fried. This helps the poblano retain its structure and you can come out of there without feeling like it was too heavy and loaded with carbs. It was kind of an inspiration.
That inspiration led Dwyer and his team to come up with a popper stuffed with a version of chilli cheese that’s easy to make and also doesn’t compete with the queso on KDT’s menu.
“You’re not just eating the regular nacho cheese you’d get from a sports bar jalapeño popper. It’s not fried and there’s no batter. It’s straight to cheese and jalapeño, which is what everyone wants anyway,” Dwyer says. “I mean, make no mistake about it. There’s melted chili, which is cheese and mayonnaise, but it’s not that much. You get a bit of indulgence, but it’s also reasonably healthy. You can eat them and feel good.
And now you can craft them.
Poblano-Pimento Cheese Jalapeño Poppers
- 3 fresh poblano peppers, stemmed, seeded and finely diced
- 1.5 lb thick shredded cheddar/Monterey jack blend (full cheddar optional)
- 1 cup mayonnaise (Hellman’s or similar)
- 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 2 – 3 tbsp. Tabasco (depends on your spice level, can substitute another vinegar-based hot sauce)
- 1 C. ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp. smoked paprika
- Salt to taste
- Optional for garnish: sliced green onions and chopped cilantro
- As many jalapeños as desired. Each jalapeño can be used to make two poppers.
- To make the poblano-pimento (PPC) cheese filling, combine everything in a bowl
- Mix using a stand mixer or just a strong arm and a sturdy spoon
- For the poppers, preheat the oven to 400 degrees
- Slice fresh jalapeños lengthwise, remove seeds and ribs, but keep stems
- Spread the jalapeño halves on a parchment-lined tray, open side up, and use a spoon to fill each half with the PPC without overcrowding
- Bake for 10 minutes or until the topping is melted and slightly crispy around the edges.
- Jalapeños are meant to be cooked “al-dente” and should be firm enough to pick up and eat
- Serve with a dollop of sour cream on each and sprinkle with cilantro and/or green onions
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