Chow Town

Add heat to cold day with stuffed smoked jalapeno poppers

Stuffed smoked jalapeno poppers are everywhere in the competition barbecue and tailgating circuit. I have yet to find them in local barbecue joints.

If poppers are on the menu, they are frozen generic poppers from a restaurant supply truck, stuffed with cream cheese, breaded and deep-fried on demand.

Popper stuffing possibilities are endless — sausages, ground beef, pork, bison, chicken, turkey, or other stuffing ad infinitum. Here’s one that’s new to the scene:

Chow Town Piggly Poppers Makes 12 servings
8 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature 1/2 cup shredded Provel* or sharp cheddar cheese 1 tablespoon mild tomato base barbecue sauce, your favorite brand or homemade 1 1-quart plastic food storage bag or long-handled cocktail spoon 12 medium to large fresh jalapeno peppers, stemmed and seeded, membranes removed (use disposable food handling gloves to avoid absorbing capsicum oils on your hands; if you don’t use gloves, avoid rubbing your eyes or other sensitive areas)
12 pickled watermelon rind pieces, cut to fit in peppers 6 bacon strips, cut in half 12 toothpicks 1 empty cardboard egg carton, lid removed 1 handful (approximately 1 cup) hardwood chips such as pecan or hickory, soaked in water a half hour or more, then drained

*Provel is a special blend of pasteurized process cheddar, Swiss and provolone cheese; made famous in St. Louis. I get it at the Mission Hy-Vee.

Unwrap the cream cheese and put in a bowl to soften to room temperature, or soften in a microwave oven for 20 to 25 seconds. Add shredded cheese and barbecue sauce; use a wooden spoon to stir cheeses and sauce together until well-blended.

Put 12 to 14 heaping tablespoons full of cheese in the plastic bag. Cut a small corner off the bag. Squeeze cheese into each pepper. Or use a long-handled cocktail spoon to stuff the peppers with cheese. This method is easier.

Insert a piece of pickled watermelon rind in each pepper. Wrap a strip of bacon over the top of each pepper and secure it with a toothpick. Save the leftover cheese to serve as cracker spread.

Fire up your grill to 325 to 350 degrees. Put wood chips atop the coals or in chip box for gas grills, or make your own disposable chip smoker with heavy duty aluminum foil, chips and holes for smoke release.

Place poppers in the egg carton and smoke them opposite the coals or gas fire in a lidded grill for 60 to 70 minutes at 325 to 350 degrees until the bacon is crispy and the poppers are tender. Guests can remove the toothpick and enjoy the popper. It’s an easy, delicious sweet heat delivery system to your palate. When your team or the other team scores a touchdown grab a Piggly Popper and you’ll be okay.

Thanks to Judith Fertig for the egg carton idea. Bacon grease soaks into carton and there are no flare-ups. Thanks to my daughter, Sarah Krause, for the “Piggly Popper” name.

Ardie Davis is an iconic figure in the barbecue community. He founded a sauce contest on his backyard patio in 1984 that became the American Royal International Barbecue Sauce, Rub Baste contest. He is a charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society and an inductee into the KCBS’s Hall of Flame. He has been interviewed on numerous food shows and writes for a variety of barbecue-related publications. He is also the author of a number of barbecue books, His most recent release book is “America’s Best BBQ Homestyle: What Champions Cook in Their Own Backyards.”