Baked jalapeno poppers wrapped in prosciutto are a healthier version of a sports bar classic.
What to do on Fatherís Day when itís time to eat and you want to serve something ďmanlyĒ and filling? Other than steak, that is. Hereís a nominee that re-engineers a classic sports bar appetizer ó jalapeno poppers.
Standard jalapeno poppers are thumb-sized hot peppers stuffed with cream cheese and cheddar cheese, then breaded and deep-fried. Yummy, but most home cooks arenít too excited for the mess of deep-frying. Thatís why there is a baked version ó half a jalapeno stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon.
Both types are delicious, but neither is all that healthy. After all, we want to keep Dad around for a while. So my version delivers gratification without overdoing it.
From a culinary point of view, jalapeno poppers make complete sense. Nothing tames a chiliís heat like dairy. Thatís why so many cultures serve their fiery entrees with dairy as a side dish. The Mexicans team spicy tortillas with crema. The Indians serve hot curries with yogurt-based raita. And thatís why cheese is right at home in a jalapeno popper.
But it doesnít have to be high-fat cheese. The fresh goat cheese in this recipe delivers the required creaminess, while a very modest amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano delivers the required flavor.
I brightened up the filling with scallions and lemon zest, then wrapped the stuffed jalapeno in prosciutto, my substitute for bacon. Though it has a lot less fat than bacon, prosciutto boasts big pork flavor. And when itís baked, as it is here, itís nice and crispy, which eliminates the need to coat the pepper with bread crumbs.
A couple of tips for preparing the jalapenos. First, be sure to wear rubber gloves when youíre halving and gutting the peppers. No matter how macho youíre feeling, you donít want those capsaicin oils burning your hands. Also, use a grapefruit spoon, if you have one, to remove the pepperís innards ó its ribs and seeds ó which are the hottest parts of a chili.
Then serve it to the big guy with pride. Heíll never notice that many of its typical ingredients have gone AWOL.
Baked Prosciutto-Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
1 ounce grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
ľ cup finely chopped scallion greens
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
6 jalapeno peppers
3 ounces (12 slices) prosciutto
Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, then coat it with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, combine the goat cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano, scallion greens and lemon zest. Halve the jalapenos lengthwise and carefully remove the ribs and seeds (wear rubber gloves to protect your hands). Stuff each half with the cheese mixture, being sure to use all of the cheese mixture.
Wrap 1 slice of prosciutto around each stuffed jalapeno half, overlapping the ends of the prosciutto on the bottom of the jalapeno. Arrange the poppers on the prepared baking sheet, then bake on the ovenís center rack until the prosciutto is slightly crispy, about 15 minutes.
Nutrition information per serving: 110 calories; 60 calories from fat (55 percent of total calories); 7 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 25 mg cholesterol; 2 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 10 g protein; 540 mg sodium.
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