Blue Cornmeal-Crusted Goat Cheese Jalapeño Poppers with Green Chile Ranch

Blue Cornmeal-Crusted Goat Cheese Jalapeño Poppers with Green Chile Ranch

Posted By Fanny Slater April 7th, 2020 Last Updated on: April 7th, 2020

Great news!

I’m officially in love with jalapeño poppers.

Not to say that I haven’t cordially crushed on them in the past, but ever since moving to the Midwest—my curiosity has progressed from simply stimulated to stage five clinger.



When it comes to appetizers, I’m a sucker for beer-battered pickles, marinara-smothered mozzarella sticks, and my most prolific weakness of all—chips and queso. Jalapeño poppers—or simply “poppers” as the locals say here in Illinois—only ever intrigued me from afar.

How do they get the cream cheese in there? Do they actually pop? Was one bite going to result in smoke spewing from my ears and my eyebrows falling off? That may be a bit of a stretch, but it’s a whole freakin’ chili pepper, after all.

If I was going to familiarize myself with this classic and ultimately take it into my own hands (while then being incredibly mindful not to touch my face), I was going to need some background.

First, let’s discuss the ouch factor.



The active ingredient which causes a chili pepper’s sting is called capsaicin—an irritant for humans that produces a burning sensation. So what does this say about us that we scatter this component like wildfire over our pizzas, nachos, and breakfast burritos?

There’s something about eating spicy food that’s satisfying in a strange way. We know it’s not actually going to hurt us, but there’s a sting. A zip. A prickle of heat that hits our taste buds and reminds us that we’re alive.

What a bunch of weirdos we are.

The history of chili peppers runs deep, but as far as Native North American tribes go, the peppers were primarily used to season food. Some of the Southwestern tribes, such as the Hopi and Pueblo used them in a more ritualistic setting, while Mayans attributed the fiery ingredient for its healing properties.

Now, let’s jump to holy delicious jalapeño poppers covered in blue cornmeal. The purpose of this recipe is to put an elevated, Native American-inspired flair on a familiar favorite and these zesty appetizers accomplish exactly that.

When it comes to poppers, I’ve found that I can’t make up my mind over which part I like best. A crackly, perfectly fried crust with loads of texture and flavor is a no-brainer. But a lush, velvety filling of cream cheese, tart lime juice, and tangy goat cheese is a show stopper. 

Add a seriously solid homemade ranch and I’m just a mess of indecisiveness.

To put a Native twist on these treats, I needed a landing zone that incorporated traditional ingredients. Enter: creamy buttermilk ranch infused with subtly sweet, delicately spicy green chiles (like the Pueblo Native Americans have cultivated for centuries).

As for me, I bought them in the grocery store down the street. Feel free to follow my lead.

They add a mild, lightly pungent brightness to my dipper that simply can’t be replicated. Peppers dunked in pepper ranch? Oh yes, I did.

Next, I began with the popper’s shell and worked my way inwards. Although there are a handful of varieties of multicolored corn, I believe that blue is the most iconic. It holds both physical and religious significance as Taos Pueblo members actually used it in the naming rituals of their children.

We’re just using it to make our jalapeño poppers extra crispy, but to each his own.

Blue cornmeal contains more protein than yellow or white and most importantly for my purposes—more pizzazz. The ground grain’s fine texture is abundantly earthy, rich of corn, and slightly nutty. The battering process may sound complicated at first (flour, milk, flour, milk, cornmeal, touch your toes, wait what?), but it’s worth it.

This double dredge guarantees a hearty crust that won’t undress your popper. Although that sounds like a good time…

A dusting of fragrant chili powder in the flour and a fistful of fluffy cilantro in the ranch give each bite an even more powerful punch of aromatics. See? There was never any reason to fear the fire of these addictively mouthwatering morsels.

Once the scary insides of the jalapeños are removed, you’re left with a vibrant, fresh, crunchy pepper that you’ll realize you never should have been afraid of in the first place. 

Pass the poppers, please.



Blue Cornmeal-Crusted Goat Cheese Jalapeño Poppers with Green Chile Ranch

Blue Cornmeal-Crusted Goat Cheese Jalapeño Poppers with Green Chile Ranch

If you’ve got jalapeño poppers on the brain, these gloriously golden-brown bites plunked in smoky green chile ranch will satisfy all your spicy cravings. From the sweet, nutty, double-battered blue cornmeal coating to the tangy goat cheese filling, every mouthful is a total omg moment. Read on for the recipe.

Ingredients

  • Makes 16 jalapeño poppers
  • 1 medium clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon rough chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives, divided
  • 2 ounces diced green chiles
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 16 medium to large jalapeños (with stems)
  • 6 ounces goat cheese, softened
  • 6 tablespoons plain cream cheese, softened
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup blue cornmeal
  • Vegetable oil (for frying, enough to reach 3-inch depth)

Instructions

Step 1 – Make the Green Chile Ranch

Chop the garlic and cilantro and mince the chives. Soften the cream cheese.

In a food processor, pulse the garlic, cilantro, 1 tablespoon of the chives, green chiles, white wine vinegar, mayonnaise, sour cream, 3/4 cup of the buttermilk, salt, and pepper until the dressing comes together. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if necessary. 

Refrigerate the dressing for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to come together.

Step 2 – Char the Jalapeños and Make the Filling

Place an oven rack about 8-inches from the broiler and preheat the broiler to high.

Arrange the jalapeños on a baking sheet and broil, turning occasionally, until lightly charred and blistered all over but still firm—about 6-8 minutes. 

You can also roast the peppers over a gas burner on the stove. Transfer the jalapeños to a large bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and set aside. Covering them while they’re still warm will steam the skins and make them easier to peel off.

In a small bowl, mix together the remaining 1 tablespoon of chives, the goat cheese, cream cheese, and lime juice and season to taste with salt. Scoop the mixture into a resealable plastic bag, close, and snip the corner so you can use it like a pastry bag.

Step 3 – Halve the Jalapeños and Remove the Seeds and Ribs

Using a paring knife, gently scrape off and remove as much of the jalapeño’s skin as possible. Divide the jalapeños in half and then, using a paring knife or small spoon, remove the seeds and ribs.

You could keep the jalapeños whole if you prefer, but it’s more difficult to scoop out all the seeds and ribs, so they will be spicier!

Step 4 – Stuff the Jalapeños and Prepare the Breading Station

Squeeze the goat cheese filling into each jalapeño half (not so they’re overflowing, but enough so you can press them back together easily) and then secure the halves back together using toothpicks. Depending on the size of your jalapeños, you may need 2 or 3 per pepper.

Set up an assembly line of three wide, shallow bowls and prepare a large clean plate or baking sheet lined with foil.

In the first bowl on the left, add the flour and mix it with a generous pinch of salt. In the middle bowl, whisk together the remaining 3/4 cup of buttermilk with the eggs and chili powder. In the third, add the cornmeal and mix it with a pinch of salt.

Step 5 – Double-Bread the Jalapeños 

Working gently and in batches (so the jalapeños halves stick together), dredge them in the flour, shaking off any excess, and then in the buttermilk. Repeat with the remaining jalapeños, and then set them aside on the plate to dry for about 10-15 minutes. This first step will ensure a thick, crunchy coating that doesn’t slide off.

Dip the dried jalapeños back into the buttermilk, and then into the cornmeal, turning and patting them with a dry hand to make sure they’re evenly coated. Transfer the battered jalapeños back to the plate.

Step 6 – Fry and Serve

In a deep, wide cast iron skillet or heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, heat about 3 inches of oil to 350° F, and prepare a paper towel-lined plate nearby.

If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test if the oil is hot enough by dipping the handle of a wooden spoon into it. If it bubbles steadily, the oil is hot enough. If it bubbles and sizzles vigorously, the oil is too hot. 

Holding the stuffed, breaded peppers by the stem and working in batches so you don’t crowd the pan and lower the temperature of the oil, gently lower the jalapeños into the hot oil. 

Fry, turning once, until golden-brown all over, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer the fried jalapeños to the paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil and immediately sprinkle with salt. Serve hot with the green chile ranch.

Notes

In a food processor, pulse the garlic, cilantro, 1 tablespoon of the chives, green chiles, white wine vinegar, mayonnaise, sour cream, 3/4 cup of the buttermilk, salt, and pepper until the dressing comes together. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if necessary. Refrigerate the dressing for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to come together.

Place an oven rack about 8-inches from the broiler and preheat the broiler to high.

Arrange the jalapeños on a baking sheet and broil, turning occasionally, until lightly charred and blistered all over but still firm—about 6-8 minutes. You can also roast the peppers over a gas burner on the stove. Transfer the jalapeños to a large bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the remaining 1 tablespoon of chives, the goat cheese, cream cheese, and lime juice and season to taste with salt. Scoop the mixture into a resealable plastic bag, close, and snip the corner so you can use it like a pastry bag.

Using a paring knife, gently scrape off and remove as much of the jalapeño’s skin as possible. Divide the jalapeños in half and then, using a paring knife or small spoon, remove the seeds and ribs.

Squeeze the goat cheese filling into each jalapeño half (not so they’re overflowing, but enough so you can press them back together easily) and then secure the halves back together using toothpicks.

Set up an assembly line of three wide, shallow bowls and prepare a large clean plate or baking sheet lined with foil.

In the first bowl on the left, add the flour and mix it with a generous pinch of salt. In the middle bowl, whisk together the remaining 3/4 cup of buttermilk with the eggs and chili powder. In the third, add the cornmeal and mix it with a pinch of salt.

Working gently and in batches (so the jalapeños halves stick together), dredge them in the flour, shaking off any excess, and then in the buttermilk. Repeat with the remaining jalapeños, and then set them aside on the plate to dry for about 10-15 minutes.

Dip the dried jalapeños back into the buttermilk, and then into the cornmeal, turning and patting them with a dry hand to make sure they’re evenly coated. Transfer the battered jalapeños back to the plate.

In a deep, wide cast iron skillet or heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, heat about 3 inches of oil to 350° F, and prepare a paper towel-lined plate nearby.

If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test if the oil is hot enough by dipping the handle of a wooden spoon into it. If it bubbles steadily, the oil is hot enough. If it bubbles and sizzles vigorously, the oil is too hot. 

Holding the stuffed, breaded peppers by the stem and working in batches so you don’t crowd the pan and lower the temperature of the oil, gently lower the jalapeños into the hot oil. 

Fry, turning once, until golden-brown all over, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer the fried jalapeños to the paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil and immediately sprinkle with salt. Serve hot with the green chile ranch.

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About Fanny Slater

Fanny Slater
Food Network Personality
Cookbook Author, Food Writer & Recipe Developer
Winner of Rachael Ray's Great American Cookbook Competition



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