Monday, February 6, 2012

Superbowl Sip and Snack - Pickle Backs & Bacon Jalapeno Poppers

This year’s Superbowl fete included a whole lotta food, too much drink, and a win by the Giants. What could be better?  Well, for starters, I should’ve had the foresight to take the next day off today to recover from my food coma, but I digress. 

The Superbowl is one of many days where Americans feel at liberty to be gluttonous and stuff their faces with mass quantities of the unhealthiest foods possible.

We are no exception, so as I planned the party menu to be served to some of my husband's local friends, we chose all the usual suspects, both store bought and homemade: wings, chips and pico de gallo, meatball subs, loads of cheese and cured meats, focaccia pizza and cupcakes for dessert with Giants colored icing, natch. Thanks to my local cupcake shop, there was no baking required.
Pico de Gallo, Photo: NK

Prosciutto and Red Pepper Jelly, Photo: NK

Cheese Plate with Fruits, Nuts, and Apricot Preserve, Photo: NK

But rather than go deep into what was a tasty spread, I’d like to instead share two of our favorite offerings that were extra well received.

First off – Bacon Jalapeno Poppers:
There are numerous recipes out there for Jalapeno Poppers. These ubiquitous bites of spicy goodness come in all varieties, from deep fried to ooey-gooey cheese-filled - or both. I try not to deep fry too often because it makes a mess and it usually has to be done right before serving to avoid mushiness. The recipe below, adapted from recipes I've seen over the years, is so easy and simple and works with nearly any cream cheese-based filling. These poppers can be assembled ahead of time and put in the oven when guests arrive. Don't fear the Jalapeno heat. The cheese filling mellows the spiciness of the peppers, which also get a bit less fiery in the cooking process. Bacon, the king of meats (according to most men I know) is an addition that makes these poppers a sure hit.  

My husband is a very loyal bacon devotee. In fact, my mom refers to him as “Bacon Boy” on a regular basis. Since bacon eating was practically a prerequisite for dating him, I've tried to at least limit our intake to once every two weeks or so. But after the way we gorged on these Bacon Jalapeno Poppers last night, we’re probably good for the next few months. 

Bacon Jalapeno Poppers
Serves 8 – 3 poppers per person

  • A dozen medium to large sized green Jalapenos, sliced lengthwise and cleaned of ribs and seeds. Tip: Using a knife to detach the white membrane on each end and then dragging a small spoon down the middle works well to de-seed. And for the love of god, don’t touch your eyes for the rest of the day.
  • Cream Cheese of your choice at room temperature. I used Philadelphia Brand Chive Flavor, but plain or other flavors would work. I sometimes mix in a bit of shredded cheddar into the cream cheese to up the cheese factor.
  • 2/3 of a package of high-quality bacon. We love Coleman Natural Uncured Hickory Smoked Bacon. It’s cut a bit on the thicker side, which makes it extra yummy. Coleman products are also hormone free and humanely raised. I swear you can taste the difference.
  • 24 plain toothpicks, soaked in water and patted until just damp.

Preheat the oven to 375. 

Spoon your cream cheese mixture into the jalapeno halves. You can use a damp paper towel to pretty up any overflow on the edges.

Slide the bacon out of its packaging leaving it all in one block. Cut the bacon into thirds creating about 3 rows of approximately 3 inch lengths, long enough to wrap once around your jalapeno halves with a tiny bit of overlap. You may want to try cutting a single strip first to determine the best length.

Ready to cook, Photo: NK

Wrap a strip of bacon once around the middle of the jalapeno, joining the ends underneath and overlapping slightly. Secure each with a toothpick piercing all the way through.

Place poppers on a rack positioned over a baking sheet or pan with sides (in order catch any grease).

Pop everything in the oven and cook about 20 to 25 minutes, or more if you like your bacon on the crispy side. Keep an eye on it to get it to your preferred doneness. I like mine less crispy.

Yummy Bacon Jalapeno Poppers, Photo: NK 
Let cool a bit and enjoy! These will go fast…

Next up,  

What in the world is a Pickle Back?
A Pickle Back is a cocktail recipe – of sorts. I recently learned about it at a housewarming party hosted by my good friend Missy. She'd just enjoyed it at a New Year's party just a few weeks before. The Pickle Back is really a shot, a curious shot, which includes a healthy helping of pure pickle juice straight from the jar as a chaser to a stiff nip of whiskey. This two step combo shot purportedly originated at a dive bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. 

Assess your crowd before serving, as the mere suggestion of shooting straight pickle juice may sound odd to most. For me, the thought of gulping a large quantity of Jameson Irish Whiskey (the preferred Pickle Back spirit) was more daunting. As a drinker of lemon juice, vinegar, and lover of all piquant tastes, the pickle part was less far-fetched. That’s right, I’m the classy girl who will secretly slurp the remainder of a good vinaigrette from the bottom of my salad bowl, but only in the privacy of my own home, ideally.

After a bit of internet research, it was clear that the Pickle Back has been around a while, but it seems to be getting even more popular: 

The Pickle Back Shot 

Pickle Back Provisions, Photo: NK

What you need:
  • 2 shot glasses per person
  • Jameson Irish Whiskey
  • Pickle juice that has been strained of seeds – We used Kosher Dill Juice from the Vlasic Pickle Jar. One jar will get you about 8 shots.
  • Fill half of the glasses with Jameson, and the remaining glasses with pickle juice.
  • Each person gets a Jameson shot and pickle shot.
  • Willing participants 
At first, my guests were understandably leery, so I cooled my heels until they had a few more drinks and inhibitions went out the window. We then toasted the Giants and knocked ‘em back - Jameson first, pickle juice immediately after. Guess what? They liked it. The pickle juice totally erases the harsh traces of Whiskey on the palate, leaving you with just that pleasing vinegary taste. Jameson seems to be the preferred Whiskey for the Pickle Back, and here it did us proud. Next thing I knew, we were deciding who would head out for more pickle provisions.  I recommend you give it a try!

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