Baton Rouge hasn’t had the easiest 2016. The Alton Sterling shooting, followed by the shooting of three law enforcement officers, followed by an epic flood. The somber mood has made us cleave to what really matters – friends and family. Weekends have many of us huddled up watching football (another letdown lately if you’re an LSU fan) stuffing our faces with gameday eats. That part isn’t so bad.
Recently, we got together with friends for an at-home tailgate. I brought these seafood poppers.
Bacon-wrapped…deep-fried…oozing with cheesy goodness…. everyone’s got their favorite formula for the jalapeño popper, but I like to cut the peppers in half and stuff them with a cream cheese-based mixture, then place them over a medium charcoal fire for a few minutes – just enough to give the peppers a slight char while retaining a slight crunch. You can go easy with cream cheese only, but it’s more fun to add ingredients like crabmeat, shrimp, crawfish, smoked or ground sausage, sautéed aromatic veggies and spices to the cheese for extra flavor and texture. If you’re in a rush, one of my favorite fuss-free shortcuts is to pick up an interesting creamy dip from a speciality store, like the sumptuous crab and brie dip from Maxwell’s Market here in Baton Rouge. It’s the perfect consistency for poppers and has incredible flavor.
Making your own filling is simple and even more satisfying. Bring a tray of assembled poppers to a tailgate party and place them on the grill a few minutes before serving.
Ridiculously easy and never goes out of style.
Gameday seafood poppers
Makes 24 poppers
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
12 fresh large jalapeño peppers
8 oz. block of cream cheese, softened
½ cup combination of cooked crawfish, crab, shrimp, smoked sausage (should be bite-sized)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
½ teaspoon salt
Chopped scallions (green parts) for garnish
Heat olive oil to medium high and add chopped onion. Sauté until soft and set aside. Slice peppers down middle. If you like them extra hot, leave ribs and seeds. If not, remove and discard. (If you want a combination of both, designate difference by leaving stems on some.) Set peppers aside.
To softened cream cheese, add sautéed onions, seafood/sausage, parsley and salt. Fill each halved jalapeño with about one tablespoon or less of cheese mixture. Top with chopped scallions and grill over a medium fire or indirect heat for about 3-5 minutes. Plate, allow to cool slightly and serve.