Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Intriguingly Spotty Story of the Jalapeño Popper and a Recipe

Perhaps the result of a Canadian upbringing, but my context for encountering the Jalapeño Popper phenomenon has almost invariably been the greasy laminated pages of generic sports bars. Despite they're uninspired setting, the Jalapeño Popper seems to possess a very tenacious power of memory eradication. You eat, you burn, you sweat, you swear off, then months later, you do it again. This induced amnesia is perhaps a human pain coping mechanism, or maybe it's an adaptive measure taken by the plant and all it's lineage, to ensure continued growth and cultivation.

But that is the Jalapeño proper, I am not Michael Pollan, and we're here  to talk about the Jalapeño Poppers.

It's suspected that Jalapeño Poppers are an Americanized version of the Mexican chile relleno. The name popped up in a big way when Anchor Food Products of Appleton, WI used the term for a brand of cheese-stuffed Jalapeños. The company formally applied for the trademark "Poppers" in 1992, only to be rebuffed by the Poppers Supply Company of Portland, OR (they made popcorn). In 1993, Poppers Supply Co. successfully maintained the "Poppers" trademark for "coated and breaded vegetable pieces," only to transfer it to Anchor Food Products on September 12th, 2001. Not 13 days thereafter, HJ Heinz announced the acquisition of the Poppers brand, while Canadian giant McCain Foods acquired Anchor's production facilities, including plants in Pecos, TX and Cuauhtemoc, Mexico. To this day, McCain encourages you to, "Get Your Party Started" with Anchor Poppers. Whatever.

So why the fuck did did so many people care about the popper?  Simple answer: demand. By 2000, Anchor had annual sales of $503MM USD and production facilities ready to maintain that growth. Complicated answer: there is something deceptively addictive about the heat of a Jalapeño Popper, so powerful, it brought millions shaking, sweating and falling mercifully to their knees, arms outstretched, collective wallet spilling forth cash for just one more taste.

So without further adieu, a recipe!

The Crew
- 10 - 12 Jalapeños
- Cream Cheese
- Fresh Mozzarella
- 1 Shallot, Minced
- Tootkpicks

Ready the ships
Cut the stems of the Jalapeño without interrupting the top surface area. Then, halve the Jalapeños down the middle, length-wise. Be sure you keep each resulting half with it's partner, as you'll be putting them back together again shortly.

Abolish all Mutineers
Take a spoon and remove the entire inside membrane, including all seeds. God help you if you leave seeds in there.

Steady the Men
Fill one side of the split Jalapeño with cream cheese and minced shallots, and the other side with fresh mozzarella. Then close the two sides down on each other and secure with a toothpick. Step and repeat til you've made it through all 12.

Set Sail
Get the grill going at 325 direct heat, and put those poppers on down. Flip after 20 to make sure both sides get a good singe, and keep it going for another 20 - 25. When the cheese starts to ooze out the sides, you know you're done.

We took the poppers inside and stared at them apprehensively. Then I went for it while the others looked on nervously. It was a disaster. What felt like clear sailing turned into fricking Charybdis and the Sirens together on steroids. First my eyes watered, then I started sweating, then I closed my eyes, and just saw wild swirling patterns. I was indeed tripping on Jalapeño Poppers. And before you call me out, know I lived with an Indian roommate for 1 year, and a Texan for 2; so I ain't no slouch. Nevertheless, the only way I could continue was to put on some traditional Mexican garb and start drinking Mezcal as briskly as possible.

So have fun with your poppers, wear a costume if you have to and know that no matter how bad it gets, you'll keep coming back for more.

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