I don't know about you, but for my money, it's hard to beat potato skins and jalapeno poppers when it comes to appetizers. So smashing them together in a one layered, bite-sized appetizer just seems to make sense to me.
The starch from the potato and whipped, slightly sweet cream cheese calms most (most) of the heat from the roasted jalapeno peppers. Eat just one and the only thing you'll be wondering is why you only made one batch.
Baking potatoes isn't hard, but because it can take a while, you'll definitely want to plan ahead or use leftover potatoes for this. Once you have the potatoes baked, cut each one into quarters and scoop out most of the potato flesh. You want to leave some so the skins have some thickness to them.
Before you bake the skins a second time to crisp them up, do something pretty genius: brush them with a thin layer of bacon grease. (You can also use olive oil.)
The jalapeno can be roasted in a 450 F oven until blistered, or you can grill them over high heat -- whatever is easier for you.
When they are blistered on all sides, let them cool, cut them in half and scoop out the seeds. I prefer to leave the skin on my peppers, but you can peel them if you want.
Once the potato skins are baked and crispy around the edges, top each one with a baked pepper half and add a dollop of the whipped cream cheese mixture. Top with crumbled bacon for some crunch and saltiness.
Each one of these ends up being a pretty nicely sized appetizer, and eating more than two before dinner might be a stretch. I'm not saying you shouldn't try, though.
Jalapeno Popper Potato Skins
2 large russet potatoes, baked
4 large jalapenos
Salt and pepper
4 ounces cream cheese
1 tablespoon honey
4 pieces cooked thick bacon, crumbled
Ideally, you would use leftover baked potatoes for the poppers, but if you need to bake a few, let them cool before proceeding.
Heat the oven to 450 F. Arrange two racks, one each in the top third and bottom third of the oven.
Cut each potato into quarters lengthwise. Use a spoon to scrape out the filling of each potato, leaving some flesh next to the skin so it isn't too thin. Brush potato skins with bacon grease or olive oil, and bake on the lower rack for 12 to 15 minutes, until crispy around the edges.
Toss the jalapenos with olive oil and a pinch of salt, and arrangement on a baking sheet. Roast them on the upper rack of the oven for 15 minutes until they are blistered. Turn them occasionally as they roast. When they're done, let them rest for 10 minutes, then cut the peppers in half and scoop out the seeds.
While things are roasting and baking, combine softened cream cheese with the honey and a pinch of salt in a medium mixing bowl. Use a mixer or large fork to beat the cream cheese until it's light and fluffy.
When potato skins are baked and crispy on the edges, top each skin with half of a roasted jalapeno and then with a dollop of whipped cream cheese. Crumble some bacon over top. Serve these while they are warm.
--Some jalapeno might be spicier than others. It's a bit like pepper roulette, but because of the cream cheese and potato, none of them should be too hot to eat.
--If the roasted pepper is slipping off the potato skins, you can add a layer of cream cheese in between the potato and pepper to secure it in place.
--Once you have your potatoes baked, you can also make these on the grill. Grill the peppers until they are tender and finish the potato skins on the grill so they get really crispy!
(Nick Evans is a recipe developer, blogger and frequent contributor to TheKitchn.com, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking. Submit any comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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