Texas Highways photo editor Mike Murphy is a member of the Hamilton Pool Jalapeño Squeezers, a group of friends who enjoys competing in barbecue cookoffs. The group agreed to share one of its award-winning recipes; however, Mike cautions: “You might want to wear some disposable food-service gloves when preparing these appetizers, and DON’T rub your eyes or anything else!” He adds, “These are fun to serve at parties—they tend to separate the real Texans from the wannabes!”
18 to 24 large, fresh jalapeños
1 smoked chicken breast (precooked), finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
2 tsp. Tony Chachere’s Original Seasoning
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Juice of 1 lime
1/3 c. chopped pecans (optional)
1 lb. bacon (either thin- or thick-sliced)
Sturdy round toothpicks
Slice each jalapeño lengthwise, from tip of pepper to below stem, almost in half so that you can open it like a clam. Remove seeds and veins, using a small melon scooper or spoon. Wash jalapeños, making sure to wash away any remaining seeds. Combine chopped chicken breast, onion, and cilantro in a medium-size bowl. Add cream cheese, seasonings, and lime-juice (and pecans, if desired), and mix well; set aside.
Remove 9 to 12 pieces of bacon from package, cut pieces in half, (each length of bacon will wrap 2 peppers), and set aside. (Reserve remaining bacon for another use.) Using a spoon, fill each jalapeno with stuffing, and squeeze the pepper closed. Scrape off excess stuffing, then wrap a length of bacon around pepper, and secure it by inserting a toothpick all the way through. (Any remaining stuffing makes an excellent dip.)
Refrigerate peppers (overnight, if necessary) until ready to cook. Prepare charcoal fire. (Peppers may also be deep-fried, if you prefer.) When ready, grill peppers, turning often, about 10 minutes, or until bacon looks done, then serve. Yield: 18 to 24 appetizers.