Sunday, August 14, 2016

77. Deconstructed Jalapeño Popper Tacos!!!


Deconstructed Jalapeño Popper Tacos Collage

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Well . . . it's been over a month since I've posted anything.  I got a little carried away with summer vacation.  Oops.

The funny thing is . . . I thought it would be easier to blog during the summer.  No.  At least, not for me - so many distractions!  My regular school-year routine was thrown out the window with abandon, and it was hard to figure out where blogging fit into the long, hot, crazy days!  Ha ha.

And . . . I think I just needed a break.  If you have read any of my previous posts, you might have noticed that I have been working on a taco recipe creation project for a little over a year.  Well, it was supposed to be just one year, but I didn't quite make it!  I'm still going to finish my 100 recipes, but it's going to take a little longer.  2 more months?  4 more months?  We'll see.  Once I started questioning whether I should go on vacation or stay home to make tacos, I knew I needed to reassess my priorities!  Ha ha.

So, anyway . . . I made these a few weeks ago.  I wanted to see if I could incorporate the flavors of a jalapeño popper (everyone's favorite spicy bar-food treat, right?) into a taco.  I suppose I could have just made jalapeño poppers, chopped them up, and threw them into some taco shells, but . . . no.  Ha ha.  I felt like the whole thing needed a bit more finesse than that, so I decided to deconstruct/reimagine the typical components of this guilty pleasure and (hopefully) come up with something unique.

I used ground turkey as the base.  I know, that's not typically part of a jalapeño popper filling, but I didn't want to end up with a taco full of nothing but cream cheese.  Ew.  I added bacon to the turkey to give it some flavor (as bacon does happen to be an ingredient that is commonly used in jalapeño poppers).

To incorporate the creamy, cheesy filling, I made a sauce with cream cheese, cheddar, and more peppers!  Finally, I topped the tacos with some crunchy garlic bread crumbs as a nod to the breaded/fried aspect of jalapeño poppers.

Weird, I know.  Well . . . here's the recipe:

Deconstructed Jalapeño Popper Tacos!

Serves 3 or 4 (about 8 tacos) 


For the garlic bread crumbs:

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, pressed through a garlic press
1 cup panko
1/4 tsp. salt
Pinch of red hot pepper flakes

For the poblano-cream cheese sauce:

2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press
2 poblano peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 red pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped
8 oz. cream cheese
2 oz. white cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the turkey filling:

2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. dried Mexican oregano
1 lb. ground turkey
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 slices of cooked bacon, crumbled or chopped
1 tbsp. green hot sauce (I used Gringo Bandito.)

Green Hot Sauce for Deconstructed Jalapeño Popper Tacos

Other things you'll need:

8 large jalapeños, roasted, peeled, and seeded (left whole as much as possible)

Peppers for Deconstructed Jalapeño Popper Tacos

12 crunchy taco shells (I used Trader Joe's Brand.)

Taco Shells for Deconstructed Jalapeño Popper Tacos

Chile powder of your choice, for garnish (optional)


1.  Make the bread crumb topping:  Place the olive oil and the garlic in a medium skillet over low heat.  Cook until the garlic is fragrant and the oil is very warm.  Add the panko, salt, and red pepper and stir to combine.  Cook (stirring occasionally) over low heat until the crumbs are toasty.  Be careful not to burn them - it's easy to get impatient!  Mine took about 25 minutes and ended up looking like this:

Garlic Bread Crumbs for Deconstructed Jalapeño Popper Tacos

Set the bread crumbs aside to cool.

2.  Make the poblano-cream cheese sauce:  Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion, reduce the heat slightly, and cook until softened and slightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and chiles.  Cook for an additional 3 to 4 minutes, or until everything is heated through and most of the liquid from the chiles has evaporated.  Cut the cream cheese into pieces and add to the mixture along with the shredded cheddar cheese.  Cook, stirring often, until the cheeses are melted and the mixture is hot and bubbling.  Add the salt and cilantro and remove from the heat.  Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.  Cover and set aside.

Poblano Cream Cheese Sauce for Deconstructed Jalapeño Popper Tacos

3.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion, reduce the heat slightly, and cook until softened and slightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the garlic, cumin, and oregano and cook and stir for an additional minute or so.  Add the turkey, salt, and pepper and increase the heat to medium.  Cook, stirring and breaking apart with a spatula, until the turkey is completely done.  Stir in the crumbled bacon and hot sauce.  Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.  Remove from the heat.

Turkey Filling for Deconstructed Jalapeño Popper Tacos

4.  Assemble the tacos:  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Take each roasted jalapeño and cut it down one side (if you didn't already do that while seeding them) and lay it out flat.  Place all of the shells in a baking dish that will allow them all to stand upright.  (This was the trickiest part for me - they kept falling over!  It took a few tries to get them all propped up!)  Line each taco shell with a whole jalapeño.  Top with some of the turkey mixture.  Spread on some of the poblano cream-cheese sauce and sprinkle with the garlic bread crumbs.

Deconstructed Jalapeño Popper Tacos - Ready to Bake
Oops!  I took this picture before I sprinkled on the bread crumbs!

5.  Bake the tacos:  Place the pan in the oven and bake until all of the taco ingredients are hot and the shells are starting to brown.  Mine took about 15 minutes, but this could vary depending on your oven, so watch them carefully.  The shells can go from browned to burned very quickly!

6.  Sprinkle each taco with a bit of chile powder (if desired) and serve two or three for each person.  If you have nifty little taco holders like the ones below, use them!  They make things easier!  :)


Deconstructed Jalapeño Popper Tacos

These were definitely a hit.  My husband and I both enjoyed them.  One important thing to mention, though . . . any given taco could be WAY hotter than the others.  The heat level of jalapeños can really vary from pepper to pepper, and since I used a single pepper for each taco, there was no way to gauge the general spiciness of the recipe.  Some tacos were pleasantly spicy.  A couple of them were like death.  Seriously.

My husband started complaining that his taco was too spicy and I actually thought he was being a baby.  At first.  Then I took a bite of that taco and went running for the freezer in search of something cold to put in my mouth.  Ha ha.

It's good to know that going in.  I'd still recommend them, but just be aware you may be playing a kind of Russian roulette with heat!  :)

There is only one thing I would change.  The sauce was a bit on the thick side.  I thought it would thin out during the baking process and I didn't want it oozing out of the tacos and getting all over the place.  It didn't.  The thickness stayed the same even when the tacos were very hot.  It wasn't bad; it just wasn't what I had envisioned.  When I make this again, I'll probably add a couple of tablespoons of liquid to the sauce - maybe heavy cream?  Mmmm.

By the way, the sauce is fantastic.  You will want to put it on EVERYTHING!  You'll probably have some left, and you won't be sorry!  I spread some of it on an breakfast sandwich the next day and was very pleased with the result!

Deconstructed Jalapeño Popper Tacos (2)

Well, I'll be going back to school tomorrow.  Maybe that will bring some normalcy back into my life and I'll be able to post more recipes!  (Actually, I still have a few more that I've already made and need to post!  Oops.)

Small steps.  Recipe number 100, I'm feeling you.  I'll get there.  I'm not one to start a project and not finish it, especially if it's crazy!  Ha ha. 

Please feel free to comment!  Did you try these?  What did you think?  Thanks for reading!  :)