05 November 2012

Eats: Jalapeño popper chicken

Nowadays, Mr. P and I rarely eat pre-made frozen food. That sounds easy or obvious enough to some people, I guess... but I’ve eaten at least my fair share of Hot Pockets, Pizza Rolls, and Stouffer’s Lasagnas in my life. It’s just easier to load up your cart with that stuff in the store and definitely easier to prepare it after a long day at work.

But ultimately I wanted to phase it out, as a small thing I could do to feed my small family better. The sodium and saturated fat in those things! It’s scary! So for the most part, our forays into the freezer aisles are just for frozen veggies (and, admittedly, a rare Lean Cuisine or “emergency pizza” for nights when dinner is a flop).

That’s not to say, though, that the freezer aisles of pre-made food aren’t still tempting. There is some tasty stuff in there. Like jalapeño poppers. Oh my, those little fried nuggets of cheesy spicy goodness. I could eat them every day. So when I found this recipe for jalapeño popper chicken from Elly... yes. Yes, yes please.

Let’s get to it! You start by chopping up a jalapeno pepper. Add in a few seeds, if you can take the heat! I could take the heat... I should’ve added more. Oh well.

The jalapeno gets mixed with two ounces (a quarter of a block) of cream cheese and a handful of shredded cheese. I used the standard supermarket “Mexican” blend.

Mix that all together, then turn your attention to the chicken.

These were rather sizable chicken breasts, so I cut them in half width-wise to make four servings. Then, I cut a little pocket in each...

... and stuffed in the filling!

Yeah, the raw chicken is grody, but they’re looking rather promising, eh? And to make them extra yummy: breading! A least-favorite task of mine, but hey, stuffing the chicken was way gross-er than breading.

So scramble an egg, then toss in the chicken to coat:

For the breading itself, Elly says to use panko and taco seasoning. I’m sure that’s delicious, but I had neither of those things. Instead I used regular breadcrumbs and the suggested combination of chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper, oregano, paprika, salt, and pepper.

Coat the eggy chicken in the breading...

Then heat up some vegetable oil in a cast-iron skillet.

Like with the almond-crusted chicken, the cast-iron skillet is key. We’re gonna fry up the chicken for a minute to crisp up the coating, then finish it in the oven!

Give it a minute or two on each side over medium-high heat:

Then pop it all in 375-degree oven for twenty minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through!

Overall this dish was more work than I usually like to invest in dinner (and way, way more touching-raw-chicken than I prefer), but it was worth it in the end! I do offer caution on a few things: I think I overbaked the chicken a bit, thanks to my perpetual fear of serving undercooked chicken, and I also should have added a few more jalapeño seeds, because I would have liked a bit more spice (Elly mentioned that, but I didn’t heed her warning). I also bet the panko would have been way more delicious than the breadcrumbs. But other than those errors on my part, this dish was totally delicious and doable – with potential to be even better!

If you’re craving some old-school freezer treats but want to skip the freezer aisle, give this a try! But if you also just buy a bag of jalapeño popper instead... well, I won’t judge. Just skip the dollar burritos, okay?