Let me see you say no to these perfect bites of spicy, melty, bacony heaven…
This quick and easy appetizer/hors d’oeuvre is perfect for holiday entertaining.
1/2 cup cream cheese
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
12 jalapeños, halved lengthwise, seeds and membranes removed
12 slices bacon
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Mix cream cheese and cheddar cheese together in a bowl. Fill each jalapeño half with the cheese mixture. Put halves back together and wrap each stuffed pepper with a slice of bacon. Arrange bacon-wrapped peppers on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake in the preheated oven until bacon is crispy (about 15 minutes).
My previous post was a partial tribute to tamales, but a variety of particular note deserve an ode of their own.
Carmen Mendez, chef and owner of the E 138th Street cart, is the woman responsible for supplying the south Bronx with tamales every morning for the past 8 years. She is a native of Tlapa de Comonfort, in the Mexican state of Guerrero. The small city lies on the western border of the state of Oaxaca; here oaxaqueños are the popular regional tamales. Like their more common corn-husk wrapped cousins, masa dough surrounds a delicious filling, but an oaxaqueño is wrapped in a banana leaf. The flavor of the banana leaves seep into the oaxaqueños, giving these tamales a distinctive taste.
Tamale is a derivative of tamalii, the word for “wrapped food” in Nahuatl, an Aztec language. Tamales are recorded as early as 7000-5000 BC, when, as war inspires invention, they were created as portable food for Aztec, Mayan, and Incan warriors.
The tamales of old came in varieties not seen today. Crushed rice or beans were used at times in place masa. Frog, iguana, gopher, rabbit, turkey eggs, bees, and nuts were acceptable fillings; any non-poisonous leaves, even paper or bark, were acceptable wrappers. They were grilled, roasted, boiled or fried in addition to steamed.
Because tamales are labor intensive -and delicious!- it is virtually unheard of to make just a few. A food this fantastic calls for a fiesta: a tamalada, a tamale-making party.♦
Two food items that rock my world right now are striking in their similarity: hand sized portions of a starch jammed with filling, gift wrapped and steamed to edible perfection.
I am grateful that my place, both on the planet and in history, allow for these foods to coexist in my diet because the origin locations are about as distant from one another as is physically possible. Chinese zongzi (glutenous rice dumplings) are usually wrapped in bamboo leaves into a pyramid shape and filled with things like cubes of roasted pork, boiled eggs, shredded chicken, taro, and Chinese sausage. The ones pictured, from Kam Man supermarket on Canal Street, have a filling of azuki beans, boiled peanuts, and shiitake mushrooms.
The tamale stand in my ‘hood is run by a mother & son from Oaxaca. The mother does the cooking, wrapping and steaming her tamales in corn husks after filling them with chicken in salsa verde, pork in salsa roja , picante queso & vegetables, or a sweet version studded with raisins.
Zongzi and tamales are serious comfort foods, despite neither being part of my experience till long after my childhood.
In between cramming cardboard boxes full of my belongings, I made a big pot of chili and a double batch of pico de gallo the day before moving. After the long day that followed, I threw a housewarming party that featured a homemade meal. Hearty, satisfying, and personal, it was the perfect way to feed my the friends who volunteered to help and introduce myself to my new roommates. And it doesn’t get more PRACTICAL: easy to make, the flavor only improves after a night in the fridge, economical, vegetarian, gluten-free, and interactive (bowls of mix-ins like cheese, sour cream, and bacon pieces allow every palate to be satisfied). Another bit of gold: mix pico de gallo into some mashed avocado and presto, fresh guacamole.