I have a new kitchen gadget, and it’s a fun one. Actually, it’s a grilling gadget for roasting jalapeños, and it’s from Williams-Sonoma. I wish they were paying me to tell you about it, but they’re not. I’d had my eye on this for the longest time and finally purchased one the other day. It’s made to hold jalapeños upright and keep them above the flame of the grill, and it has little handles on each side for easy moving and lifting. I couldn’t wait to pull a rack full of oozing, cheese-filled chiles with blistered skins and smoky flavor off the grill. I found some nice and smallish banana peppers at the farmers’ market but had to stop by the grocery store for the jalapeños. The first step was cutting off all the tops and hollowing out the centers. Williams-Sonoma also sells a pepper corer, but a grapefruit knife works well. You’ll want to scrape away the white membranes all the way down the tip inside the chiles and tap out the seeds. This opens space for the stuffing and removes the source of the chiles’ heat.
Once the chiles were cleaned and hollowed, I placed them in a glass bowl and poured a quick, garlic marinade over them. They sat in the marinade for about two hours, and I stirred them twice during that time to distribute the marinade. Next, it was time to stuff them. I made a simple stuffing of cream cheese, monterey jack cheese, chopped cilantro, and salt and pepper and used a butter knife to fill each chile. With a butter knife, it’s easy to push a small amount of filling all the way to the bottom of the hollowed chile and then keep adding until it’s full. I had reserved the tops of the cut-off chiles, and they were returned to where they belonged once the filling was in place.
There was just one little issue with this roaster contraption, or maybe it’s not the contraption at all but was just a twist of fate regarding the size of jalapeños being sold locally last weekend. Several of the chiles I used slid right through the holes on the roasting rack. Maybe they were slenderer than usual. The banana peppers were definitely smallish and thin, but I didn’t think the jalpeños looked any thinner than normal. To hold our chiles in place, Kurt took charge of placing little rings of foil on the rack to fill out extra space in each opening, and that worked fine. The stuffed chiles went to the grill as secure as can be, and we eagerly awaited the end of their cooking time. They sat on a medium-hot area of the grill for about 18 minutes total, and Kurt turned the rack once after 10 minutes. The wait for the molten centers to cool enough so as to only burn a little seemed like an eternity, and I worried the jalapeños would be too spicy even though the membranes and seeds had been removed. We were surprised to find the jalapeños were very mild tasting as if the grilling had tamed them. The simple cheese filling worked well as it allowed the character of the chiles themselves to play a bigger part, and the time over charcoal was a key element in building the overall taste. The jalapeños were terrific, but we found that we were gravitating to the flavor of the banana peppers, and they oddly had a bigger hint of spiciness. Roasting the stuffed chiles was as fun as I’d imagined it would be, and I predict we’ll be doing this pretty much every time we light the grill.
Grilled Stuffed Chiles
18 plump, short chiles to fit the roasting rack as best as possible
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 T white wine vinegar
1/3 c olive oil
8 oz cream cheese, softened
3/4 c shredded monterey jack cheese
2 T chopped cilantro leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
-cut tops from chiles and hollow out interiors removing membranes and seeds
-in a small bowl, whisk together minced garlic and vinegar, slowly add olive oil while whisking, and season to taste with salt and pepper
-place hollowed chiles in a glass bowl and pour marinade over them; refrigerate for two hours; to evenly distribute, stir chiles and marinade twice during the two hours
-in a medium bowl, stir together cream cheese, monterey jack cheese, cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste
-remove one chile at a time from marinade and let excess oil drip back into bowl; fill each chile using a butter knife; start by placing a small amount of stuffing all the way at the bottom of the hollowed space and then continue adding until the filling reaches the top
-place filled chiles in the roasting rack and replace reserved tops on the chiles
-grill over medium-high heat for 10 minutes; turn rack; check for doneness after another eight minutes; chiles should be blistered and softened and the filling should be oozing and melty