Atomic goodness makes a dandy sultry summer snack

On lazy, sultry summer afternoons I’m always looking for creative hors d’oeuvres to prepare on my smoker, gas grill or charcoal barbecue that are a little more adventurous than, say, medallions or marinated chicken fingers — although those are pretty tasty too.

These jalapeño pepper beauties stuffed with cheese, then wrapped in bacon are just the ticket, created by internationally award-winning barbecue champion, my long-time friend Danielle Dimovski a.k.a. DivaQ of Barrie, Ont., who offers a gazillion other tested winning treats on her website www.divaq.ca.

“I make thousands of these each year,” she says, with more than a little pride.

“Yes, thousands for demonstrations, family parties because, well, I just love them.” She calls them Atomic Buffalo Turds, but I opted for a more modest name, Chips.

“There are countless recipes for ABTs all over the Internet,” she says. “Everyone has their own, whether they have little smokies in them or leftover pulled pork. One of my favorites is garlic with three cheeses, which I make in batches of 50.”

In a word, they are awesome. Trust me on this.

A few tips, after I made a batch on Sunday:

– Choose thinly sliced supermarket bacon that tends to be very limp and watery, which wrap neatly around the peppers and tend to seal well. High-quality butcher bacon is often too thick and doesn’t seal the edges as well;

– Don’t add more salt to the mix as the ingredients, especially the bacon, are salty enough;

– When slicing jalapeños in half, lengthwise, do not remove the stem to prevent the rich cheesy filling from leaking out onto the grill;

– Place stuffed, wrapped peppers cut-side up over indirect heat on your gas grill, charcoal barbecue or smoker. I like to place them on the overhead bun rack, then use a stick to prop open the lid slightly to maintain the temperature at 250 F (120 C);

– Position a disposable aluminum pan under the peppers to catch the fat and cheese drippings that will inevitably leak out. It cuts down on cleanup later.

While cooking these lovelies for an hour or longer may seem excessive, at this low temperature I discovered 80 minutes is just about right. When they’re done, the bacon should take on a golden colour.

Remember, the longer they cook the less intense the jalapeño heat will be. Properly cooked, these atomic buffalo chips will be packed with flavour and not too spicy — although, hey, a beer to wash them down hardly hurts.

Let’s see, green peppers stuffed with cream cheese, parmesan, mozzarella wrapped in bacon means I think we’ve got our summer food groups covered. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

DivaQ’s Cheesy Atomic Buffalo Chips

Makes 16-20 hors d’oeuvres

8 to 10 jalapeño peppers, halved lengthwise and seeds/membrance removed (do not remove stem)

For the filling:

8 ounces (225 g) cream cheese, room temperature to soften

1/4 cup (50 mL) grated romano cheese

1/2 cup (125 mL) grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup (125 mL) grated smoked mozzarella cheese

1/2 onion, diced fine

2 teaspoons (10 mL) hot sauce

1 teaspoon (5 mL) smoked paprika

1 teaspoon (5 mL) smoked chili powder

1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) granulated garlic (not garlic salt)

To finish:

16 to 20 slices thinly sliced supermarket bacon

In a bowl, combine filling ingredients well. Slice jalapeño peppers in half, lengthwise, being certain to retain stem end so the filling won’t leak out. Fill half-peppers with cheese mixture, then wrap each with one slice of bacon to cover all of the filling.

Using one burner only, preheat gas barbecue (or, if using charcoal, prepare coals on one side only) to 250 F (120 C). Place wrapped peppers cut-side up over unlit side (indirect heat). Tip: I like to place peppers on bun-warming rack, with a disposable aluminum pan below to catch dripping and avoid a mess.

Grill from 1 to 2 hours, propping open the lid with a stick if necessary to maintain correct temperature, until cream cheese is bubbling out the edges and the bacon is cooked.

More tips: Other spices may be used in place of paprika and chili powder. If you are sensitive to the spicy oils in the jalapeño, wear rubber gloves. In any case, wash hands well with soap and water after handling hot peppers, and be sure not to touch your eyes while preparing these treats. The longer you smoke or grill them, the less hot the peppers will be.

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