Recipe: Mild or intense, jalapeno’s essence makes a statement | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Recipe: Mild or intense, jalapeno’s essence makes a statement

  • TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE

    Cheddar jalapeno chicken burgers with guacamole.

With due respect to Mrs. Gump, my mama always said life was like a box of jalapenos: You never know how spicy it is going to be until you bite into one.

And that’s the problem with jalapenos in general. You could have two of the peppers side by side, identical in every way. You bite into one and it produces a pleasant, faint tingle on your tongue, like fairy dust. Then you nibble on the other and it melts your ears.

Jalapenos are a most inconstant fruit. So why do we love them so much?

Because they are just that good.

In my youth, I occasionally used to eat entire jalapenos raw. We all do stupid things when we are young, and that was one of mine. I didn’t enjoy it, but I thought I should.

Fortunately, I am older and wiser now. I take my peppers in smaller doses. I also make absolutely certain to wash my hands thoroughly and then wash them again whenever I touch a jalapeno that has been cut open. That’s a mistake that you only make once.

In a recent grown-up dive into the pepper, I made a corn relish with jalapenos and cilantro. It has a little bit of a kick, but not much.

What it does have is a delightful, fresh flavor, with just enough acid in the pickling liquid to give it a bit of an edge. The taste is summery and mild, because it is a quick pickle (or as we like to call it around here, a quickle).

Some pickles can be harsh because they are over-pickled. But quick pickles, as the name suggests, are done quickly and made in a weak brine. That allows the vegetables — in this case, corn, jalapeno and onion — to keep their flavors pure while still exhibiting an enjoyable tartness.

Because I was still hungry, I made chicken burgers with jalapeno mixed into the ground chicken before being formed into patties.

This is another case where the particular jalapeno I used was on the (very) mild side. But the burgers were marvelously flavorful because of all the other good things also mixed in: onion, garlic, cilantro, cumin, paprika and shredded cheddar cheese. You can’t go wrong with all of those ingredients blended into a chicken burger (for beef, I’d leave out the cumin and paprika), and it is even better when you top it with guacamole, a slice of red onion and sour cream.

And if you happen upon a jalapeno that actually has a kick to it, the burger would be better still.

I still wasn’t done, so I made an absolutely lovely side dish, fingerlings potatoes with jalapenos.

Here, the fingerlings (small, finger-shaped potatoes) are first baked. While still warm, they are tossed in a simple vinaigrette made from olive oil, whole-grain mustard and sherry vinegar (you could also use red wine vinegar, but the sherry vinegar makes it sublime).

The jalapeno is added at the end, in thin slices. It adds a nice little counterpoint of heat.

But frankly, the dish is glorious enough without it. If you don’t like it hot, just leave it out.

CHEDDAR JALAPENO CHICKEN BURGERS WITH GUACAMOLE

By Whatsgabycooking.com

  • 1-1/2 pounds ground chicken
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chopped jalapeno
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/3 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 hamburger buns, toasted

>> Toppings: Sour cream, guacamole, lettuce, sliced red onions

Prepare a grill for medium heat (or use a lightly greased skillet).

In a medium bowl, combine chicken, onion, cilantro, garlic, jalapeno, cumin, paprika, cheddar cheese, salt and pepper. Using hands, mix everything together. Make sure everything is evenly incorporated but don’t over-mix.

Form into 4 patties. Grill or pan-fry until cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Serve in buns, with toppings as desired. Serves 4.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 597 calories, 32 g total fat, 10 g saturated fat, 164 mg cholesterol, 34 g protein, 38 g carbohydrate, 5 g sugar, 7 g fiber, 1,239 mg sodium, 221 mg calcium.

JALAPENO-CILANTRO PICKLED CORN

By Bon Appetit

  • 4 ears of corn
  • 1/2 small onion (yellow or red), thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
  • 4 large sprigs cilantro
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 (1-quart) canning jar or 2 (1-pint) jars, with lids

Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Cook corn in large pot of boiling water until just cooked through, about 2 minutes. Set in ice bath to cool.

Drain; cut kernels from cobs and place in large bowl. Add onion, jalapeno and cilantro; mix well. Transfer mixture to jar or jars.

Bring vinegar, salt, sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar.

Pour hot brine over mixture in jar; cover. Let cool, then chill. Will keep in refrigerator for 2 months. Serves 16.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 24 calories, 1 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, no cholesterol, 1 g protein, 5 g carbohydrate, 2 g sugar, 1 g fiber, 1,518 mg sodium, no calcium.

SMASHED FINGERLINGS WITH JALAPENOS

By Bon Appetit

  • 3 pounds fingerling potatoes, halved crosswise if large
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 jalapeno, thinly sliced into rounds, seeds removed if desired
  • 1/4 cup (lightly packed) chopped parsley leaves
  • >> Dressing:
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Toss potatoes with 1/4 cup of the oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast until golden brown and tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool slightly, then lightly flatten.

Meanwhile, make dressing: Whisk vinegar and mustard in large bowl. Gradually whisk in oil until emulsified; season with salt and pepper. Add potatoes, jalapeno and parsley; toss. Season with more salt and pepper. Serves 8.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 137 calories, 2 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, no cholesterol, 3 g protein, 27 g carbohydrate, 2 g sugar, 4 g fiber, 52 mg sodium, 21 mg calcium.

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