Among the many important, society-shaping innovations the ‘90s brought us–Playstation, text messaging, and Tickle Me Elmo–the jalapeño popper is unjustly overlooked. We’ve followed our hearts and cream cheese-burnt tongues through the decades since, replacing the cores of peppers with spreadable cheeses and covering them in some assortment of bread crumbs. So let’s reenergize 2022 with a nod to our lovable chile relleno, and make jalapeño popper charcuterie bites.
I like to host a food-centric gathering or two over the course of a year, and I’m always on the lookout for hand-held, low-mess, tasty snacks to put on the menu, with a proclivity for the unusual. The greatest hits are to be expected–brie, olives, sliced baguette–but nestled alongside are cayenne spiced persimmons, rosemary-fig crackers, or a fried garlic cheeseball. Jalapeño poppers are a straightforward concept—deseed a jalapeño and fill the cavity with cream cheese; coat the spicy fruit in bread crumbs; bake or fry it—but I was seeking a more cheese board-friendly switch up, and to dial up the carbs. These jalapeño popper charcuterie bites fit the bill perfectly. It’s also a great conversation starter, and my favorite conversations are about food anyway.
To make this appetizer, I started with 20 ounces of thawed pizza dough. I picked up a frozen package from the grocery store and thawed it in the fridge overnight, but fresh or homemade pizza dough will work just as well. Snip off small hunks of dough (I used kitchen shears) about the size of a 3-D tablespoon. I wanted tiny, two-bite buns, but you can adjust the size depending on how big or small you want them to be. Flatten the dough pieces and dab on a little cream cheese (about a ¼ teaspoon) and one or two slices of pickled jalapeño. Wrap up the edges around the filling and squeeze them together to make a little purse-shaped dough ball. (For help with dough ball shaping, here’s the best video anyone has ever made. Ok, it’s me.) Flip them over onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Proof the poppers for 30 minutes and bake for 10 minutes. If you like, give them a brush of olive oil and sprinkle the tops with garlic salt
After a few minutes of cooling, make an incision across the top of each ball. You want to cut only the top portion in half, giving you a peek at all the cheesy-peppery filling inside. Fold a piece of salami in half and then half again to make a pointed wedge (or roll it into a dainty meat rosette), and plug it into the cut you made.
The resulting appetizer is a total star; the perfect cheese-board-charcuterie bite. The pizza dough is soft, with just a hint of garlic. The salute to jalapeño poppers is evident—a vinegar and spice bite from the pickled pepper, followed quickly by soothing cream cheese. But it’s the slice of salami that takes the snack over the top; the salty, fatty, peppery, cured meat is the component that makes the whole bun feel like more of a savory indulgence.
For an interactive noshing experience, make this appetizer pull-apart style! Instead of spacing apart the poppers on a sheet tray, put them right next to each other (or in a cake pan for a circular look). They’ll connect to one another during baking and give you a soft-sided bun. You can also easily keep this snack vegetarian by eliminating the charcuterie element altogether.
Jalapeño Popper Charcuterie Bites
Yield: approximately 40-45 bites
- 16 to 20 ounces pizza dough (thawed)
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- Jarred jalapeño peppers (I like Mezzetta)
- 45 slices salami (or one slice per popper)
- Olive oil and garlic salt (optional)
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Portion the dough to hunks about the size of a tablespoon. Flatten each piece out and smear about a ¼ teaspoon of cream cheese onto the center. Place one or two jalapeño slices on top (chop or break the rings if they’re too big). Pinch the edges together up and around the filling to make a little purse. Flip it over, seam-side down, and line up the balls on the sheet tray about an inch away from each other. Proof, covered, for 30 min.
While they proof, preheat your oven to 400°F.
Bake the bites at 400°F for 10-12 minutes.* Brush them with olive oil and sprinkle garlic salt over the tops. Cut the top half open and tuck a slice of salami inside so it sticks out decoratively. Serve hot or at room temperature. Leftovers can stay in the fridge for up to four days or freeze them for up to a month without the salami. To revive, place on a sheet pan and bake for 10 minutes at 350°F.
*If doing a pull-apart preparation, bake for an extra few minutes until all the tops have browned and the center ones feel firm.