CHINGARITAS (HOT PEPPERS STUFFED WITH CREAM CHEESE)
It's not often that you need a Strong Language Warning in a recipe, but this one is an exception. Once upon a time, it seems, there was a Mexican restaurateur who had the idea of blistering and skinning hot peppers; slitting them open; stuffing them with Philadelphia cream-cheese; rolling them in flour, egg and breadcrumbs; then frying them. It worked very well, but he couldn't decide what to call them, so he tried them out on his brother-in-law, who said, “Hot little fuckers, aren't they?” Well, “chingar” is “to fuck” and “-ita” is a classic diminutive, so because it was a Mexican restaurant he called them chingaritas.
The opening paragraph sums the recipe up pretty well. The peppers you want are the ones that are about thumb sized, or a little bigger. We've used both red and green. Aim for about three per person: the sheer heat can be overwhelming otherwise. We made five each, once, and it was a bit much even for us. On another occasion, one of our friends ate one half of one pepper and thereafter contended herself with scooping out the cream cheese (which is well infused with pepper flavour) and eating the crunchy outside with it, but leaving the pepper itself.
You don't have to blister the peppers, but it gives a slightly better flavour (as blistering always does) and helps the flour to stick. I use a blowtorch, with the peppers on the grill of a barbecue. Do not overdo things, or the peppers will go too soft and floppy.
Scrape the skins off: wear thin rubber gloves if you like, because if you inadvertently rub your eye with a pepper-y finger, it will hurt like hell. If you don't wear gloves all the way through the process, wash your hands very carefully afterwards.
Leaving the stem on, slice the pepper down the side with a sharp, pointed knife and pull out the seeds and veins, which is where most of the heat resides. Stuff with Philly and roll in flour. Then stick the peppers in the fridge for an hour or two, or the freezer for ten or twenty minutes, to firm them up. This also reduces the risk of the cheese melting and leaking out of the peppers when you fry them.
Put some oil on to heat: about ½ inch, 10-15 mm, in a small but deep frying pan. While it is heating, beat an egg, and spread some breadcrumbs on a plate.
Dip the chilled peppers in the egg; roll in breadcrumbs; fry in small batches until the breadcrumbs are a golden brown. Serve immediately but be careful: they need a few seconds to cool down if you are not to burn your mouth. On the other hand they are not worth eating cold and they don't take well to re-heating.
They are quite a lot of work, and rather a hassle, so we don't make them very often. But they're fun, and an interesting and relatively inexpensive occasional treat. They are also good for surprising your friends, especially the Spanish-speaking ones.
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Words and picture copyright (c) Roger Hicks 2018