I had some bacon-wrapped, cream cheese stuffed jalapeños from the meat counter at the grocery store, but thought they could be a lot better. This recipe is the result of that quest.
Warning: Bringing these to a company picnic may cause you to be permanently assigned this dish for all future picnics!
Don't rub your eyes when working with peppers! Wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. If I'm doing more than a dozen, I'll wear rubber gloves.
Let the cream cheese soften well or the mixing will require muscle. I usually let it sit out while I put the groceries away and chop the rest of the filling ingredients. When I say "diced super-fine", I'm talking about pieces 1/8" (3mm) or smaller in size.
I add the habañero pepper to the filling because cleaning the ribs and seeds from the jalapeños removes most of their heat. I remove the ribs from the habañero as well because I want it spicy, not painful. It also adds pretty orange flecks to the filling. A few shakes of crushed red pepper flakes is a nice substitute.
To mix it all together, I usually use a big serving fork with wide gaps between the tines. I use the fork to smoosh everything into the cream cheese, folding as I go.
You can prepare the filling a day or two ahead of time. I think it gets better if it sits for a little while. Keep it refrigerated in an airtight container or a plastic bag with all the air pushed out.
I try not to clean the peppers until the day I plan to eat them. Once cut, they can lose moisture quickly. They are best when fresh and crunchy. However, they have turned out great when stuffed, wrapped & sealed in a container the night before an event.
Start by cutting off the stem end at the widest point. Use a narrow knife to cut out the ribs and seeds. How good you are at this will have a large impact on the heat level of the final product. The cleaner you make it, the milder it will be. Try not to pierce the peppers.
When the peppers are all cleaned, stuff them with the cream cheese filling. I usually just use a butter knife. You'll probably have some filling left over. It's really good on crackers, too.
Wrap the peppers with a strip of bacon. I first lay one end of the bacon over the open end of the pepper to create a "cap" for the filling. Then I wrap the rest around so it ends up looking a bit like those "support our troops" ribbon magnets you see on cars, with the loop around the pointy end. I use two toothpicks to fasten the bacon to the pepper: one on top to keep a tight seal on the filling and one at the pointy end to keep the bacon from shrinking up when cooked.
Cook on the grill over a medium flame, turning frequently until the bacon looks cooked/crispy and the filling starts to bubble out a little. This usually takes about 15-20 minutes (about one beer in "grill time").
Stay in attendance because bacon grease flares up quickly, which can give the peppers an unappetizing black sooty appearance. I usually cook them on one side of the grill, and move them to the other when the flames rise. By the time the grease fire starts on that side, it's had time to burn out on the other.
Let the peppers cool at least 5-10 minutes after cooking to allow the molten cream cheese lava inside to reach a safe temperature. Remove both toothpicks. When taking a bite, do so over a plate or a paper towel because they are juicy!
Serve with ice cold beer.