Anyone who enjoys wine has their personal favorites when it comes to certain dishes. For instance, my favorite wine to drink with classic spaghetti marinara is Sangiovese, but I like Pinot Grigio with spaghetti carbonara. If I make a roast chicken, I gravitate toward Graciela, but when my husband grills chicken with smoky bbq sauce, I like Zinfandel.
Once in a while, though, I get stuck and I have no idea what wine to drink with what I’ve made. Take this past weekend, for example. Determined to finally use the jalapeno griller my husband and I received three years ago for our wedding, I made cheddar-stuffed, bacon wrapped grilled jalapenos (more about those later). As far as the wine went, I was clueless. My husband had it easy: his batch of home-brewed English Pale Ale was bottled and ready to enjoy just in time for the holiday, so I knew what he’d be drinking.
From what I learned via Google, there were four things to remember when it came to pairing wine and really spicy food:
- Cold temperatures turn off the pain receptors (duh)
- High alcohol often makes pain worse
- High acidity stimulates salivary glands
- Sweetness soothes the palate from spiciness
So, I’d need a chilled, sweet wine that was low on alcohol, with a high acidity.
Moderate spice is a little more expansive, for example, Fume Blanc would be delicious with Indian curries, but would probably not taste very good with stuffed jalapenos because the heat would totally overwhelm the flavors of the wine.
The dish itself was simple to prepare: you slice the tops off of each jalapeno, scrape out all of the membranes and seeds from the inside, stuff them with shredded cheddar, wrap each pepper with a half slice of bacon and secure with a toothpick. I put the jalapeno tops back on just for presentation. I can’t think of any other way to grill them other than putting them specifically in a jalapeno griller, so I’m afraid one of these gadgets is necessary. They are pretty easy to find, however.
Now, I like spicy. I really do. A little heat in your food is even good for you: it boosts metabolism, is good for blood pressure and heart health. But, my goodness, were these things HOT! The first one was perfect, I could taste the sharp cheddar, the jalapeno was soft and slightly charred, the bacon was awesome (when is bacon ever bad?), and the heat was actually tolerable. With the chilled Moscato, it was delicious! Then, I ate another and suddenly, I realized I didn’t do that great of a job removing those membranes and seeds from the peppers at all. I took a sip of wine, and while it cooled my mouth off at first, once I swallowed I was ablaze. Red face, tears falling, nose-running, light-headed ablaze! It took a few minutes for me to get a grip and once my heart rate returned to normal, I slowly sipped my cold Moscato, relishing in its bubbles and fruitiness.
Despite all of this, the cheddar-stuffed bacon-wrapped grilled jalapenos really were tasty; I just think the key is thoroughly scraping everything out of the pepper before stuffing it with cheese. And, next time, I’ll pierce the bottoms of the peppers with a toothpick so some of the “magma” oils will drip out while cooking. Like I said, the first one I ate was tolerable, as was one my husband had eaten, but the rest were a little too hot for my blood. (And for the record, the beer wasn’t much help, either).
Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Jalapenos with Cheddar
- Whole jalapenos
- Aged white cheddar cheese, shredded
- Sliced bacon, cut in half
- A jalapeno griller
Heat grill to medium high. Wash jalapenos and cut off the tops and carefully scrape out the seeds and membranes with a small knife.** Stuff each jalapeno with cheese. Wrap a bacon half around each jalapeno and secure with a toothpick. Place stuffed and wrapped jalapenos in the jalapeno griller holes and place the caps of the jalapenos back onto their bodies. Place on grill and cook until the skin has some black spots, the cheese is melted and the bacon is cooked through.
**I recommend wearing gloves! If you don’t, do not, I repeat, DO NOT touch your eyes, nose or, uh, any other body part until you’ve thoroughly scrubbed the pepper oils off your hands. You’ll be sorry if you do. You’ve been warned.
–What is the hottest thing you ever ate?