Cajun-Style Shrimp Stuffed Jalapenos & Variations

I grew a bumper crop of jalapeno peppers in my garden this summer; these hot peppers are extremely easy to grow. One of my favorite appetizers at a local restaurant uses these peppers in a dish called “Crab Stuffed Jalapenos.” All summer I’ve attempted to duplicate and copy their recipe using my large crop of jalapeno peppers. Here are several of my variations and results. The stuffed jalapenos are delicious; I do recommend having a large glass of water nearby.

It was not an easy task to balance the flavor of the stuffing and with the hot jalapeno taste. These fresh peppers are so, so hot. In some of my trials the peppers overwhelmed the taste of the stuffing. And have you ever tried to get breading to stick to a jalapeno pepper to deep fry it? The restaurant’s recipe is a very different take on stuffed jalapenos. I came close!

The Café Americain Restaurant & Catering is a local, casual restaurant with a typical Louisiana menu. The restaurant has been around for a long time and still retains its original 1988’s ambiance. This is the place I like to go to to celebrate any event or achievement. Some of my favorite menu items are garlic salad for two (no longer served); salad with blackened chicken, sweet potato hush puppies and seafood pasta . The best of all is their “Crab Stuffed Jalapenos” served with honey mustard sauce or ranch-type dressing. Here is one of my variations:Café Americain’s recipe for stuffed jalapenos is very different from many typical recipes which use cream cheese for stuffing the jalapenos and then breading and deep frying them. The filling for the restaurant’s peppers is a typical Cajun seafood and bread crumb filling. It is a very flavorful stuffing and is similar that used with stuffed crabs. Over the years the restaurant’s recipe has evolved — from an entire jalapeno to a sliver of a jalapeno and from a crab stuffing to a seafood (shrimp and crab) stuffing.  It still has plenty of kick!

Growing Jalapeno Peppers in a Louisiana Garden

Here are some of the jalapenos from my summer crop. Typically, the small seedlings are planted in early spring — March — after the last frost. I found a few straggly remaining plants in a nursery in early June with blossoms and planted them in a sunny spot in my garden. They made plenty of peppers in July and August. Give the plants sun, rain and fertilizer; there is not much else to do. The main adversary to growing peppers is snails and slugs in the garden; now I routinely sprinkle slug bait on the ground when I plant the seedlings. Jalapenos turn from green to orange and red as they ripen in a garden. If you leave the green peppers sit on your kitchen counter, they will also change colors and soften. Do they become less hot as the peppers age? The red ripe peppers were still hot.

Making the recipe and variations

As I mentioned,  Café Americain’s recipe uses a typical Cajun-style bread crumb stuffing. To duplicate their recipe, I tried several variations — one with crabmeat and one with shrimp. I quickly realized how expensive lump crabmeat is, so tried this recipe only once and then switched to shrimp. Here are some of the ingredients in my stuffed jalapenos.

The basis of my recipe stuffing is the Cajun “Trinity” of vegetables: onions, bell peppers and celery — plus garlic — which gives a flavorful filling.

I pureed these vegetables finely with a food processor by pulsing several times until almost pureed — the vegetables are for flavor and you don’t really need to see large chunks in the finished dish.

I sauteed and steamed these finely chopped vegetables in oil for about 5 minutes until the raw favor was gone, adding water so they didn’t stick.

For the seafood, I used lump crab meat in a jar for one variation. Then I switched to small (71-90 count) raw, frozen shrimp which were defrosted. I sauteed the raw shrimp in a little oil for several minutes until they were pink. Of course, I seasoned the shrimp with Tony Cachere’s Creole Seasoning and Worcestershire sauce.

Then I pureed the shrimp and juices until they were chopped into small chunks using the same food processor bowl as for the vegetables.  

Next, I combined the sauteed vegetables, chopped shrimp, bread crumbs and a beaten egg. Then I stuffed the peppers.

How do you seed and stuff a jalapeno pepper?

How do you remove the seeds of raw jalapeno peppers? The chemicals in the peppers irritate your nose and eyes — I coughed and coughed and finally let my husband do the job. We found that the best way to removed the seeds and fiber was to do hold the peppers under water and seed them. You can also use rubber gloves and try holding your nose. Use any method you can find to remove the seeds and fiber ridge.

I tried several methods to stuff the peppers. Stuffing whole raw jalapeno peppers, breading and frying them didn’t work — the peppers were too hot and the breading fell off. Here are my crab stuffed whole peppers.

I tried roasting the peppers in the oven until they were charred and then removing the skins — but the peppers fell apart, the breading didn’t adhere and the peppers still tasted mighty hot. I guess that breading and frying jalapeno peppers just doesn’t work for me.

The best method I found was to cut the peppers in half, seed them and then blanch the peppers in boiling water for about 5 minutes. This toned the hotness of the peppers down enough so that they were still hot but not overpowering. I stuffed the peppers and baked them. And it made for an attractive presentation. I served a dipping sauce along with them.

The restaurant actually uses just a sliver of raw jalapeno in their dish. They wrap the breading around the sliver so it resembles a jalapeno pepper and then bake it. The filling is moist enough and sticks together so that this worked. For this method, I chilled the stuffing first so that was was easier to work with prior to forming the “peppers.” 

Here are the baked “stuffed jalapenos.” 

For the final version, my husband preferred the halved and stuffed peppers; I like the ones with a sliver of pepper in the center with breading wrapped around it. Both are delicious; I’m pleased — this recipe is a keeper. A good appetizer for a party.  Just bring along water or something to drink–the peppers are hot!

Cajun-Style Shrimp Stuffed Jalapenos

  • Servings: 24 appetizers
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 12 jalapeno peppers
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 1/3 large bell pepper
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil, divided (or more)
  • 12 oz raw, peeled and deveined shrimp (71-90 count) with liquid (if using frozen shrimp, defrosted under running water or in refrigerator)
  • 1 tsp Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning or seasoned salt
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • Dipping sauces such as honey mustard sauce or ranch-type dressing

Method and Steps:

  1. To prepare the peppers: half the peppers lengthwise; retain the stem on one of the halves. Under running water, or in a small bowl of water, use a spoon or small knife to remove the seeds and white vein. Heat a medium pot of water on the stove to boiling, add the halved and seeded peppers. Return to boil and blanch for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, drain off water and set aside.
  2. Peel the onion, chop in quarters. Chop bell pepper and celery in large chunks. Add the onion, bell pepper and celery along with the garlic cloves to food processor bowl. Pulse twice, scrape down and pulse again. Repeat if needed until the vegetables are finely chopped.
  3. Add 1 Tbsp oil to small non-stick skillet and heat to medium heat. Add the vegetables and saute for about 5 minutes until the raw taste is gone. If the vegetables begin to stick, add a little water. Stir frequently. Remove from heat, transfer to medium bowl and set aside. Wipe the skillet out with a paper towel.
  4. Add remaining 1 Tbsp oil to the same skillet and heat to medium-high. Drain the defrosted shrimp and add to the skillet. Add the Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning and Worcestershire sauce. Saute for about 3 minutes until the shrimp are pink.
  5. Remove the shrimp from the stove, transfer shrimp and juices to food processor bowl. Pulse several times until the shrimp are coarsely chopped. Let cool to room temperature.
  6. Transfer the shrimp to the same bowl as the vegetables. Add the panko bread crumbs and beaten egg. Mix with spatula until combined.
  7. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet.
  8. Add about 2 Tbsp filling to each halved jalapeno pepper and place on baking sheet.
  9. Bake for about 25 minutes until the filling is browned.
  10. Remove from oven and transfer to serving dish.
  11. Serve with dipping sauces such as honey mustard sauce or ranch-type dressing.

NOTE: An alternate method to prepare this dish is to halve 4 very small jalapeno peppers lengthwise, removing seeds and vein. Then cut each half into 3 pieces lengthwise making 24 “slivers.” Prepare stuffing in same manner (steps #2 – #6). Then chill the filling in the refrigerator for an hour or longer. Remove from refrigerator. Take a spoonful of about 2 Tbsp filling and, using hands, wrap around each jalapeno sliver. Bake in 350 degree pre-heated oven for 20 minutes until the stuffed jalapenos are browned. Continue with steps #10 and #11.

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