by Jim Ridley
Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. Slow down, hoss.
On a whim Memorial Day, since I had the smoker fired up anyway, I decided to try grilling poblano peppers stuffed with Monterey Jack cheese and wrapped in bacon. Only an ape could screw this up, right? As usual in my culinary endeavors — my friend and grillmaster Scott Martin said I should host a Food Network show called In Retrospect ... — I put that theory to the test.
This is what I learned, shared free of charge.
1. OK, when you get the poblano peppers, don't get the bright idea of slicing them lengthwise. First, peppers don't fold. These don't, anyway. Second, you know that pleasingly hollow, conical shape that peppers have? Turns out that forms an excellent natural receptacle for gooey melting cheese. Lengthwise? Not so great. More like a sieve.
2. Want to make that worse? Cut the lengthwise peppers horizontally into inch-wide strips. This led to the mistaken belief that wallpapering every exposed molecule of the popper with bacon would somehow prevent the melted cheese from escaping. My poppers looked like someone had duct-taped an avocado pit.
3. Flat toothpicks (at least the cheapo pack I bought) are inadequate to the task of holding such a contraption together. I might as well have used shavings from a balsa-wood airplane. An old Milton Berle punchline about "shooting pool with a rope" unfortunately comes to mind.
4. Jack cheese is delicious, but boy, does it melt. I had thought to put down aluminum foil, my sole inspiration of the day. But after about seven minutes on the grill, I had to rescue my poppers from a lagoon of beige goo swirled with bacon grease. This was not entirely unpleasant: The cheese became a kind of impromptu dip, except where the fire had crusted it into a crunchy brown wafer. My first few bites of this accidental concoction were pretty good. It got even better after the masterstroke of removing the tinfoil.
5. Wait for the bacon to get golden-brown and crisp. Overcome by hunger and curiosity, I took a bite of one popper in haste. I wound up with a pinkish length of bacon fat unribboned down my chin. I resembled some beast on Animal Planet caught snacking mid-gazelle.
I welcome tips that might make the next try more successful — different ingredients, techniques, contact info for first responders, etc. In the meantime, please accept these hard-won lessons as a gift.