As I was planning the menu for our next in-home concert, I decided on Mexican food. Since the before concert meals are at 1:00pm (lunch really) I usually don’t serve appetizers. (Ok, when I serve Italian food I almost always have an antipasto platter for people to start munching on when they arrive, but other than Italian cuisine, I usually don’t feel the necessity.)

But thinking about Mexican food, I remembered that the first thing that happens when you arrive in a Mexican restaurant (lunch or dinner) is the magical appearance of warm tortilla chips and salsa. So, not one to be outdone by any Mexican restaurant worth their beans (that’s pinto beans of course) I decided my menu needed a “safe arrival” treat too.

And of course I could simply make a nice salsa (too messy) or guacamole (too de rigueur). But instead, I decided to serve an appetizer that was different enough to be of interest to everyone while at the same time keeping to the whole “south of the border” theme.

Now I truly have no idea if jalapeño poppers have any place in authentic Mexican cuisine, but they are certainly popular in America. But filling fresh jalapeños with cream cheese for 35 people seemed just a little more than my sanity could handle. That’s when the light bulb came on and I got the brilliant idea to serve a popper dip. So of course, I did what I always do when a flash of genius strikes me. I go on line, search for the dish I have in mind, let someone else do the basic work for me, refine their recipe to my liking, and take credit for the whole thing! (Now, you must admit, that’s brilliance personified! And no, I don’t feel even one little tug of remorse for my actions. I figure all is fair in love, honest income tax deductions, and adapting recipes to make them my own!)

So, in preparation for the upcoming luncheon, I made this dip last evening. (I don’t always try new recipes before I serve them to guests, but this time I decided not to “wing it”). Well boy howdy, this dip was an instant hit with Mr. C. It has that wonderful creamy mouth feel associates with cream cheese, a subtle cheesy background flavor from the Monterey Jack, cheddar, and Parmesan, and tons of jalapeño flavor without too much heat, that even the most chili-phobic person should find palatable. In other words, it’s really, really tasty without being too in-your-face hot.

So give this warm dip a try. It’s ever so easy to prepare and ever so easy to eat. And thank you American Food website for this wonderful recipe. I know I changed a few things, but that’s why I get paid the big bucks! And if you believe that (the big bucks part), I’ve got a great piece of property for sale right here on Camano Island that would be perfect for a banana plantation! The price is right too!

  • 1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, room temperature
  • ½ c. mayonnaise
  • ¼ c. grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • ¼ c. grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • ¼ c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ c. sliced pickled jalapeños (I use Mrs. Renfro’s) + a couple slices for garnish
  • ½ fresh jalapeño, seeded, de-veined, and finely chopped, or more to taste

Whirl the cream cheese, mayonnaise, Monterey Jack cheese, cheddar cheese, and Parmesan cheese together in a food processor until smooth. Add the pickled jalapeños and the finely chopped fresh jalapeño and whirl until only small bits of the fresh jalapeño remain visible. Do not over process. You want those little bits of green to remain. Spread the mixture into a lightly buttered casserole. Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes. You should be able to see the mixture gently bubbling around the edges and the top should be turning a light golden brown when the dip is hot. Allow to rest for about 5 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips.