Food & Drink

Jalapeño Poppers

The after-hunt snack, done right

Photo: Margaret Houston | Food Styling: Phillip Rhodes

There’s nothing wrong with the standard grilled popper—a slice of wild game bird breast stuffed into a jalapeño with cheese, then wrapped in bacon. That said, a little experimentation can pay tasty dividends. First, the cheese. Too often the standard spoonful of Philly oozes out, disappearing between the grill grates. Soft, creamy goat cheese melts too, but not as fast. Next comes the duck—or dove or pheasant or even venison. Lightly press the slice of meat on top of the cheese-stuffed pepper; aim to seal the cheese inside. Then, the bacon. This is the rare instance where thin-sliced is best; too thick, and what’s inside the popper will get done long before the bacon does. A final drizzle of cane or sorghum syrup is like that little bit of maple syrup that strays off the pancakes and over into the sausage—a deliciously sweet counterpoint to heat and smoke.

Margaret Houston | Food Styling: Phillip Rhodes



    • 12 jalapeños, stems removed, halved, and seeded

    • 1½ oz. herbed goat cheese (about half of a 3-oz. log)

    • Granulated garlic

    • 1 duck breast half, trimmed and sliced into 24 thin pieces

    • 1 tsp. kosher salt

    • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

    • 24 thin-sliced center-cut bacon strips (about 1 pound)

    • Cane or sorghum syrup

    • 24 wooden picks (presoaked in water for 15 minutes)


  1. Heat a charcoal grill to medium (or a gas grill to medium-low). Let the coals burn down until ashy and glowing. While the grill comes to temperature, arrange the jalapeño halves on a board. Place 1 tsp. of the cheese inside each. Dust lightly with granulated garlic. Place strips of duck on top of the cheese-stuffed peppers, pressing lightly to seal in the cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

  2. Lay the bacon flat on the board, one slice at time. Use two-thirds (the wider end, if the slice is uneven) of each slice of bacon to roll a popper diagonally, encasing the popper from bottom to top. Twist the remaining third over the popper’s top (further insurance on keeping the ingredients inside). Push a pick diagonally through this final strip to hold the bacon in place.


  3. Place the poppers on the grill grate, pepper-side down. As the bacon crisps (in about 2 to 3 minutes), roll each popper on its side and cook for about 2 minutes per side, then finally turn the popper so the top cooks for about 2 minutes more. If the poppers are different sizes, place larger ones over the hottest spots on the grill, and smaller ones, which will cook faster, over cooler spots.

  4. Remove the poppers to a plate and drizzle lightly with syrup. Serve immediately.

Recipe from The Southerner’s Cookbook