Recipe Friday: Queso Carnitas Poppers from El Palacio

Written by Marilyn Hawkes Category: Recipes Issue: October 2016

Queso carnitasFor some, this is the most wonderful time of year. No, I’m not referring to the upcoming holidays. I’m talking about football season – a time to don our jerseys, gather 'round the TV to cheer on our favorite teams and, of course, chow down on finger foods. But this weekend, instead of tired pretzels and bland wings, impress your football fanatic friends who temp as foodies with this recipe for queso carnitas poppers from Anthony Serrano of El Palacio restaurant in Chandler.

“Everyone loves deep-fried (food) and everyone loves cheese,” he says. “It’s a winner.”

You can buy the salsa and carnitas at most Valley grocery stores, or make it at home, Serrano says. If you like your food on the spicy side, he suggests adding the optional jalapenos or another hot pepper.

But if you’re not ready tackle the recipe at home, the poppers will be available on El Palacio’s new menu debuting Oct. 31.

Queso Carnitas Poppers
Yields: 1 dozen

Ingredients
Popper filling
8 oz. tub salsa-flavored cream cheese (Serrano recommends Challenge brand)
8 oz. carnitas (Del Real brand recommended or homemade)
2 cups Mexican four cheese blend
1/4 cup finely diced onions
1/4 cup finely diced tomatoes
1/4 cup finely diced jalapeños (optional)
10 finely chopped cilantro leaves (optional)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Breading
1 cup flour
2 beaten eggs
2 cups finely crumbled corn flakes (recommended) or panko bread crumbs

Avocado Oil or your favorite frying oil (enough to fill at least half the pan)

Preparation
1. Preheat oil in a deep pan or sauce pot. It’s ready when the oil begins to shimmer or it reaches 350 degrees.
2. In a mixing bowl combine the popper filling ingredients. Mix the ingredients thoroughly so that there aren’t any unmixed lumps of cream cheese.
3. Form 1/3 cup size balls. Serrano uses a 1/3 cup measuring cup to measure and form the poppers into a shape resembling a hockey puck.
4. Using the standard breading procedure, first dredge the poppers in flour, then in the egg wash, and finally, in the corn flakes or panko breadcrumbs.
5. Once the oil is 350 degrees or has begun to shimmer, you are ready to cook. Slowly lower the poppers into the hot oil using a slotted spatula or tongs. Once both sides of popper are crispy and brown (3-4 minutes), remove from the oil.
6. Place poppers on paper towels and pat dry.
7. Serve immediately and enjoy!