The first time I saw these at a party, I was afraid to try them. I’m not a big fan of jalapeños in the first place, and I don’t like extremely spicy food. Somehow I was convinced to take a tiny bite, then a bigger bite, and finally the whole delicious morsel! Cream cheese (or any dairy) neutralizes capsaicin compounds that are responsible for the heat, so you end up with creamy peppers that are surprisingly mild—most of the time.
Let cheese stand on the counter to soften as you prepare jalapeños.
Slice each pepper in half, stem to tip, leaving the stem on one side. With a small spoon, scrape out seeds and pith, which are very hot. (Wear gloves if you’re sensitive.) Place each jalapeño half on the baking sheet cut-side up.
Preheat oven to 450°F. Spray oil onto a rimmed baking sheet.
Spoon about 1 tablespoon cheese into each half and pack down. Cheese should fill the cavity and mound up slightly.
Cut bacon slices in half to create two shorter pieces. Lay a slice on top on the pepper and fold under the edges, so they overlap underneath. (For a vegetarian version, simply omit the bacon.)
Roast in oven 15 to 20 minutes, or until browned and peppers are soft.
*Neufchâtel cheesethat is found in the U.S. tastes almost exactly like cream cheese, but with less fat and fewer calories. True Neufchâtel cheese is made in France and is somewhat different in taste and ingredients. Buy the U.S. type for this recipe.
Substitute 1/4 cup Cheddar, Monterrey Jack, goat, or feta cheese for the Parmesan. Stir into cream cheese, along with smoked paprika and cumin. Wrap with bacon, or top with more grated cheese.