Next weekend copious amounts of meat will be thrown onto grills across the U.S. to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday and to that we say, save a seat at the picnic table for us! There’s no need to sweat the main course – just pick one of these easy meat marinades  and you’ll be set – but keep in mind that picnicking on the 4th usually starts early in the day and by the time those fireworks are bursting in air your guests are likely to be a bit peckish again. It’s the perfect time to pull out a plate of Spicy Chicken and Bacon Poppers; just make sure you try one before putting the plate out because we guarantee this spicy bite-sized, protein-packed snack will go fast.
Each bite is a perfect combination of spicy pepper, juicy chicken and salty, crispy bacon. The MDA reader that submitted this recipe for the Reader-Created Cookbook Contest  stacks up as many pickled jalapenos on the popper as they can stand for an extra-spicy version, but you can modify the recipe to tone down the heat. If you can’t find pickled jalapenos (or your local market is out of them, like ours was) jarred pepperoncinis are a perfect substitute. Simply slice off the top, clean out the seeds and slice the pepper open so the raw chicken fits inside. Wrap the bundle up with a slice of bacon and secure with a toothpick or skewer then throw ‘em on the grill. Over medium heat the poppers will take 8-10 minutes per side to crisp up and cook through. The aroma of bacon in the air will make you want to eat the poppers right off the grill, but for the sake of convenience consider making them ahead of time for the 4th of July, as they are equally delicious if kept in the fridge and served hours later.
As if this recipe wasn’t mouthwatering enough, our anonymous MDA reader had to take it one step further by suggesting we dip the poppers in our favorite creamy dressing. Since we happened to have a batch of homemade Ranch dressing  in the fridge we gave it try. Not to be overly dramatic, but the combination of cool, creamy dressing with the spicy, salty popper was pretty much like heaven.
With or without dip, these Spicy Chicken and Bacon Poppers are our new favorite appetizer and we can’t wait for the 4th of July to serve them up again!
- Makes 6-8 poppers
- 1 large chicken breast
- 6-8 pickled jalapenos or pepperoncinis
- 3-4 strips of bacon
Cut chicken breast into 1″ cubes. Marinate the chicken with salt and pepper, jerk seasoning or your favorite seasoning and oil.
Place 1-2 slices of pickled jalapeno on each piece of marinated chicken or slice open a pepperoncini and put a piece of chicken inside.
Wrap 1/3 –1/2 of a piece of bacon around the chicken and secure each popper individually with toothpicks or spear multiple poppers on a skewer.
Over medium heat, grill the poppers until the chicken is cooked through and the bacon is crisp, about 8-10 minutes a side.
And if you’re so inclined….
Homemade Ranch Dressing
- 1 cup mayonnaise 
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 garlic clove, minced and mashed into a paste
- 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh herbs (chives, parsley, dill or a blend of all three)
- 1 teaspoon celery salt
- salt and pepper to taste
Whisk ingredients together. Taste, then tinker with it until it tastes good to you. Kefir  or Greek yogurt can also be used, apple cider vinegar can make it more acidic, and additional spices can be added.