This vegetarian twist on the corn dog, with melty pepper jack cheese and a crispy jalapeño-laden crust, has flavors reminiscent of Chiles Rellenos and far surpasses boring fried mozzarella sticks served with marinara sauce. Try dipping these snacks in spicy Roasted Tomato Salsa and serving them with a round of margaritas for a little Tex-Mex flair.
Special equipment: You will need a deep-frying/candy thermometer and a tall, narrow container or drinking glass, such as a pint glass, for this recipe.
1Heat the oven to 250°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Set a wire rack over a baking sheet; set aside.
2Pour the oil into a Dutch oven or a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Heat over medium-high heat until the oil temperature reaches 360°F on a deep-frying/candy thermometer.
3Meanwhile, cut each block of cheese widthwise into 8 pieces. Skewer each piece of cheese lengthwise with the coffee stirrers (try to keep the sticks aligned in the center of the cheese), leaving about 1 1/2 inches of the stirrer exposed at the bottom; set aside.
4When the oil is almost ready (about 325°F), whisk the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Whisk the milk, eggs, honey, sugar, and jalapeños together in a large bowl until combined and the sugar has dissolved. Add the cornmeal mixture to the milk mixture and stir with a rubber spatula just until a smooth batter forms. Pour some of the batter into a tall, narrow container or drinking glass, leaving 1 inch of room at the top.
5When the oil is ready, evenly dip a cheese piece into the glass of batter by holding the stirrer and rotating the cheese as needed until it’s completely covered with batter. Immediately place into the hot oil. Repeat with 3 more cheese pieces. Fry, turning occasionally, until light golden brown all over, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the cheese dogs to the wire rack on the baking sheet and place in the oven. Using a slotted spoon, remove any fried, stringy pieces of cheese from the surface of the oil.
6Repeat with the remaining cheese pieces, working with 4 at a time, refilling the glass with batter as needed, and letting the oil return to 360°F between batches. (When you reach the last few cheese pieces, you may need to tilt the glass sideways while rotating the cheese to evenly coat it with batter.) Serve immediately with salsa for dipping.