Saturday, November 19, 2011

Apple-y Goodness!

Ah, the humble apple, it's a pretty amazing fruit. It can be grown all over the place, it lasts for months, it has 8 bazillion varieties and it's one of the more chameleonic ingredients a cook can use.

On a recent Saturday evening, what began as a craving for Guinness Stew turned into a spot of spontaneous cooking fun with apples! Kari and I had decided that we were going to go on a shopping trip to pick up the fixins for a hearty stew using beef and Guinness and a few more goodies. First we picked up leeks, carrots and Cortland apples at a Byward Market stall. Not even sure why we decided to buy apples... Maybe Kari can fill in the gaps in her comments.

Next I suggested we pop in to the Sausage Kitchen on the Byward Market for the stewing beef, I'd been quite impressed by it in the past. While there, we caught notice of a product on special: Danish Bacon. I'd never tried it before so the nice fellow at the deli counter gave us a simple. It had a lovely delicate flavour, sort of a cross between back bacon and a subtle ham. So, buying a pound of the stuff was kind of a given. Once we had our ingredients, it was back home for food making!

Now, as we were prepping the veggies, etc. for the stew, we were asking what to do with the apples we had. We decided a few chunks of apple in the stew would be a good idea, but then the juices started flowing. I asked aloud what it might taste like if we wrapped some chunks of apple in this heretofore unknown type of bacon and, oh, I dunno, deep fried them? Kari voiced her agreement and proposed one of her own: rice paper wraps with apple tossed in sesame and lots of other amazing flavours. Yeah, this happens a lot at our house.

And so, we went ahead with making some lovely hors-d'oeuvres while letting the stew simmer away. Here they are!

Deep-Fried Apple-Bacon Bites


- 1-2 hard apples, Cortland or Macintosh work well (or Granny Smith for extra tartness), cut into large chunks (about 1 inch thick and wide) - up to you if you want to peel them or not - you're looking to have 8-12 pieces of apple
- 8-12 pieces of either back bacon or Danish bacon. If you insist on using regular bacon, I suggest cutting each piece in half. You don't need a lot of bacon to cover the pieces of apple.


Finished product!

- Wrap each piece of apple with a piece of bacon and fix in place with a toothpick. Set aside.
- Heat 2 inches cooking oil in a pot to about 350 F (If you gently dunk a wooden chopstick in the oil and it sizzles, the oil's ready!)
- Cook pieces of wrapped apple for about 3-4 minutes, until bacon crisps slightly (this kind of bacon doesn't crisp up the same way regular bacon does, so don't try too hard to make it crispy).
- Remove from oil and blot on paper towels. Keep warm in 200 degree oven until ready to serve with Slavic Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce.

Slavic Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce

- 1/2 cup light sour cream
- 2 tsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp red wine vinegar
- juice of a lemon wedge
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- pinch of salt
- pinch caraway seed (optional)

- Stir all ingredients together and serve.

The other appetizer was Kari's inspired yet simple Apple Spring Rolls. Now, I'm sure you've all had the rice paper wrapped spring rolls at Vietnamese restaurants. Well, these were pretty much the same, but without meat and other ingredients. But they were remarkably tasty in all their simplicity.

Apple Spring Rolls

NOTE: Kari kinda made these up as she went, so these amounts are basically approximations of what amounts I think would work well.

Makes 4 spring rolls



- 1 Cortland apple, cored, peeled and julienned
- 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds (toast in a frying pan on medium-high heat for about 2-3 minutes before mixing with other ingredients)
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 1/2 cup vermicelli noodles, cooked and coarsely chopped (optional)


- pinch ginger powder
- 1 tsp sriracha sauce
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
- juice of 1/4 lime
- 1 tsp soy sauce or fish sauce
- 1/2 tsp hoisin sauce


- 4 sheets rice paper, prepared according to package


Rice wraps with peanut dipping sauce that solidified, so really, spicy peanut butter.
- Mix all filling ingredients together in a ceramic or glass bowl (non-reactive)
- Mix all dressing ingredients in separate non-reactive bowl
- Stir dressing into filling ingredients and mix thoroughly.
- Place 1/4 of filling mixture in a rice wrap and roll tightly. Repeat for remaining rice wraps.
- Serve with hoisin sauce or satay-style dipping sauce (basically melt peanut butter and mix in lime juice and sriracha, toy with it as you like till you achieve desired flavour)

So much tastiness from our humble friend, the apple! 

The funny thing about this little culinary adventure? The stew kind of became an afterthought. We were both pretty full after the appetizer course and it's Guinness Stew, not exactly the most thrilling recipe ever. Tasty? Damn straight it was, but stew is stew is stew. I just don't find it all that thrilling from a "fun with cooking" point of view. Regardless, here's the recipe we used, plus we added a diced apple and a diced potato or two. Enjoy!

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