Cooks Corner

Bacon and bourbon take caramel apple to a new level

The bomb: Smoked Caramel Apple Bacon Bomb.
The bomb: Smoked Caramel Apple Bacon Bomb.

Clint Cantwell, the editor of and winner of the Travel Channel’s American Grilled, came up with this smoked bourbon caramel apple — an intoxicating, grownup twist on the classic childhood treat.

You start by wrapping peeled apples in bacon strips, smoke them until the apple is tender and the bacon crisp, then dunk into bourbon-infused caramel.

After making it for a birthday grill, where it was a huge hit, I asked Cantwell if I could share it in Cook’s Corner. Believe me, it will make a spectacular dessert for your Labor Day menu.

Cantwell has a way with thrill on the grill; you should check out the blog for bold and intriguingly different approaches.

Italian beef

I recently returned from a brief trip to Chicago, and besides enjoying some fine restaurants in this city known for its farm-to-table cuisine and great steakhouses, I had to try out all the iconic street food, which is my secret vice. My targets: a deep-dish pizza, a Chicago-style hot dog and of course an Italian beef sandwich.

For those who don’t know, the sandwich is thinly sliced and well-seasoned, slow-roasted beef, served on a dense roll that can withstand being dipped or submerged into hot au jus. If you know what you’re doing you order it with grilled onions, a mixture of hot giardiniera (pickled hot peppers and other vegetables), plus roasted sweet peppers. You also can opt for the amount of gravy you want (aficionados always choose “wet,” even though it is tough to eat without making a mess).

That made me start thinking about what we’d call iconic street food in South Florida in 2015. So much has evolved on our palates since the days when we were known only for Cuban sandwiches and grouper fingers. If you’ve got a favorite, send me a note.

The recipe here is my take on the Italian beef roast we had every Sunday when we visited my Aunt Rosie and Uncle Tom on their farm, and the table groaned with not only the beef but spaghetti marinara, a seasonal spread of vegetables and cheeses, plus homemade Italian bread — what would normally be enough for 3 meals.

You can’t shave the beef at home as thinly as the Chicago style sandwich (I tried it at the landmark Al’s, and that’s my sandwich in the photo, before I waded in), but you can make a pretty tasty imitation.

Reader request

Q. I am looking for a recipe published in the Miami Herald sometime between 1990 and 1997. It was, of course, in the food section, and I looked it up several times but it is no longer in the archives. How would I find it now? It was for three strudels (savory) — one was with chicken, wild rice, currants, and cashews — all were made with phyllo. Very unique, not to be found anywhere else. I have been looking for it for five years now and can’t find it.


A. I have often longed for the filing system when I first started working at the Herald, in which real people actually clipped out the newspaper and filed stories and recipes by both byline and topic. Computerized filing can sometimes be counterintuitive, and like you I’ve been stymied often by the archives when it comes to finding recipes. Both food editor Evan Benn and I trolled through the electronic files and could not find the recipe trio you describe — though I vaguely remember them — so we can only hope a reader will have saved it and will share.

In the meantime, here’s a recipe from that time period that I developed as a way to use up leftover Thanksgiving turkey. It has a lot of the same ingredients. You can easily substitute frozen phyllo for the homemade dough. Feel free to make it with cooked chicken or smoked sausage, rotisserie chicken or ham for the turkey, and season as you like.

Send questions and responses to or Food, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172.

Strudel Bites


1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 cup butter or margarine, softened

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon, or to taste, curry powder


1 medium onion, minced

1/4 cup butter

2 cups cooked, cubed chicken or turkey

1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

3 tablespoons finely chopped celery

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup chopped cashews

1/4 cup mango chutney, chopped if necessary

Salt, pepper and curry powder to taste

1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for baking

Beat cream cheese with butter until very smooth. Toss flour with salt and curry powder, then beat into creamed mixture. Form into a ball and refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight.

To make filling: Sauté onion in butter until just golden brown. Remove from heat and stir in chicken, parsley, celery, raisins, cashews and chutney. Season to taste with salt, pepper and curry powder.

When ready to make strudel, remove dough from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. Cut into fourths and roll each into a rectangle about 18-by-4-inches, about 1/8 inch thick. Place a fourth of the filling in a strip down the center of each rectangle and bring up long sides to meet in middle over the filling. Pinch together to seal, wetting edges with water. Place rolls on ungreased baking sheet and chill 1 hour before slicing rolls into 1-inch slices.

To bake immediately, brush slices with 1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon of water and bake 25 to 30 minutes at 325 degrees. Or freeze slices on baking sheet, and transfer to airtight bags or plastic containers. At serving time, place frozen slices on baking sheets, brush with beaten egg and bake 35 to 40 minutes at 325 degrees. Makes about 60.

Per serving: 80 calories (64 percent from fat), 5.7 g fat (3.3 g saturated, 1.6 g monounsaturated), 21 mg cholesterol, 2.4 g protein, 4.7 g carbohydrates, 0 g fiber, 90 mg sodium.

Source: Linda Cicero for Cook’s Corner.

Aunt Rosie’s Italian Beef Roast

1 (3 to 4 pound) beef boneless sirloin tip or rump roast

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

1 teaspoon dried thyme

Salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper to taste

1 large onion, sliced

6 cubanelle peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded

Set oven to 325 degrees. Brush roast with oil; sprinkle evenly with the seasonings. Place beef on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Place 1 cup of water or red wine in bottom of pan under the rack, with onion slices and peppers. Roast uncovered for 1 1/2 hours, or until thermometer inserted in center reads 140 degrees for medium rare. Check from time to time to be sure all the liquid under the roast has not evaporated. Remove from oven, cover with aluminum foil and let stand about 15 minutes or until thermometer reads 145 degrees.

Slice beef very thin against the grain (an electric knife works well for this) and serve with pan drippings. To use for sandwiches, serve with pan drippings augmented by beef stock. Makes 8 servings.

Per serving: 334 calories (41 percent from fat), 14.7 g fat (3.9 g saturated, 7.4 g monounsaturated), 121 mg cholesterol, 43.2 g protein, 5.2 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 111 mg sodium.

Source: Adapted by Linda Cicero for Cook’s Corner from a family recipe.

Smoked Caramel Apple Bacon Bomb

4 medium sized red apples, peeled

1 pound bacon

2 cups brown sugar

1 cup butter

3/4 cup corn syrup

1 cup milk

1/4 cup bourbon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Tools: Toothpicks, Popsicle sticks

Preheat charcoal in a charcoal chimney. Once the charcoal has ashed over along the edges, set up grill for two-zone cooking by placing the briquettes on one side of the charcoal grate to create a hot and a cool zone. Add 2-3 chunks of your favorite smoking wood and adjust the grill’s bottom vents to bring the temperature to approximately 400 degrees.

Wrap each apple tightly with overlapping slices of bacon, starting from the bottom and working your way up until completely covered. Secure the end of the final strip of bacon with a toothpick.

Place bacon wrapped apples on the cool side of the grill, cover, and allow them to cook for approximately 20 minutes, until the bacon is brown and crisp and the apple has softened. Remove the apples from the grill, insert Popsicle sticks in to the top of each apple, and allow them to cool in the fridge.

To make the sauce: Heat the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, milk, bourbon, and vanilla extract in a small saucepan over medium heat. Insert a candy thermometer into the saucepan, making sure that it doesn’t touch the bottom. Allow the mixture to simmer until it reaches a temperature of 245 degrees. Remove from the heat and stir for 2-3 minutes until the bubbles subside and the caramel has thickened slightly.

Dip the apples into the caramel so that the bottom half is covered (note: you may want to insert a few toothpicks into the bacon to keep it in place as you coat the apple with caramel). Remove the apples and set on a greased sheet pan or plate and allow to cool before serving. Makes 4.

Per serving: 1,070 calories (57 percent from fat), 69 g fat (30.3 g saturated, 26 g monounsaturated), 139 mg cholesterol, 16 g protein, 97 g carbohydrates, 4.4 g fiber, 989 mg sodium.

Source: Clint Cantwell,