Hello! Well, here’s hoping that by now we’ve all recovered from the Baltic chilliness of Memorial Day Weekend. Sheesh! Fortunately, temperatures have much improved, and we are sailing into summer with the wind at our backs. Which brings me to the subject of this month’s Toothsome: the reigning king of sandwiches and quintessential summer fare. Timeless and classic, like the little black dress of the food world, it needs no introduction, and is my great pleasure and delight to present, bahm ba bahmmm... the B.L.T. Seriously, who doesn’t love this trifecta-masterpiece? I mean, really, does anything scream “SUMMER!” louder than this little gem? OK, except maybe ice cream and watermelon--which could easily be included as sides with this sandwich! The BLT is perfect alchemy, and, generally speaking, all the ingredients tend to exist in your kitchen on a weekly basis. And, studies show, not counting the PB&J, it is the most accessible and revered sandwich in the solar system.
Getting a BLT right means keeping it simple. No need for fancy bacon, though I do highly recommend splurging on local tomatoes during the “tomato months” if you can, because there is just simply no substitute. Cook the bacon on a baking sheet in the oven at 400F for about 20-ish minutes, flipping once half-way through. Or, simply fry it on your stovetop in a skillet. The super-crispy texture that the oven-cooked method delivers is my preference (plus clean-up is a snap). This step can be completed well in advance of assembling the sandwiches, especially as the heat of the day tends to intensify into the evening hours. Just pop it in the fridge, and warm it up in a dry skillet a few minutes before building the sammies.
Slice up a few tomatoes and salt the heck out of them. It's a tough call, but my personal opinion is that the “T” of this particular combo is the star of the show, and a good healthy salting really draws out its star-power. I have been leaning hard on the BLT for the past couple weeks as a mid-week dinner, and have been stopping at Carmody’s Farm Stand for the tomatoes. A leaf or two of fresh basil (or any fresh herb you prefer) tucked between the slices is an unexpected and delightful addition. Our 19-year-old adds a few slices of avocado, and I have been draping paper-thin, quick-pickled red onion over mine lately. It turns into a sort of “taco night” when BLTs are on the menu. Set up a “fixings” bar on the kitchen counter, and build your own!
Romaine lettuce is my preference, holding up nicely to what could potentially become a soggy mess. Just make sure it’s completely dry, and tear rather than chop it. Somehow, sparing it the blade keeps things a little fresher and crunchier, which is the goal here.
The bread, while of the utmost importance, is completely interchangeable, but soft with a slight sturdiness is ideal. And, there are two camps: those who toast, and those who would never. I tend to be a swing-toaster, it just depends on the candidate.
And finally, the single most essential element of the entire magnum opus: mayo. At the risk of sounding like a paid-ad, which I assure you this is not, I am forever a Hellman’s loyalist. Creamy, but resilient, it stands up proudly while still allowing all the subtleties of its fellow components to shine through. Having said that, if you are someone who makes your own aioli, my hat goes off to you!
Finishing with construction and assembly, this seemingly self-explanatory step does indeed require some know-how. I have tried many strategies and have settled on what I call “mush-encapsulation”: bread, mayo, lettuce, tomato, bacon, mayo, bread. Enmeshing the juiciness of the tomato within the drier inner workings of the sandwich prevents the panzanella pandemonium that could easily result as your beloved tower of deliciousness falls apart onto your plate. Still crazy-tasty, but mildly annoying. Whichever way you build yours, savor every bite and messy, drippy drop it provides. The tomato-months are fleeting!!
Be well, and keep on cooking.