BLT: Summer in a Sandwich
You have to grow the lettuce in the shade (of the tomato plants, for instance) but other than that, August and September are glory time for one of the greatest food items ever assembled, that lunch of lunches, the BLT.
Can’t really say there’s only one recipe. Say rather there’s only one correct set of components .
One ingredient here is a ringer – can you spot it? Read on.
A Proper BLT:
the Bacon: Local pork. No nitrates. Put slices in a single layer in a heavy cast-iron skillet . Cook slowly, turning often, until most of the fat is rendered and the bacon is well-browned and crisp. Drain. Save fat for cornbread, fried green tomatoes and other baconfat-needy items.
( For a while there I was doing the bacon in the microwave, sandwiching it between unbleached paper towels according to micro directions. It got very crisp and was notably ungreasy, but all that lovely bacon fat was lost and the crispness of the bacon was an oddly dry, industrial crispness reminiscent of fake bacon bits. )
the Lettuce: Preferably from the garden. Crisp but not agribusiness-romaine crisp; it has to play well with others while adding a light, fresh note to the ensemble.
the Tomatoes: Ripe on the edge of falling apart but not falling over it. The ones in the picture are, clockwise from top: Aunt Ruby’s German Green, one of the sweetest heirlooms available; Japanese Trifele, a high-yielding, deep-flavored “black” ; and the unfortunately-named Sophie’s Choice, a new, supposedly early variety trialed this year and not destined for repeat although it tastes pretty good ( plants are small, low-yielding, and not significantly earlier than main crop tomatoes).
the Mayonnaise: Homemade mayonnaise is all very well, but NOT on a BLT, which should be made with Hellmann’s. period. The jar in the picture contains a version made with lime juice for the Latino market and alas not available everywhere. Good though.
And thus we come to the ringer,
the Bread: That’s a ciabatta in the picture and it did make a tasty sandwich, but a naturally-leavened bread full of big holes in the European style is not right for a BLT. What’s wanted is old fashioned Pullman bread, aka pain de mie, the bread that got debased into wonderbread. Properly made, the square, soft-crusted loaf has a very tight, even crumb and just a tiny touch of sweetness to go with the blended flavors of milk and yeasted wheat.