One of the summer’s simple pleasures gets a flavor boost.
The BLT with its symphony of crunchy, savory, salty and juicy is high art.
The blueprint is baked into the name, a triumvirate of bacon, lettuce and tomato that yields an unassailable classic, if done correctly. The key, though, is not skimping on the quality of ingredients — a sandwich this simple is a delicate balance, and using any ol’ bacon, lettuce or tomato will taste of mediocrity and wasted potential.
Food culture these days may fool you into believing that bacon is the star here — our country is breathless for bacon-wrapped anything — but don’t be bamboozled. Tomatoes, those flavor-packed ephemeral globes of sweetness and acidity, are the true highlight of a BLT. Juicy, meaty, piquant tomatoes are proof that God loves us. Unfortunately, we don’t all have access to perfectly ripe homegrown tomatoes, so seek out the best you can, wherever that may be.
OK, fine, I lied: Bacon is the Thelma to tomato’s Louise, or Fred Astaire to Ginger Rogers. In tandem, bacon and tomato dance a life-affirming pas de deux of savory/sweet, salty/ juicy, crispy/tender. To cut corners here would be to dash all your efforts in finding the best tomato — don’t give up now. Avoid, if possible, storebrand packs of bacon, which often taste briny without much else going for them. They’re fine in a pinch, but compared with less-processed versions, are only salty, rather than a complex balance of salty, smoky and porky.
Opt for thick cut, dry-cured bacon — thicker bacon adds substantial bite to this sandwich, while the dry-cure method imparts deeper flavors compared with liquid-injected varieties. Also consider wood-smoked bacon, which contributes a complementary smokiness.
Whether you like toothsome, chewy strips or something more shatteringly crisp is up to you. Trust your heart.
Though sandwiched between B and T, lettuce brings a game of its own. Fresh romaine or iceberg varieties are crucial here, slightly sweet in their own way but, more important, a textural go-between for bacon and tomato. Perfectly serviceable in leaf form, the lettuce when shredded does double duty, offering up crunch and texture while also creating a layer of nooks and crannies to catch errant juices dripping from the tomato.
Of course, all three components need a home. Bread is a matter of preference. Just be sure it’s slightly toasted and shellacked with a creamy mayonnaise or sandwich spread.
Classic BLT: For each sandwich, toast 2 slices sandwich bread. Spread one side of each slice with about a teaspoon (or more) of mayonnaise. Top one slice with 2 large slices of tomato, 2 to 4 strips of cooked bacon and 1 to 2 leaves of lettuce (shredded if desired), close sandwich with remaining slice, mayonnaise side down.
Upgrade the humble BLT with luscious chunks of lobster. You won’t be disappointed.
¼ cup good-quality (not reduced-fat) mayonnaise
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest 2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon chopped tarragon
4 slices good quality sourdough bread,
6 ounces lobster meat, cut into ½ -inch
pieces, (see note)
1 green onion, white and light-green
parts, chopped 2 leaves Boston or green leaf lettuce 2 slices thick-cut bacon, fried until
crisp, drained, crumbled coarsely 1 to 2 medium tomatoes, sliced Kosher salt and ground black pepper
In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon zest and juice, and tarragon. Use 3 to 4 teaspoons of this mixture to spread thinly on one side of each of the 4 toasted bread slices. Add the lobster and green onion to the remaining mayonnaise; mix well.
Place a lettuce leaf on each of 2 bread slices. Mound half of the lobster salad atop each leaf; sprinkle with the bacon. Top each sandwich with 2 to 3 tomato slices; salt and pepper them well. Cover sandwiches with remaining bread slices, mayo sides down. Halve sandwiches and serve.
Makes 2 sandwiches.
Note: One pound of lobster will yield 3 to 4 ounces cooked meat. Some fish markets and grocery stores sell cooked lobster meat. If you purchase frozen cooked lobster, defrost in the refrigerator overnight, and pat it dry with paper towels.
Caramelized bacon and avocado give this BLT an added punch of flavor.
Caramelized Bacon and Avocado Sandwich
6 to 8 slices bacon
Crushed red pepper
1 loaf crusty bread such as baguette or
whole clove roasted garlic, split
Mayonnaise OR Miracle Whip, to taste 1 large tomato, sliced 1 avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced Leaf lettuce such as iceberg or romaine
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Lay bacon flat on parchmentlined baking sheet. Sprinkle bacon with brown sugar and red pepper. Bake until crisp, about 20 minutes (longer for thick bacon). Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain and cool slightly.
If desired, toast bread. Spread cut sides with mayonnaise. On the bottom half, layer tomato, avocado, bacon and lettuce. Cover with top half and press lightly. Cut into portions.
Makes 4 servings. Recipe adapted from Bacon: A Love Story by Heather Lauer
The bacon-infused vodka method here comes from the book The Bloody Mary by Brian Bartels. To garnish the drinks, we’ve added a skewered BLT, one that subs arugula pesto for the lettuce. For the cocktail itself, we’ve opted for a mix or your favorite recipe.
Bacon-Infused Bloody Marys With BLT Garnish
4 strips bacon 1 tablespoon black
1 bottle (750 mL) vodka Bloody Mary mix or your
favorite recipe Skewered BLTs, (recipe
In a skillet, cook the bacon over medium-low heat, about 10 minutes. Flip the bacon and cook the other side until crispy, about 5 minutes more. Remove the bacon, and reserve it for the drink garnish. Let the bacon fat cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer it to a container.
Combine 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat and the black peppercorns in a large sealable container (or 2 canning jars) with the vodka. Seal and refrigerate 6 hours to allow the flavors to integrate. Transfer to the freezer; freeze, 30 to 60 minutes. The fat cap will look like hardened wax curdling on top of the surface. Skim off the fat cap with a big spoon and discard. Let the infused vodka come to room temperature, then pass it through a fine-mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Store in a sealed container and refrigerate up to 3 months.
Proceed with your favorite Bloody Mary recipe, using the bacon-infused vodka as your spirit base and garnishing with the skewered BLTs.
Makes 12 drinks.
These tiny sandwiches are spread with arugula pesto, developed in the Tribune test kitchen by Mark Graham.
8 ounces pine nuts 5 ounces arugula
2 ½ ounces freshly grated parmesan cheese 1 clove garlic 6 tablespoons olive oil 4 slices bread, lightly toasted 4 strips cooked bacon Grape or cherry tomatoes
In a food processor, combine the pine nuts, arugula, parmesan and garlic; pulse until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. With the motor running, add enough of the oil to form a thick paste. This pesto should be thicker than what you’d use on pasta. Refrigerate until the pesto has the texture of butter, about 30 minutes.
For the mini sandwiches, spread a generous amount of pesto over one side of the bread. Top 2 slices of bread with the bacon; cover with the remaining slices, pesto side down. Slice the sandwiches into bite-size squares. Thread on long skewers, with a grape or cherry tomato on top and bottom. Slide the skewers into the drinks without dunking the sandwiches, and serve.
The Classic BLT depends on high quality ingredients to reach its full potential, and don’t be stingy with the mayo.
Lobster BLTs transform the humble sandwich into something special.
Caramelized bacon and slices of avocado dress up almost-classic BLT.