How to eat a BLT sandwich
Une leçon sur l’art de déguster le sandwich Bacon, Laitue, Tomate.
Si les Britanniques ne sont pas réputés pour leur sens de la gastronomie, ils comptent néanmoins à leur actif quelques spécialités culinaires bien connues. Le fish and chips et l’English breakfast sont de grands classiques, mais connaissez-vous le sandwich BLT ? Nos voisins d’outre-Manche se sont appropriés ce mets américain et c'est aujourd’hui l’un de leurs favoris. Le journaliste britannique Tony Naylor lui rend un vibrant hommage.
Like boiled eggs, beans on toast or digestive biscuits, the bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich is such an everyday item it is easy to forget that it exists. While “bubblewraps” and broccoli coffee hog the headlines, the BLT occupies a stolid middle-ground of mass consumption, widely eaten but rarely given much thought. The BLT just is. [Yet it has recently found itself in the news.]
2. First, the Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, sought to reassure the public that, post-Brexit, there would be no disruption to food supplies. Britain would still be able to make its beloved BLT, he told reporters. It was a curious sandwich for Raab to stake his reputation on, given that the BLT originates in the US (was this a coded come-on to Trump for a trade deal?). And that a man from Danepak then predictably came out to say that, actually, no one could guarantee anything after Brexit, and, in the event of no deal, bacon prices would be likely to shoot up.
3. Raab then had to suffer a second humiliation when a new poll for Warburton’s suggested that, rather than the BLT being a national go-to, it is now a fading 90s’ relic. Despite coming fifth in a survey of Britain’s favourite sandwiches for rival Bird’s Eye as recently as 2016, it was recently reported that the BLT has been usurped by “cosmopolitan” fillings such as brie and cranberry, and “über trendy pulled pork”. If the BLT is on the slide, perhaps it just needs a little tender loving dictatorial re-examination of how it should be rendered in its most perfect form.
4. In defining what the BLT is, it is important to also stipulate what it is not. It is not a potential party canape. There is no need to reinterpret it as a taco. Every time someone writes a recipe for a bread-free BLT salad, a 200-year-old starter culture dies. If you need hot sauce on a BLT then, quite simply, you need to stop smoking.
HOT OR COLD?
5. Hot. The butter, mayonnaise, tomatoes and lettuce should all be taken from the fridge way in advance. Not just to ensure that they deliver peak flavour, but so that, as they are sandwiched together betwixt hot bacon and golden toast, all the ingredients rapidly achieve a cohesive warmth. A number of now readily melting fats, from the mayo, bacon and butter,
should bind the sandwich together as a near-fluid emollient. Is your BLT dripping down your wrists? That is a good thing.
LOW FAT, ZERO PLEASURE
6. Apparently, sandwich manufacturers know that, in the third week of January, after a period of dieting and self-denial, BLT sales spike. That tells you a lot about the essential appeal of this sandwich. It is a treat. An indulgence. Any attempt to “lighten” the BLT – swapping butter for avocado, low-fat mayo, turkey bacon etc – erodes that, irrevocably. If you want low-calorie, you are looking at the wrong sandwich.
7. Bread: White sliced or, at most, a very lightly malted bread (nothing darker or more worthy), of the best quality you can find or afford. A long-proved, traditional white loaf, soft and strong, is ideal; but a decent supermarket slicedwhite bread will work fine. Key points: slices should be no more than 1.5cm thick.
8. Bacon: Most BLT recipes suggest smoked which, if the bacon is of low-quality, is wise – to inject some flavour. But if you can source some dry-cured Gloucester Old Spot rashers or similar, let that pure porcine flavour shine.
9. Tomato: Cut into roundels of no more than 0.5cm thick. You need a fleshier tomato so its juices do not soak the bread. Salt the slices to bring out their flavour.
10. Lettuce: Forget flabby, watery iceberg; spritzy baby gem is the way to go. Under no circum- stances start adding rocket, soft salad leaves or other unwanted foliage – this is not a salad sandwich.
11. Mayonnaise: Posher, thicker and/or homemade versions can be too rich and assertive. They can create a cloying BLT. Instead, spread a modest amount of relatively restrained Hellmann’s on each piece of bread, over a layer of butter (salted, always salted). Hellmann’s was advertising itself in Life magazine as the “traditional” mayo for a BLT as early as 1958, albeit alongside a recipe that is wrong in almost every detail.
12. Weekend brunch: the BLT is a bit too busy (and salad-y) for breakfast, and, conversely, a little one dimensional at lunch. But, in that weekend bridging zone, where you have the time and inclination to prepare a belter, it is perfect. Simple but not too simple, this supercharged bacon butty delivers a familiar throughline of flavour with just enough complexity to set you thinking appetisingly – like a promising cinema trailer – about the more grownup meals you will eat after midday.