With herbed mayonnaise, perfectly crisp bacon, and bread that's only toasted on one side, a simple BLT sandwich is transformed into a delicacy.
Nothing says "simple summer dinner" like a good old-fashioned BLT. I've always liked BLTs, but thought of them more as an "I don't feel like cooking" sort of meal rather than an "I can't wait to eat this" sort of meal. That has all changed.
The other day, I was watching "The Best Thing I Ever Ate (with Bacon)" on the Food Network, and one of the chefs was describing his favorite BLT from a cafe in Brooklyn. There were no complex techniques or unusual ingredients involved...it was just a little extra attention to detail that elevated it from a run-of-the-mill sandwich to a delicacy.
I really wanted to eat that BLT, and since I don't live anywhere near Brooklyn, I decided to make it myself. I can now say that this sandwich has gone from a B-list summer dinner to something I want to make all summer long.
The 5 ingredients of the perfect BLT:
Every BLT starts with three basic ingredients: bread, lettuce, and tomato. Sometimes people add avocado (BLAT) or a fried egg (BLET) or maybe both (BLEAT). But in this post I'm focusing on the B, L and T, and showing you how to choose and prepare these ingredients in the best way possible.
Best bread for a BLT:
Regular sandwich bread from the grocery store bread aisle isn't going to cut it if you're making a BLT. The key is to find bread that's not too soft and not too hard, and not sliced too thick or too thin. I went through the bakery section of our grocery store store poking and squeezing loaves of bread until I found a loaf that had a lot of "squish" to it, but wasn't so soft that it would turn to mush. A good sourdough would work nicely, too.
TIP: On the Food Network, the chef toasted the two slices together (one on top of the other) in a toaster oven so that the outsides of the sandwich would get toasted, but the insides would stay soft. Since I don't have a toaster oven, I just placed the bread under the broiler in the oven for a few minutes until it was just starting to brown on top, leaving the undersides un-toasted.
The chef used homemade mayonnaise flecked with fresh rosemary. To keep things simple, I opted to use store-bought mayonnaise (the real stuff) with some freshly chopped rosemary AND freshly chopped basil stirred in. This really added great flavor to the sandwich without overpowering the other ingredients.
Perfectly crisp bacon:
If you search "how to cook crisp bacon" you'll find a ton of conflicting advice. I followed the advice of the TV chef and baked the bacon on a lined baking sheet at 325 for about 20-25 minutes. You can also use a rack on top of the backing sheet, if you have one.
Some recommend baking at a higher temperature, but I think it's too easy to burn it that way. Cooking bacon at a lower temperature allows time to monitor the crispness and also render off all of the fat, which makes the bacon less greasy.
If you have already perfected a technique for making super crisp bacon, by all means stick with it. Different brands of bacon and different ovens will affect the temperature and time, so just experiment until you find what gets you the best results.
Fresh, ripe tomatoes:
It's pretty hard to mess up a sliced tomato, but make sure to use the ripest, reddest tomatoes you can find. Also, what made this BLT extra special was that it had layers of thinly sliced tomato instead of one thick slice, ensuring that each bite would contain some tomato-y deliciousness. To boost the flavor, sprinkle some salt and pepper onto the tomatoes after you layer them onto the sandwich.
Butter lettuce has always been my lettuce of choice for the ultimate BLT. Make sure to wash and dry it thoroughly (and refrigerate it before serving) so that it stays nice and crisp.
Proper BLT assembly:
Spread the herbed mayo onto both non-toasted sides of the bread. Add a layer of tomatoes onto one piece of bread (sprinkling with salt & pepper), followed by the bacon and topped with the lettuce. It's up to you how much of each ingredient you want to use, but the key is to have an even ratio and pack the ingredients tightly so that the sandwich doesn't fall apart when you pick it up.
A perfectly executed BLT is basically the definition of good and simple when it comes to food. If you prep the tomatoes, lettuce and mayo ahead of time, you can have a fresh, delicious dinner on the table in minutes after a long, hot summer day.
BLT with Herbed Mayonnaise
- 8 slices sourdough bread or whole grain bakery bread
- 8 slices ripe tomato
- ½ cup mayonnaise your favorite brand
- 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh basil finely chopped
- 1 head butter lettuce washed dried and refrigerated
- 10-12 slices bacon
- Cook the bacon until it's very crisp, but not burnt.
- Chop In a small bowl, stir the chopped herbs into the mayonnaise.
- Set the oven to broil and place the slices of bread on a cookie sheet. Place the bread under the broiler and heat until it starts to get lightly brown on top. Only toast one side.
- Let the bread cool slightly, and then build the sandwich. Spread the mayo on both pieces of bread, and make sure the toasted sides of the bread are on the outside.