The basics of building a better BLT sandwich from the type of bread to the thickness of the tomato slice to the variety of lettuce you opt for. Yes, there are rules.
A BLT is not a hard sandwich to master, and nearly everyone has the ability to figure out how to slap bacon, lettuce, and slices of tomato on bread. However, there is a bit of finesse when it comes to making a great BLT. The kind that makes your heart sing with joy. The kind that easily becomes a meal.
With most things, it is purpose that separates mediocrity from true greatness. That drive and prioritization that says “this thing is important and deserves attention” can be all that stands in your way.
For us, we are at the peak of BLT season. The weather is winding down, and the markets are (finally) full of melons and heirloom tomatoes of all sizes, shapes, and colors. They’ve been on our menu weekly for the last few months, and I never tire of them. So, indulge me for a minute, as I tell you of how entirely simple and not my dinner menu containing BLTs can be. The combination of garden-fresh tomato, salty bacon, crisp lettuce, and mayonnaise all pressed together by hearty, toasted bread is enough to make me plant dozens of tomato plants each year in anticipation.
Yes, wheat bread, whole grain, yada yada. I’m saying no. Try einkorn wheat for a whole grain (it’s lighter!), and I personally prefer a sourdough. Sour. Dough. That bite to the bread will help balance the salty bacon and the creamy avocado. (We’ll get to the avocado later.)
Of course, now that you have your bread, you have to toast it. This is not optional for a BLT. No soggy bread. We here in the Olmanson home prefer to do a light toast on a flat griddle on both sides of bread. I do one side slightly less than the others, but I like a thin toast to serve as the base for the mayonnaise and to hold up against all the tomato to come.
A BLT with bad mayonnaise or some other salad dressing spread is not a BLT at all. I realize there is no M in BLT, and Lene will tell you it’s just as good without the mayonnaise if not better. Do not listen to her. She’s 7. What does she know about mayonnaise?
Grab your immersion blender, an egg yolk, oil, a bit of lemon and Dijon and make your own or try a few twists on traditional like this sriracha lime mayo. Not interested whipping it up yourself? Grab your favorite mayonnaise that has as few ingredients as possible.
The bacon which doth grace the sandwich of the hour should be substantial. This is not the time for that paper thin stuff, sliced to make you feel good about your fat-per-slice ratio. The thicker cut, the better. Peppered, certainly.
We purchase our BLT bacon from the market from the same farm that supplies us with chicken and sausage. It’s a beautifully thick cut of peppered bacon, and I look for pieces that have the largest amount of meat running through them. If you don’t have a meat market or supplier, try getting your bacon from the meat counter or find a local butcher. Once you have the meat, bake it. Let’s not fool around here. We’re making BLTs for more than one, and baking it produces the most evenly cooked and flattest pieces, which makes them lounge across your lettuce like they own the place, and they do. That B stands for bacon, after all.
Leave the iceberg in the crisper. Pick something with a nice, hearty leaf. Romaine is a good one, but I prefer thinner leaves, not that hard stem portion you get towards the base of a romaine leaf. A red leaf variety gives good crunch and flavor, plus, it’s pretty.
Heirlooms. If you don’t have heirlooms, don’t bother. Strong words, sure, but this is serious business. On the board for this BLT-making session I have one Brandywine and one Old German. The Old German and Pineapple tomatoes are some of my favorite heirlooms for their dense meat and because they’re just terribly nice-looking. I choose my food based on how attractive it is, yes. They’re also the right amount of sweet.
The farmer at the market selling heirlooms describes Brandywine tomatoes as the “best tomato ever.” They are a pink-red tomato with large lobes, and they have a sweet tang to them.
Cut them thick or thin. I like mine pretty average, about 1/4″ thick and layered generously because this sandwich is really all about the tomato for me. Ole prefers them slightly thinner, and I try to comply when slicing. Sometimes.
Yes, avocado. I started years ago to slice avocado and add them to my BLTs, which I guess would make them a bit more of a BLAT, but they are definitely a good addition to an already great sandwich, and I consider their presence essential when constructing my ideal BLT scenario.
Now, press your sandwich together and eat. Close your eyes. Enjoy, and dream of next summer and fall when you get to do it all over again.
Have you noticed the lack of words on the screen? Is it apparent that I’ve been wondering if it matters, that I’ve been questioning my purpose?
Every so often I forget. The intent that was once ever-present at the front of my mind becomes garbled, slipping from the tip of my tongue down my throat to where it sits in my stomach, buried in acid and topped off with whatever my eyes ate while trolling Twitter or checking my inbox. Those images and words cloud the vision I have for myself. They obscure the ideas and objectives I have set before me.
The goal is simple: I want to encourage others to learn about their food and to share it. I hope to encourage you to eat in more, appreciating the process of feeding oneself and those you care about. I want you to talk to your own children or to children you know about food, to let them be involved in it, to allow them a sense of ownership over what they put in their bodies. I believe that we need to prioritize mealtime rather than looking it as just one more thing in a long line of things. It should be the thing that connects all of the other things.
Sometimes I get bogged down by other stuff, the stuff that doesn’t matter or shouldn’t matter but somehow ends up ostensibly decisive to some imagined level of accomplishment.
In my kitchen, I recently hosted a meeting for a team of test kitchen employees from a local corporation, and they asked me how I measured my own success. The answer was when someone takes a moment to write a few words about their experience sharing a recipe with their kids or friends or thanks me for something I introduced them to or encouraged them to try, those are the moments where I feel like I’ve accomplished something.
I hope that you still find this space useful and informative, inviting and inspirational because that’s all I ever hoped it would be. I need to remember to be me in the midst of everything else.
Now I’m going to take my leave because the overly earnest nature of those last few paragraphs makes me uncomfortable.