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It is time to talk about bacon, specifically bacon in summer’s classic sandwich, the BLT. Two weeks ago in this column, I suggested that it was time for the year’s first BLT. It was just a quick reference, as that column focused on selecting and handling summer tomatoes. But it seems just the reference triggered expectations and when no BLT recipes appeared at the end of the column, readers were not happy.

I offer my sincere apologies. At the same time, one of the primary, albeit ethereal, ingredients in a BLT is longing. By limiting yourself to BLTs made exclusively with ripe, locally grown tomatoes, you have been wanting one for so long that you practically swoon with a first perfect bite. Delayed gratification is almost always a good thing.

So, what makes a great BLT, other than really good tomatoes, properly sliced through their equators?

Bread is very important. I prefer a good, sturdy, sourdough hearth bread that has big holes and is very fresh. I cut the bread into slices that are about ¾-inch thick. The very best slices are cut diagonally from the middle of the loaf and, yes, I realize the problem this creates. But there is plenty you can do with the rest of the bread.

I like to toast the bread until it is just golden; if you toast it too much, you risk cutting the roof of your mouth, which I have done on more than one occasion. It hurts. A lot.

Whatever you use to moisten the bread is crucial and controversial. After the first BLT of the season, I don’t care what you put on the bread for your own BLT. If you think homemade aioli makes the best BLT (as much as I love aioli, I don’t), have at it. If you prefer Miracle Whip, go ahead but please don’t tell me about it as I think it is a travesty. If you want mustard, olive oil, cream cheese, what have you, it is entirely your business.

However, for the season’s first ritual BLT, it’s got to be the original Best Foods Mayonnaise, no supposedly “healthful” substitute, no low-fat Best Foods or Best Foods made with olive oil or any of the other myriad mayonnaise condiments that line supermarket shelves. To taste right, it has to be Best Foods mayo.

The operative word for its application is slather. Do not rub the mayonnaise into the bread and do not skimp on quantity. Use a flexible rubber spatula, grab a bunch and slather it over the bread with one sweeping motion per slice. And then don’t touch it, just leave it alone in all its messy, slathered glory. Do not, under any circumstances, rub it into the bread.

Lettuce is important, too. For the year’s first BLT, it really should be Iceberg lettuce, torn in large pieces from the second, third and fourth layers. The outer layer should be discarded, as it is typically limp and dirty. The next three layers have the right texture, the right crunch; go any further into the head and the lettuce starts to get cabbage-y.

I make one exception when it comes to lettuce. If you don’t have good Iceberg lettuce — and it can be hard to find — use the most tender leaves of your favorite butter lettuce. They contribute a creaminess instead of a crunch, but somehow they work.

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Salt is essential, too. After tiling the tomatoes on top of the mayonnaise, you should sprinkle some course salt -- Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt or Maldon Salt Flakes -- over them. A bit more should be sprinkled on the lettuce before the sandwich is closed.

Pepper is negotiable. I like it ground onto the tomatoes after the salt is added, but it is an embellishment, not an essential ingredient.

This takes us to the all-important ingredient, the definitive component of the sandwich: The Bacon. Nothing makes or breaks a BLT like bacon. If I were James Carville, I’d say, “It’s the bacon, stupid.”

The actual brand of the bacon is less important than the way the bacon is cooked. I’ve had some of the finest artisan bacon in the country and I’ve had some of the most banal commercial brands. I’ll take a properly cooked commercial brand over an incorrectly cooked artisan brand any day.

Bacon must have snap, a certain crunch between the teeth that is achieved only by cooking it until it is very crisp but not burned. Flabby, rubbery or chewy bacon has no place on a BLT.

To get bacon to what I call the snap point, you should start out with bacon that has a high percentage of fat to meat and it should not be too thick. Some artisan bacon is very thick and very lean, more like bacon steak. This bacon is delicious but it doesn’t work on a BLT.

Once you have the right bacon, you’ll get the best snap by cooking it on top of the stove in a heavy pan that conducts heat evenly. Cook it until it seems almost done, turn it and continue to cook until it is deep golden brown and then quickly transfer it to absorbent paper to drain. If it is cooked properly, it will be stay in perfect sandwich shape for several hours. If it is undercooked, the chewy parts will harden with congealed fat as the bacon cools.

A few years ago I conducted a taste test of five brands using three cooking methods. You can read the results at “Eat This Now” at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. To find the post, just put “bacon” in the search bar. You’ll also find links to several BLTs from Seasonal Pantry’s archives.

For today’s recipe, I’ve adapted the most indulgent version of the sandwich from my book “The BLT Cookbook” (Morrow, 2003). It’s a feast in itself, perfect for celebrating what may be the most compelling combination of flavors ever. Be very hungry when you make this or plan on sharing it with someone.


The Full-Tilt Boogie BLT, aka the FTBBLT

Makes 1 Sandwich, easily doubled

8 bacon slices, preferably dry-cured, cut in half crosswise

2 center cut diagonal slices of sourdough hearth bread

¼ cup Best Foods mayonnaise, plus more to taste

3 to 4 3/8-inch thick slices of ripe beefsteak tomato, preferably an heirloom variety, such as Black Brandywine

— Kosher salt

— Black pepper in a mill

2 or 3 leaves of tender butter lettuce or crisp Iceberg lettuce

Set a large frying pan over medium-high heat, add the bacon in a single layer and cook, turning once or twice, until it is very crisp. Transfer to a brown paper bag to drain.

Toast the bread lightly, until it is just lightly browned, and then set on a clean work surface.

Slather both inner sides of the bread with mayonnaise, using as much as you like.

Tile the tomatoes over the bottom half of the bread and season lightly with salt and a few turns of black pepper.

Stack the bacon on top of the tomatoes as you might layer pastrami. Top with the lettuce, sprinkle it with a little salt and close the sandwich with the top piece of bread.

Press down very gently so that the sandwich holds together. Cut it in half and enjoy right away.

Michele Anna Jordan has written 17 books to date, including “Vinaigrettes and Other Dressings.” You’ll find her blog, “Eat This Now,” at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. Email Jordan at michele@saladdresser.com.

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