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.