By Jackie Longbons-Baughman & Ryan Baughman / Garden Fresh Chef
The Sandwich: what could be more wonderful? The simple splendor of stuff between bread is matched only by the sheer versatility of this artistic medium. Hot or cold, soft or toasted, big or small, the sandwich can be one of the most fabulous lunches you’ve ever had.
However, it can also be one of the biggest letdowns. Too many times have we gone to a restaurant and ordered a BLT (bacon makes everything awesome), just to be disappointed by stale bread, iceberg lettuce and overdone, re-microwaved bacon. With something as straightforward as a BLT, attention needs to be paid to the little details. That extra bit of care can take something as ordinary as a BLT into something to savor.
That’s what we tried to do for our young adult group the last time we cooked lunch. We wanted something more savory to go with our sweet and spicy Roasted Butternut Squash Soup while being light enough not to weigh everyone down for the rest of the day. What really set this “Bistro BLT” apart is the homemade mayonnaise. It’s easier than you’d think to make, WAY better than what you buy at the store and you can add all sorts of flavors to make it your own.
First, a word of caution: the homemade mayonnaise is made from uncooked egg yolks. They provide the body for the sauce and bind the whole thing together. The vinegar in the recipe should eliminate most “microbial beasties,” but if you’re sensitive about that sort of thing just use your favorite store-bought mayonnaise and dress it up however you like.
Loaf of crusty bread (we used sourdough), sliced in about ½ inch slices.
Thick-cut bacon, about 4 slices per sandwich
Tomatoes – beefsteak, heirloom, or your favorite – sliced about 1/8 inch thick
Romaine lettuce, rinsed and patted dry.
(I urge you to use a lettuce with more flavor than iceberg, whatever that might be. Your sandwich will thank you.)
Mayonnaise – homemade (recipe follows), or store-bought, with your preferred flavor additions. We added the following: curry powder, garlic powder, chili powder and cayenne pepper.
Provolone cheese (optional, but recommended)
Salt and pepper
Remember, the key to a great BLT is attention to detail, so make sure you take care of your ingredients in every step.
Step One: Prep the ingredients.
Slice the bread and tomatoes; peel off the bitter outer leaves from the romaine to get to the sweeter inner leaves, rinse and pat dry. Lay the tomato slices out and lightly season with salt and pepper on both sides. You don’t need too much since the bacon is salty, but seasoning every layer helps make your whole sandwich more delicious.
Step Two: Cook the bacon.
Using your preferred method, cook the bacon. Jackie likes to cook bacon in the microwave inside folded paper towels. True, it’s fool-proof and clean up is a snap, but I prefer putting the slices on a baking sheet and putting it in a 350˚ oven until just done. This way you can cook as much bacon as you need all at once. It’s a good idea to flip the bacon around half-way through in the oven method, though, to make sure nothing sticks.
When the bacon is done, remove to paper towels to drain off excess grease.
Step Three: Toast the bread.
Lightly brush the bread on both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on baking sheets and place in the oven, turning once until both sides are slightly golden. Once the bread is done, place one slice of provolone per sandwich on the slices of bread and melt slightly.
Step Four: Assemble!
While the bread is still warm, spread a light coating of mayonnaise on both slices. Place the bacon on top of that, followed by the lettuce and two tomato slices, as if you needed to be told how to assemble a sandwich :) Enjoy!
5 egg yolks
12 oz of olive oil
1 tsp of mustard powder
1 tsp or so of vinegar
1 tsp or so of lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Whip the egg yolks and mustard powder together until thick and frothy.
Gradually add in oil to the eggs at a slow rate while whisking. Whisk to desired thickness.
Add vinegar and whisk (optional).
Add salt and pepper to taste.
At this point, you can add any extra flavorings you desire. We added: ¼ tsp of curry powder, ½ cayenne pepper and ¼ of garlic powder.
P.S. We saved the heels of bread for the sandwiches, drizzled them with a little olive oil, sprinkled them with salt, pepper and dried thyme, spread them out on a baking sheet and toasted them as croutons for our Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. Waste not, want not!