My fondness for tomatoes is a recurring theme this month. As we reluctantly end August, I will make the most of what has been a terrific tomato season here on Long Island. I love every kind of tomato from the largest of heirlooms to the miniest of minis and everything in between. So you can imagine how it kills me when we end up with leftovers on a tomato platter like the one you see here. But this week, help arrived from an Englishwoman. I was slightly surprised by this. But I shouldn’t have been. A little dive into food history revealed that the Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwich is the most popular sandwich in the United Kingdom.In the U.S. it comes in at #2, right after the ham sandwich.
The bacon, lettuce and tomato combination dates back to the early 1900s. But it didn’t really come into its own until after World War II when supermarkets took over food shopping and its ingredients were widely available year ‘round. In fact, it wasn’t called a BLT until the 1970s. And then only when it became restaurant short-hand for the sandwich. Even Hellman’s mayonnaise, who in 1958 wanted to link their mayo to the popular sandwich, didn’t call it a BLT. Instead, they advertised that Hellman’s was “traditional” on bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches implying the sandwich had been around a long time.
The version I made today was inspired by an article in this week’s New York Times. Claire de Boer, who is one of the three women behind, King, a restaurant in Manhattan (18 King Street, Corner of 6th Avenue. (Tel: 917-825-1618) . The Times took Chef de Boer out of her restaurant and followed her upstate to the country house she shares with her husband, Luke Sherwin. It was rather a busman’s holiday as the British Chef spent the better part of a week conjuring up all kinds of wonderful dishes several of which I cannot wait to try. And the first one up was Chef de Boer’s take on the BLT. In fact, it’s actually the brainchild of her husband and at their house, it’s eaten at breakfast.
Luke Sherwin passed on two secrets of his sandwich. While the bacon cooks, he marinates his sliced tomatoes with red wine vinegar, olive oil and salt. I quickly realized that my leftover tomatoes had been doing just that—marinating overnight in dressing. Thanks to Luke, I was emboldened to make my own. I used Trader Joe’s Brioche loaf as the bread for my sandwich but I think a great Tuscan loaf would be terrific too. I also cooked my thick-cut bacon in the oven—at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. Thick cut is pretty well essential to the sandwich and I made sure each sandwich had plenty of it—two big strips of it. I love Butter lettuce above all others and I am particularly fond of the hydroponically grown lettuces found at Costco (and elsewhere). They seem to keep forever—at least a couple of weeks—and can be easily pulled apart to into individual leaves. For mayonnaise, I do use Hellman’s although I switched over to their Olive Oil based mayo imagining it to be healthier. It is actually lower in calories and fat but I likely more than make up for the difference by slathering it over the toast.
Nothing could be simpler than making this terrific sandwich. So next time, don’t jettison those dinner party tomatoes. Cover them with plastic wrap and make them into the most incredible BLT…for breakfast like Claire and Luke or lunch like me and Andrew. Here’s the recipe:
The Ulitimate BLT
This juicy version of the classic BLT gets its great tomato flavor from tomatoes marinated in vinegar and oil.
- 4 slices thick-cut, smoked or unsmoked bacon, or 16 slices thin-cut bacon
- 2 heirloom tomatoes (in summer season, in winter use smaller vine tomatoes)
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 1 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Flaky sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 slices good white bread (medium thickness, boule is preferable), heavily toasted
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 6 butter lettuce leaves
- Step 1 Working in batches if necessary, fry bacon in a large skillet over high heat until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Or cook bacon in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Transfer to a large cutting board.
- Step 2 While bacon cooks, slice tomato crosswise into thin rounds. Transfer to a plate and marinate with red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper. Or use leftover tomatoes that have been dressed with oil and vinegar.
- Step 3 Spread toast generously with mayonnaise on one side, follow with remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil.
- Step 4 Divide the tomatoes with some of their vinegar marinade among 2 slices of toast. Top with the lettuce.
- Step 5 Lay the bacon on the remaining slices of toast. Form sandwiches by piling the bacon-topped slices on top of the remaining toasts. Squeeze to close, cut in half and serve immediately.