Cooking with Boyfriend: The Redemption of the BLT, Humankind's Most Worthless Sandwich



What up, tasteful Internet broads! I'm the boyfriend.

Did you guys read Jennifer's recounting of the trip to Charlottesville that we made last weekend? Cute, right? Well, as you may recall, Saturday afternoon we serendipitously landed at Trump Winery, waaaaay-hay-hay-hay out in rural Albemarle County. (Certainly not in Charlottesville, as its sign laughably asserts.) You may also recall that we only ended up there because we were too cheap to walk around Monticello. Twenty-four bucks to wander around a UNESCO World Heritage site slash home of the architect of our national identity? The hell with that – time to go get faded!

Anyway, we end up at Trump Winery, and we start tasting wines and gabbing with the staff. When their menu comes up in conversation, the girl who's pouring our tastes mentions the BLT. … You know what, scratch that. To say that she “mentioned” the BLT suggests a casualness in her countenance that betrays the super glassy look of barely contained ecstasy that smeared across her face while she talked. It was weird, ladies. The more surprising thing, though? That girl's enthusiasm was roundly seconded by the other employees whom we asked to corroborate their coworker's apparent sandwich fetish. Before long the trend was impossible to ignore: The employees at Trump Winery were more enthused by their workplace's BLT than they were about their workplace's wine. And don't get me wrong, they were deservedly hype about their wine.

Now, look. Two shits is three more shits than I give about the BLT, generally speaking. It's a sandwich made of toppings. To appropriate my favorite line from Thug Kitchen, ain't nobody got time for that. Well if that's so, then what about the grilled cheese as a sandwich, you not-unreasonably ask? Stick with me on this one, here: the BLT lacks the elegant cohesive simplicity of the grilled cheese. A grilled cheese does this incredible thing in which bread and cheese become a single inseparable entity, not a flimsy stack of components like the BLT, a sandwich that, incidentally, you can't even reliably hold together with a single toothpick like you can with all the reasonable sandwiches. You can throw a grilled cheese at somebody. A BLT would break apart mid-air like a flung stack of notecards. No structural integrity, to borrow Bourdain's parlance.

And hey, if you added, oh, some flame-broiled ground beef to the space between the bread occupied by bacon, lettuce, and tomato, you would have... a hamburger! Ever think about that? A BLT would cease to be itself at the intrusion of many ingredients more substantial than a depressing swipe of mayo. Structural integrity is one thing, but hell, even the essential integrity of the BLT is a house of straw.

“That's a good-looking burger you've got there.”
“Thanks, but it's actually a BLT with beef.”
“...I just really hate that I go to the same college as you.”

All right, digression over. Listen to me when I talk about fat deliciousness, though, ladies. I know that of which I speak.

But still! Still! Despite all my knuckleheaded obstinate bluster, we ended up trying that BLT at Trump Winery. We couldn't not, if only to know for sure if the winery staff had been Stepfordized in the service of inferior sandwiches. And let me tell you, it was one of those times – you know the times – when you take the first bite of something toe-curlingly delicious, and then you become spontaneously overwhelmed with dread at the thought of living without it beyond the thirty seconds you're about to spend desperately shoving it into your chew hole.

So naturally, Jennifer and I decided to try to remake this bad boy at home.

This recipe makes two sandwiches, because I am a gentleman.

First, bread. Don't half-ass this component! If you're going to go to the trouble to make your own aioli (which you are! you are!), then you're not going to jam some Wonder Bread into your toaster and pat yourself on the back. At best, pluck a recipe off of the Interwebs or out of your nana's recipe box and make your own bread. At worst, buy yourself something simple and nourishing and tasty, like this action right here:


Jennifer has being eating sourdough toast these last few weeks like someone will kill her whole family if she dares to stop. It's been hilarious, yet totally understandable, because sourdough is the man. But yes, anyway, choose your bread and set four slices aside until you're about to combine the rest of your finished ingredients.

Preheat your oven to 375.

Get out two baking sheets. On the first one, drop a sheet of parchment paper, if you have it, and put your bacon on that sheet.


Doesn't parchment paper sound like the fanciest thing your could possibly have in your kitchen? I watch way too much Barefoot Contessa.

By the way, don't be sitting there thinking that you're just going to toss your bacon into a frying pan like you do every time you wake up and totter into the kitchen to nurse your monster hangover, you unbelievable tramp, you. This is sandwich bacon, and throwing it in the oven all but guarantees zero curling on the ends and equal cooking over the full surface area of each strip. It will lay flatly and handsomely on your sandwich when it's done. Plus, you get to leave it the hell alone while you're busying yourself with other BLT demands, namely the T and the aioli. No babysitting the pan or nudging or flipping or fussing or angst. Isn't it great when the work does itself?

Oh, – and again, because this is sandwich bacon – get thick-cut bacon if you're able. I got those four little beauties up there in the deli instead of the lame old refrigerated section at Kroger, and then I zoomed home in my solid gold rocket car and dove Scrooge McDuck-style into my vault of treasure.

Okay, roasted tomato time. Yeah, you read that right.


George Carlin had an exceptional bit about the appalling difference between the outside of a tomato and the inside. Isn't that tomato up there lovely? Doesn't it look like something that a masseuse would rub onto your bare back at some idiotically expensive spa out in the Arizona desert? Look at how it's naturally generating those little moisture beads! Don't you want to be at that spa right now, reflecting on the fairness and goodness of life while sipping your complimentary glass of champagne with a raspberry floating in it? Can't you just hear water trickling over rocks? That's how generous and fulfilling and right that tomato looks.

SO WHY GOD WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY:


Oh god I can't even look at it without running around in circles and flailing my arms in the most foppish and limp-wristed manner conceivable. All that gory, jelly-like whatsit. Those seeds. Those weird gooey holes nononononoaghaghaghaghagh PUKE-O-RAMA.

All the more justification to do what you're going to do next:

Slice that unholy thing into quarter-inch slices. Next, line a second baking sheet with foil and drop those slices onto that sheet, and hit each slice with:

* a good drizzle of olive oil

* a good drizzle of balsamic vinegar
* some kosher salt

* some freshly ground pepper
* some sugar

* some minced garlic (two cloves should be sufficient)




Hey, not looking as bad! After burning your cutting board and salting the ashes, it's time to toss both the bacon sheet and the tomatoes sheet into the oven, side by side, for about fifteen or so minutes.

WARNING: A few minutes after you close the oven door, two things will happen: you will hear a gentle sizzling, and your house will begin to fill with an aroma so frightfully tantalizing that if it happens to float out your kitchen window and up into your neighborhood, dogs will break free of their leashes and gather outside your house, old ladies will writhe with hot flashes, and clergymen will fall to their knees and gnash their teeth and renounce their faiths.

Also, your oven might smoke, so keep an eye out for that. Pop those pans out and turn down your oven to no less than 350 and then pop 'em back in if you have to.

While the tomatoes and the bacon are roasting away, make aioli. Yes, make it. Make it beforehand, if you like. It keeps! I'm certainly not one of those anti-mayo ninnies, but you're not hurrying your way through this sandwich (yet!), so set the mayo aside.

Pour yourself a bourbon, though, first. You've earned it. Besides, the world needs more aesthetically adept women who drink bourbon. (It's science, look it up.)



All right, aioli. First, retrieve the mortar and pestle from its home in the darkest corner of your cabinet, way back near the bottle of Galliano next to the Magic Bullet. Alternately, order a mortar and pestle. I improvised a bit this time, seeing as our pestle is broken. This is an Andy Hobin original tip, ladies, and feel free to Pinterest the hell out of it or whatever it is you do: use a wine cork.


A cork doesn't have the broadest surface area, which means your hand will get tired more easily, but a cork – a real one, not a sponge cork – has teeny little grooves that do a not-so-bad job of latching onto whatever it is you're grinding and then drawing it over the coarse surface of the mortar.

(Hey, side note: are you checking your oven to make sure its present inhabitants are doing okay? At least after the first ten minutes of roasting? Of course you are.)

Now, what are you putting in this mortar? You're putting one big clove (or two small cloves) of garlic in that mortar with a pinch of salt and grinding them down to a pasty-ish consistency.

Pro-tip: This is not a paste:


Hey, good hustle, though! That arm starting to get tired? Your pinky aching for some reason? Don't lose heart! Power through! It's a little coarse still, that garlic, but you're getting there. Just a little longer, and you'll have this:


That's more like it. It's not a paste so much as it is pasty. Gelatinous-y. It needs to be like this, or smoother, because you need to be able to whisk it into the emulsified stuff you're going to be making momentarily. And because if you serve an aioli with stray bits of whole garlic lurking inside of it, some unsuspecting victim is going to bite into one and then punch you directly in the ta-tas. So unless you're into that sort of thing (hey, I'm not here to judge!), don't wimp out on this step.

Next, you're going to pour a quarter cup of olive oil and three tablespoons of vegetable oil into a measuring cup, preferably one with a spout.

The spout's there, I promise. Next, whisk together:

* an egg yolk
* two teaspoons of lemon juice
* half a teaspoon of Dijon mustard
* half a teaspoon of stoneground mustard
(which, I'm fairly certain, is the special ingredient in Trump Winery's aioli).


Then, slooooo-ho-ho-ho-ho-ly drizzle the oil mixture into the yolk mixture while whisking the yolk mixture constantly. You thought your arm had the ouchies back with the mortar and pestle? Oh, sister, how innocent you are. How unspoiled.

When all the oil's been incorporated, triumphantly fling that godforsaken whisk across the room with a big ol' WOO! Then, sheepishly remember the garlic in the mortar, retrieve and rinse off the whisk, and whisk the garlic paste into the yolk / oil mixture. Season said mixture with salt and pepper if you feel so inclined.

You're pretty much done! Transfer the mixture – which you may now refer to as aioli with your hau-hau-haughtiest laugh – to a container of your choice. Cover it and stick it in the fridge for about ten minutes to allow it to firm up a touch. This is what it should look like:



Resist the urge to smear it all over your face and run screaming into the night. This stuff is terrific, people. In any situation where mustard or mayo is your go-to, you can tag in aioli. You can spread a bit on an omelette, it's baller with french fries and home fries, it will elevate most any breaded and fried grub to new heights...

Hey, whoa, bacon's done! But yes, aioli, man, oh baby oh baby.


How about that evenly cooked surface area I went on and on about before, right? Yeah? Yeah, you want to reach through your screen right now and get you some a that, I know.

Because I'll never be a good lady-blogger, I neglected to snap a picture of the finished roasted tomatoes, but they should appear not unlike the bacon, actually. Lightly caramelized, slightly reduced, a luscious amalgam of pink and brown and points in between. Your nose will nudge you toward agreeing with what your eyes are suggesting. You don't want your tomatoes ending up too reduced, otherwise they'll get, well, “lost in the sandwich,” which is something I say because I know I'd make a great judge and/or contestant on Chopped. You'll want your tomatoes to retain a little of their otherwise repulsive raw tomato tang, too, because it just works. (Did I mention that I think raw tomatoes taste not especially great in addition to being generally disgusting? No? Well, fuck raw tomatoes, is what I'm getting at.)

Lettuce! Tough to mess this up: Rip up a few leaves of romaine lettuce for your sandwich. (You already got a picture of lettuce. You're not getting another one. How about we just let that picture of the measuring cup be the most extraneous image on this post, okay?) And do rip 'em up. Ever been eating a sandwich with lettuce and you take a bite which somehow ends with an entire goddamn mayo-plastered lettuce leaf rent clean from the sandwich and dangling from your face? Horrible. I have a beard, so whenever that happens to me I want to murder the world.

Hey, look at all that romaine you've got leftover! You're not going to let that go to waste, are you? No you're not, you swans of frugality. You're gonna rip up some more of that romaine and set it aside, and then you're going to get out a mixing bowl and whisk together the following super-basic vinaigrette:

* half a teaspoon of Dijon mustard
* the juice of half a lemon
* a good tablespoon of olive oil (or more, if you feel like you need it)
* Kosher salt and pepper, to taste


That's it. Salad in a flash. Speaking of flash, I didn't take a picture of the vinaigrette because it would have taken longer to photograph it than it would have to mix it, and I just wouldn't have been able to live with myself. Here's the finished salad though, set-aside leaves and dressing tossed together and lovingly deposited into a wee dish:


It's terrific on its own, that vinaigrette, in addition to being gratifyingly simple, but you could absolutely gussy it up with some fresh thyme leaves or some red pepper flakes or some grated parm. Whatever blows your hair back. Toss the salads (you're making two of them, right?) with the vinaigrette right before you serve them, though, because soggy salads are just heartbreaking.

Lightly toast your bread, then add the bacon, roasted tomatoes, romaine leaves, and a generous smear of aioli to the bread, and sandwich gods be pacified, there it is:



These sandwiches were delicious. They really and truly were.

There's something gratifying about putting a relatively extensive amount of effort into preparing food that seems inherently simple, like you totally gamed the system, you know? It's also a surefire way to surprise yourself, and – real talk, ladies – one can never get enough of surprising oneself.

But seriously though, did you notice how much more effort went into the aioli than into the actual sandwich itself during this whole process? Fucking BLTs.

Yours truly, Andy

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The BLT and Simple Salad

 

Ingredients


BLT
4 slices of bread (we used sourdough)
4 strips of thick bacon
romaine lettuce
1 large tomato
olive oil
kosher salt
pepper
balsamic vinegar
sugar
2 cloves of garlic, minced

aioli
1 large clove or 2 small cloves of garlic
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
12 teaspoon of stoneground mustard
1/4 cup of olive oil
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
salt
pepper

salad
romaine lettuce
1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Kosher salt 
pepper


Directions


BLT
1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
2. Place bacon on a parchment paper-lined baking pan.
3. Slice tomato into quarter-inch rounds. Place the rounds on a foil-lined baking sheet and top each round with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, minced garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper
4. Roast tomatoes and bacon in oven for at least 15 minutes. Remove tomatoes or bacon from the oven if blackening around the edges.
5. Lightly toast bread.
6. Rip romaine leaves to desired size.
7. Assemble sandwiches with aioli (see directions below) and serve immediately with salad.

aioli
1. With a pinch of salt, grind garlic into a paste in a mortar.
2. Combine olive oil and vegetable oil in a measuring cup.
3. Whisk together egg yolk, both mustards, and lemon juice.
4. Add oil mixture to yolk mixture slowly while constantly whisking yolk mixture until smooth and emulsified.
5. Whisk in garlic paste.
6. Season with salt and pepper as desired.
7. Cover and chill for at least ten minutes.

salad
1. Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper. Add more of any ingredient to taste.
2. Toss with romaine lettuce and serve immediately.

5 comments

  1. i've never had a BLT because i don't eat B and don't like T, but this looks fantastic. passing it along to my dad...who may not appreciate being called an Internet broad, but he'll have to deal for the sake of the holiest sandwich.


    boyfriend posts are always fun. dago's gift guide on my blog is still the first or second most viewed post of all time. he done good!


    xo nicole
    writeslikeagirlblog.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Nicole! Clearly I have underestimated this blog's potential reach among the XY chromosome crowd. LEARNING CURVE.

    Make double triple sure your dad makes the aioli, otherwise it doesn't count. THREATEN HIM IF YOU HAVE TO.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am a BLT fan, but you do make a good point. Regardless, I'm definitely going to try this!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm a BLT fan too, Erika! "Worthless" is Andy's designation. It's a sandwich that every once in a while just sounds perfect and light for lunch. This recipes just elevates it to a whole new level. The roasted tomatoes and aioli just make it super special and flavorful and delicious. Not something you'd probably bother with every time if you eat them on the regular, but a nice treat!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I do not at all begrudge you your BLT fandom, Erika (or Jennifer!), for I am a fairly gross person who often demands his sandwiches to be more or less face-sized. But yes! Do try! And thanks!

    ReplyDelete

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