Tuesday, June 26, 2012

...BLTs, BLATs, and the TBS

Round my house, we're good Californians.  In culinary terms, that means that BLTs served at home are always BLATs.    I've written previously about my love for the Devilicious BBBLT which includes a fried egg and cheese, but at home we generally stick to the BLAT.  We're truly blessed here to have access to quality avocado that's really ripe through most of the year - so why miss an opportunity?

Well last night we were all (including the toddler) enjoying our BLATs with house-made potato and sweet potato chips when the toddler started creating her own sandwiches.  First, she had re-dubbed the BLAT as the "TBS": The tomato, bacon, salad sandwich.  OK, hard to argue with that, and especially hard to argue with a 3-year-old.  Next she created the TBSS - Tomato, bacon, salad, and sweet-potato chips..  I guess she thought it needed more crunch.  She wolfed down a rather large sandwich stuffed full...

For some reason, she always asks permission before experimenting with her food - we always tell her to go ahead (as long as she's eating).  I'm just sort of fascinated to see her relationship with food starting to evolve - she's starting to think like a chef (or at least a foodie); trying to figure out how to combine ingredients to the best possible effect.  I love that she "helps" me cook and watches me experiment and make mistakes.  Hopefully the practice will rub off on her.

I feel silly having to write this, but after having too many badly built BLTs in my time, I guess basic sandwich construction is still an artform not mastered by all.  Therefore, for the record, in order to maximize flavor and minimize the dreaded "ingredients slide", here is the proper construction of a BLAT:

Mise en place:

  • Slice 1 large, ripe, heirloom tomato into slices no thicker than 1/4".
  • Wash and pat dry several leaves of Red Leaf or other flavorful lettuce.  If you're going to use iceberg or butter lettuce, better to skip it, you won't taste it anyhow.
  • Take 1 large ripe avocado, split, de-seed, and remove meat from skin.  Mash in a bowl with a generous shake of garlic salt, like you're making a particularly boring guacamole.
  • Cook your bacon.  I prefer well-crisped in the oven so it stays flat, but choose your favorite method here.  If you're feeding a vegetarian, we highly recommend the MorningStar frozen Veggie Bacon Strips.  These warm easily in the microwave (use a swatch of parchment paper to avoid sticking) and are VASTLY superior to any of the refrigerated soy substitute bacon products.  They actually have "veins" of different material, so they have a texture/consistency that is more like real bacon (i.e. some crispy, some soft).  They are not wobbly and brown all over, and they do not smell like pet food.  Real thick-sliced center cut bacon still kicks this product's ass every day, but if you MUST use a substitute, use a good one.
A la minute:
  • Lightly toast two pieces of VERY sour sourdough. Don't overtoast lest you ravage your hard palate like the sandwich was a cheese grater...  
  • Lightly coat one slice of bread with your home made mayo or aioli.   If using store bought, it had better be Hellmans/Best Foods mayonnaise.  If you use a different brand, we just can't hang.  Sorry.
  • Coat the other slice of bread with a good spread of the mashed avocado.  Do these two steps right after the bread comes out of the toaster or else the bread will dry out.  See above, re: cheese grater.
  • Place the lettuce on the mayo-coated slice of the bread.
  • Place the tomato on top of the lettuce. Apply in a SINGLE LAYER ONLY.  This is why it's important to use good heirloom tomatoes - so you can taste them in small amounts.
  • Apply bacon to the avocado-covered slice of bread.
  • Add extra optional ingredients next like a fried egg, cheese, and/or onion (or apparently sweet potato chips).
  • Combine halves and slice sandwich.  Serve immediately.
There you have it, a properly engineered sandwich.  Having a good fat coating on both slices of bread will protect the sandwich from sogginess, etc.   The proto-guac will also now act as a mortar to keep things together, versus sliced avocado which is the leading cause of ingredients slides in most sandwiches.  The texture of the bacon and lettuce keeps the tomato layer from sliding; and limiting the tomato to a single layer means no low-friction mating surfaces within the tomato strata.  This sandwich can be sliced easily without toothpicks to hold it together, and even our toddler has been able to hold it well enough to eat without ingredients sliding out.