BLT Basics

By Beth Kracklauer

Published on March 18, 2011

The Philadelphia hoagie, the Chicago Italian beef —these are operatic sandwiches: big, lavish, coloratura. The all-American BLT is more like finely wrought chamber music. Each of its five elements—bread, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise—plays in counterpoint to the others in a subtle and satisfying harmony. Ostentatious embellishments are to be avoided. Substitute unsmoked pork belly for smoky rashers or split ciabatta for sliced white bread, and you'll upset the delicate balance.

The bread should be white and toasted; Pullman or packaged sandwich loaf works best. This kind of bread has a soft, tight crumb that will soak up some of the tomato's juices, and toasting it helps prevent it from becoming overly sodden. The bacon must be smoked, to adequately offset the tomatoes' sweetness. I like a medium-thick cut, and I take care as I cook to avoid a result that's desiccated or leathery; the latter impedes biting through the sandwich's layers with ease and tasting all the ingredients in each mouthful. Crisp iceberg lettuce lends the right note of freshness, and the tomatoes should be absolutely ripe and sweet. Mayonnaise is not optional; its creaminess tempers the tomatoes' acidity. The matter of whether to slice your BLT into triangles or rectangles, however, is up to you.

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