The King of Kings

Having already submitted strong opinions about a variety of sandwiches, it should be of no surprise that I have a certain mindset when it comes to the BLT.

The beauty of this classic sandwich is that it is unassailably straightforward: bread, mayo, bacon, lettuce, tomato. One night a few years ago, I came home to find that James had made us BLTs for dinner and dressed them with . . . mustard.  Then we had a friend over for BLTs—which I should add are an occasion at our house—and being a mayonnaise hater, this friend insisted that mustard was the condiment to use.

I take issue with this.  Though I love mustard (and use it liberally in all kinds of dishes, even in those where other people would not), there is a time and place for mustard, and the BLT is not it.

If mayonnaise makes your skin crawl, dress your bread (both pieces—you’ll be glad you did) with a little olive oil and salt and pepper.  Or better yet, smash an avocado and spread that on your toast, sprinkling it liberally with salt and pepper.  Anything assertively flavored, like onions, pickles, pepperoncini, cheese (!), or MUSTARD is glaringly out of place on a BLT, where the perfect marriage of tomato and bacon should be the main attraction.

A few other preferences, gleaned from lots of BLT-eating “research”:

  • It goes without saying that the tomatoes should be in season. I always salt them generously to bring out their flavor. I did once eat a winter BLT, using the terrible December roma tomatoes dressed with a very small amount of balsamic vinegar, and this was actually pretty good, if you must eat a BLT in winter, which is sometimes necessary.
  • I prefer a good loaf of country white bread, lightly toasted (as in the above photo), but I will not argue with those who insist on sourdough, whole wheat, or even—ugh—an English muffin.  The point of the bread is to highlight the other ingredients (thus something mildly flavored) and to make taking a bite of the sandwich easy to do (rather than something requiring the work of your molars, such as with a baguette).
  • We’ve been spoiled by eating nothing but our favorite bacon, from Benton’s, for the last few years.  I order eight pounds at a time and freeze it; this will keep us in BLTs through the summer and cover our New Year’s Day brunch. Benton’s bacon is distinctly smoky, salty, and fatty, and it cooks (on a sheet pan in a 375-degree oven) to the perfect crispness, yielding tender, shattering bacon in every bite.

I would not dispute the addition of bacon or a slice of summer tomato to any other sandwich, and would generally feel these ingredients only improve matters. Hamburgers, club sandwiches, grilled cheese, even the classic PB&J—all are perfect vehicles for catering exclusively to the whims of the eater. But I must draw the line at the BLT and insist on the classic approach. Add pickles, Swiss cheese, mustard, if you must—but it will no longer be a BLT.


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