This week, Secret Chef is serving us up some killer B.L.T.s. These are not your average sandwiches. I mean, a lobster B.L.T? Whaaat? I will certainly be trying that little number. Plus, there's a little history lesson to boot. Good reads and recipes ahead...
|Photo credit: Michael Kraus|
Super Heroes of the Sandwich World
Ok, sort of a play on words considering the release of Iron Man 3 this weekend and a few others speckled throughout the summer. But, who says sandwiches can’t be heroes? Seems like a decent idea since word hero a synonym for sandwich. In the past we have discussed the limitless possibilities of the Grilled Cheese Sandwich, today we’ll meet his distant cousin, the B.L.T.
Speaking of Sandwich…ever wonder who the Earl of Sandwich was?
His name was Sir Edward Montagu and he was a Naval Commander in 17th Century England. Sandwich, Kent to be exact. Earl was the title given to a particular political rank at the time. He was also an avid gambler and card player. According to legend, he did not want to take breaks from his often high-stakes card games to eat, so he instructed his cook to create something he could eat with one hand and still hold his cards in the other. And thus, the Earl of Sandwich belongs to the ages with this association to Sir Montagu.
Now, a brief history lesson for those that don’t spend their spare time studying food history, like me.
Although the ingredients of the BLT have existed for many years, there is little evidence of BLT sandwich recipes prior to 1900. In the 1903 Good Housekeeping Everyday Cook Book, a recipe for a club sandwich included bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and a slice of turkey sandwiched between two slices of bread. Whilst the 1929 book Seven Hundred Sandwiches does include a section on bacon sandwiches, the recipes often include pickles and none contain tomato. (I do own a copy of this book that took me almost 15 years to find)
The BLT became popular after World War II because of the rapid expansion of supermarkets, which allowed ingredients to be available year-round. The initials, representing "bacon, lettuce, tomato", likely began in the American restaurant industry as shorthand for the sandwich, but it is unclear when this transferred to the public consciousness. For example, a 1951 edition of the Saturday Evening Post makes reference to the sandwich, although it does not use its initials, describing a scene in which: "On the tray, invariably, are a bowl of soup, a toasted sandwich of bacon, lettuce and tomato, and a chocolate milk shake." By the late 50’s, Hellmann's Mayonnaise advertised their product as "traditional on bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches," suggesting that the combination had been around for some time
The rest remains history because from the eccentric advertising of the 50’s it became a staple in café’s and diners and remains popular to this day. However, said sandwich has evolved into the gourmet arena in recent years…
Combinations of Flavors
Basically the evolution of this most basic comfort food has to do with flavor profile. You need several components here, so I’ll explain the basics of what each part does, then we can move on to variations.
Toast – having the bread toasted slows down the rate of absorption. It will stay crispy and not get soggy with residual juices from interior ingredients.
Lettuce – creates a barrier between the bread and the interior ingredients, helping prevent gravity from pulling moisture to lower layers of bread. This is why when you build the sandwich, you start with toast, mayonnaise and then lettuce.
Mayonnaise – essentially a fat. Mayonnaise is essentially an emulsion made from egg yolks and oil. Oil being a fat and also a lubricant. It helps with that we call “mouth feel” or how the food reacts in your mouth while you are consuming it. Mayo keeps things moving. Think of a dog with peanut butter on the roof of its mouth.
Bacon – this is the major component of the sandwich. It’s salty, it’s smoky and it’s something you can sink your teeth into. There are lots of varieties here that you can choose from. Bacon is more popular (and expensive) than ever before. I personally don’t buy into the whole “bacon-mania” thing, but the rest of the world does, so we have to deal with the high prices of bacon. Just go with your personal taste here, what you buy and how you cook it is up to you.
Tomatoes – there are also limitless varieties of tomatoes out there. All I can say about that is the fresher the better. Look for a vine-ripened tomato for best flavor and texture. If it is not vine-ripened, chances are it’s a green tomato. The skin may be red, but it’s still a green tomato. Remember the old trick of putting green tomatoes in a paper bag to let them “ripen?” Here’s what that is: it’s a mini-greenhouse effect. Tomatoes naturally give off ethylene gas, which when it comes in contact with the skin, will cause it to turn red. Trapping it in a paper bag exposes it to the small amounts of this gas that the tomato gives off. It does nothing for anything else past the skin, it’s purely cosmetic.
Extra’s – this is only limited by your imagination, but you want ingredients that will go with the traditional ones or variations of. Here’s where the gourmet twist comes in.
A few years back, the Smoked Salmon BLT was all the rage. Chefs would add the component of thinly sliced smoked salmon to the classic BLT, then mix some fresh dill and garlic into the mayonnaise and serve it on artesian bread. Tasty eh?
B.L.A.T – sound appetizing? The A stands for Avocado!!!! (this is also known as a California B.L.T.)
The Club Sandwich – Add Turkey
Grilled Salmon BLT – add a grilled fillet of salmon and a squeeze of lemon to the mayo
Italian BLT – add slices of Fresh Mozzarella Cheese and Pesto. (recipe below)
Crab Cake BLT – substitute Remoulade Sauce for Mayonnaise. Remoulade is a traditional cajun condiment, similar to a spicy tartar sauce. Recipe below.
Next, is a great example of a high end variation and a recipe I will share. This is from a Chef I had the chance to work an event with a few years ago from California. His name is Ben Ford and he’s the Chef/Owner of Ford’s Filling Station in Culver City CA. He is quite the accomplished Chef, thus eliminating the notion that he’s a spoiled rich kid who’s dad bought him a restaurant. Far from it. You may have heard of his Dad, his first name is Harrison.
Recipe courtesy Ben Ford, Ford’s Filling Station Culver City, CA
- 4 roasted garlic cloves
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/3 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound cooked lobster meat, preferably Maine lobsters
1/2 pound melted butter
8 slices country white bread, toasted
8 slices applewood smoked bacon, cooked
12 oven-roasted tomatoes
1/2 cup pea sprouts
1 1/2 avocados, sliced
Mash garlic into a paste. Whisk together yolk, lemon juice, and mustard in a bowl. Combine oils and add, a few drops at a time, to yolk mixture, whisking constantly, until all oil is incorporated and mixture is emulsified. Whisk in garlic paste and season with salt and pepper, to taste. If the aioli is too thick, whisk in 1 or 2 drops of water.
Warm lobster in melted butter and set aside. Toast white bread. Smear with aioli.
Layer bacon, lobster, tomatoes, sprouts and avocado.
- 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
If using immediately, add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and mix in the cheese.
- 1 cup Mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon capers, minced
- 1 cornichon, minced (small dill pickle)
- 1 or 2 anchovies, minced (optional)
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 tablespoon Ketchup
- ½ teaspoon horseradish
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh chives
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley leaves
- Salt and Black Pepper
In a bowl, combine all the ingredients until well blended. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Keep refrigerated until needed
B.L.T. Panzanella (Bread Salad)
- ¼ cup Red Wine Vinegar
- ¾ cup Olive Oil
- ½ tsp. Dijon Mustard
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 2 Tbsp Water (or any liquid you can drain from diced tomatoes)
- To taste – Kosher Salt and Black Pepper
For the Salad Base
- 2 cups chopped Lettuce of Mixed Baby Greens – your choice
- 2 cups Roughly Chopped Tomatoes (chop and place in colander over a bowl to catch any drippings)
- 2 Tbsp Basil Leaves, rough chopped (about 12-15 leaves)
- 1 Tbsp Fresh Oregano, chopped
- 2 Cups Cubed Bread. About 1 ½” dice. Place in a 200 degree oven for 15 minutes to dry a bit)
- 8-10 strips of Cooked Bacon. Chop into 1” squares.
- 1 cup Fresh Mozzarella, chopped into bite-sized pieces.
In a large bowl, add the bread cubes and toss with a small amount of the dressing. Add the remaining ingredients and add dressing little by little until the salad is dressed to your liking.
That’s all for this time. Happy Cooking everyone!
S.C. (yes Melissa, it’s perfectly fine to call me S.C.)
Thank you kindly, S.C.! That B.L.T Panzanella and the Lobster B.L.T are calling my name. Can't wait to try them.