The BLT Sandwich – Favorite Recipes & Stories
The heat of summer approaches. And with the heat come home-grown tomatoes. Bursting with juice. Sweet and fluent. Paired with country-cured bacon and a sheath of iceberg lettuce, the whole affair layered between shingles of white bread.
Last year, at an event in Napa, California, chef John Currence of Oxford, Mississippi, threw down the gauntlet with a fine catfish BLT. We were impressed. So at the August 11-12 Camp Nashville, SFA features catfish BLT's from chef Sean Brock, a onetime Nashville resident now cooking at McCrady's in Charleston, South Carolina.
Though we recognize that the marriage of bacon, lettuce, tomato, and catfish is inspired, SFA wondered how you accessorize and improvise your BLT's. So we asked. And you told us. Y'all do some wild things with BLTs. Some of you don't even include the three main ingredients, but you still claim that your creation is a BLT. We took your word for it. Others add so many extra letters between the white bread that we don't see how you hold your sandwich together, but it sure sounds good. And then there's that third category, that group of people who do not consider sandwiches a convenience food. These recipes call for a committed day in the kitchen.
What follows is a sampling of the responses to our call for recipes. Enjoy!
Leslie Allen - Nashville, TN
Spicy Mexican Fried Green Tomato BLT (3rd place winner
at the Tomato Art Festival)
(With optional vegan modification)
1/2 pound (6 slices) thick cut bacon slices, fried crisp
(vegan modification: use soy bacon substitute such as Smart Bacon)
Spicy Mexican Fried Green Tomatoes
Creamy Mexican Dressing
6 Corn tortillas
Prepare tortillas by brushing lightly with oil and heating in 350-degree oven 5 minutes until warm, but not crispy. Salt lightly to taste. Arrange down the center of each tortilla: one slice of bacon, 2 spicy Mexican fried green tomato slices (cut in half), shredded lettuce, and 1 tablespoon creamy Mexican dressing. Fold tortilla around fillings, securing with toothpick if necessary.
Makes 6 BLT’s.
Spicy Mexican Fried Green Tomatoes
2 green (unripe) tomatoes
1/2 cup white cornmeal
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
Canola oil for frying
Slice tomatoes into 1/4" slices and salt both sides. Mix cornmeal, flour, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper in a shallow dish. Heat 1/4” oil over medium-low heat in a frying pan. Dredge tomato slices in cornmeal mixture, coating both sides generously. Fry in batches in oil until golden brown and tomatoes are softened. Drain on paper towels.
Creamy Mexican Dressing
3 tablespoons ranch dressing (vegan modification: substitute 2 tablespoons vegan sour cream substitute + 1/8 teaspoon salt.)
3 tablespoons medium heat chunky-style salsa, mild if you prefer
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
Mix all ingredients in a small bowl until well blended. May be prepared in advance and stored in refrigerator.
This recipe evolved out of my southern heritage and love for food with a spicy kick. It is a great way to get some early gratification out of your home-grown tomatoes if you are impatient for them to ripen! The vegan modification is an excellent alternative for those who prefer not to eat meat, but love the traditional taste of a BLT – with a twist!
Leslie Allen - Nashville, TN
Vegan Fried Green Tomato BLT with Fresh Tomato-Basil Vinaigrette
This recipe combines he quintessential southern summer specialty of fried green tomatoes with the healthy principles of a vegan diet rich in soy protein and heart-healthy oils. The Fresh Tomato-Basil Vinaigrette is a welcome departure from heavy mayonnaise typical in most BLT’s. Also works splendidly with ripe tomatoes!
1 package soy bacon substitute such as Smart Bacon, pan fried according to package directions
8 slices whole wheat bread, lightly toasted
Fried Green Tomatoes
Tomato Basil Vinaigrette
Assemble sandwiches with 3 slices Fried Green Tomato, 3 slices bacon substitute, shredded lettuce and topped with Tomato Basil Vinaigrette to taste. Makes 4 sandwiches.
Fried Green Tomatoes:
2 green (unripe) tomatoes
1/2 cup white cornmeal
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
Canola oil for frying
Slice tomatoes into 1/4" slices and salt both sides. Mix cornmeal, flour, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish. Heat 1/4 cup oil over medium-low heat in a frying pan. Dredge tomato slices in cornmeal mixture, coating both sides generously. Fry in batches in oil until golden brown and tomatoes are softened. Drain on paper towels.
Fresh Tomato-Basil Vinaigrette:
1 ripe plum tomato
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoon red or white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
Peel tomato by placing in boiling water for 1 minute or so until peel is easily removed with the edge of a knife. Place tomato in bowl of food processor and puree until smooth. Add vinegars, and puree until smooth, scraping sides of bowl as necessary. If desired, seeds may be strained from tomato mixture at this point by pressing through a sieve with a wooden spoon. Return liquid to food processor bowl. Add salt and pepper and basil leaves and pulse until basil leaves are finely chopped. With blade running, slowly add olive oil and mix until combined.
Linda Arrington - Nashville, TN
Linda's BLT (No Mayo Here!)
Hello! Here's my entry for the BLT contest. Most of the time a BLT has what I call "the hated white substance", also known as mayonnaise, on it. As you can most likely tell, I can't stand the stuff! So, here's my alternative BLT recipe.
Enjoy! - Linda
(P.S. I grew up in Oxford & graduated from Ole Miss (where my dad still teaches.)
2 thin slices of honey wheat bread
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
4 thin slices of maple cured bacon
2 Boston lettuce leaves
1 medium-large Black Cherokee heirloom tomato, sliced (remove any seeds that are "hanging" off the slices)
2 tablespoons herbed goat cheese
1 tablespoon raw honey
freshly ground pepper to taste
freshly ground sea salt to taste
Prep Directions: Cook bacon and blot grease from cooked slices. Spread butter on each slice of bread and grill. Sprinkle freshly ground sea salt and freshly ground pepper on each side of the slices of tomato.
Sandwich Assembly Directions: Spread 1 tablespoon of herbed goat cheese on each slice of bread. Layer on top of each piece of bread with goat cheese: 2 slices of tomato, drizzle honey, one lettuce leaf, 1 slice tomato, drizzle honey, bacon. Put both sides of bread together and enjoy with a pint of Yazoo Hefeweizen and a slice of lemon!
Chef Fritz Blan - Philadelphia, PA
BLT Pasta (Orzo) Salad
One of the most overlooked characterizations of American cuisine is that we are a nation of sandwich eaters. Although the Englishman John Montagu—The Earl of Sandwich—is credited with inventing the first “sandwich,” the French claim that they were munching on such delights hundreds of years prior to the introduction of the word.
Nonetheless, no other culture in the world has embraced the concept of sandwiches as enthusiastically as we Yanks. One of our country’s more celebrated creations is the simple and perfect marriage of bacon, lettuce, and tomato, between two slices of toasted white bread with mayonnaise. Even so, it is rare to find a recipe or even a description of a BLT in cookbooks or journals. Rather, it is more likely to find the BLT eclipsed by fancier, more-complicated “club sandwiches.”
Replacing toasted bread in a BLT with perfectly cooked orzo pasta is a straightforward innovation that produces an interesting, delicious, easy summer salad enjoyed by most everyone. Yield: eight 10 oz. servings.
3 cups cooked, rinsed and very well drained orzo
4 (or 6) strips bacon - cooked crisp and crumbled
1 cup “chunked” romaine lettuce - bottom thicker white parts preferred
1 cup peeled and de-seeded fresh tomatoes cut into 1-inch pieces (“Filetto del pommadoro”)
1 cup (or more) of mayonnaise or “Miracle Whip”
1 teaspoon (or more) freshly cracked black pepper
Place the orzo into a large bowl. Layer the remaining ingredients on top of the orzo. Toss gently until well combined. Taste carefully and adjust seasonings as required. Serve immediately.
P.S. Some notations and suggestions.
- Toasting the raw orzo before cooking enhances the illusion of a BLT sandwich.
- Reduce the amount of tomato pieces and serve the salad in a scooped-out beefsteak tomato.
Chef Judith Bluysen, Bayou La Seine - Paris, France
Well, I have a Necessity-is-the-Mother-of-Invention BLT story.
It was getting to be a late Sunday night and I was just finishing up the prep on a next-day lunch we were catering for an important event. It was to be an assortment of American-inspired finger foods: mini-muffalettas, chop-suey wraps, pulled pork brioches, crawfish pies, and the tray of wasabi-blackened tuna and leeks in cucumber pirogues now overturned on the kitchen floor. The pirogue ingredients couldn't be replaced on Sunday night; there wouldn't be time Monday morning and we absolutely needed a fifth variety. A quick inventory of the restaurant cold room, always depleted after a furious Sunday brunch, didn't offer much inspiration: a package of flour tortillas; a few trays of eggs; an enormous, still perky head of frisee (a variety of chicory); a jar of sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil and a slab of wood-smoked bacon.
First cut the bacon into lardons, thick matchsticks, then sauté them until just crispy in a cast iron pan, and deglaze with a small amount of balsamic vinegar. Pour the contents over the spikey, tender, pale green inner leaves of the frisee to just very slightly wilt them. Drain and chop the tomatoes, add them to the frisee and bacon, and use the oil from the tomatoes to make a creamy mayonnaise. Butter the tortilla, spread a thin layer of mayo, lay on the bacon and tomato studded salad, plop a little more mayo on top, and roll, folding in the vertical edges of the tortilla as you go. Cut in half and enjoy warm and deliciously leaky; or film and refrigerate to enjoy firmly the next day as our clients did, never missing the tuna pirogues.
David Bridges - Shreveport, LA
When I first opened my restaurant, Bella Fresca, we were
open for lunch as well as dinner. The Fried Green Tomato BLT was created
out of necessity. The kitchen was so small (and still is) I had to use
some of the same items on both the lunch and dinner menus. Our signature
dinner salad is spinach with fried green tomatoes, blue cheese, spiced
pecans, and a horseradish dressing. So the Fried Green Tomato BLT was
created, and it instantly became our biggest seller. Now we are only open
for dinner. But for a fun hors d'oeuvres I'll take the same ingredients
and replace the bread with a profiterole.
Horseradish Sauce Ingredients:
1/2 cup drained prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/3 cup minced red onion
1 bunch chopped green onions
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fried Green Tomatoes:
I use plain breadcrumbs to which I add salt, pepper, and dried thyme. Dust the green tomatoes in flour (seasoned with salt and pepper), then dip the tomato in some egg wash (1 egg mixed with 2 cups milk), then place into the bread crumbs and fry at 350 degrees until golden brown.
To assemble sandwich: Toast a couple of slices of Marbled Rye Bread and spoon a little of the dressing on each piece of bread. Then add your favorite cooked bacon, some mixed greens, and a few slices of the fried green tomato.
For the BLT Profiterole just substitute the profiterole
for the marbled rye.
1 stick butter
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
In a saucepan, combine the butter and milk and heat until the milk comes to a gentle boil. Add the salt. Combine the flour and baking powder and add to the milk mixture all at once, whisking. Cook, stirring, until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a ball of dough. Remove from the heat and place in the bowl of a mixer. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, completely mixing before adding each one. Place into a piping bag fitted with a large, plain tip. Pipe small golf ball size rounds onto parchment lined sheet pans. Bake for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to 375 degrees and then bake until golden brown and insides are totally dry, about 25 more minutes.
Rebecca Collier and Hilary Higginbotham - Nashville, TN
• One big, beautiful orange tomato
• Basil kafir cheese spread with cucumber, avocado, tofu, and tempeh marinated in tamari with ginger, wasabi, and garlic
• Dijon mustard
• Lettuce drizzled with uméboshi plum vinegar
Pile it high. Serve on Tuscan bread.
Jason Davidson - Charleston, SC
Fried Green Tomato BLT
3 or 4 firm green tomatoes, cored and sliced into 1/2 inch slices (follow recipe for Boathouse fried green tomatoes)
1/2 cup Boathouse pimento cheese
8 slices of brioche bread or firm white (Pullman) bread
6 tablespoons soft butter
1 cup fresh arugula leaves
2-3 very ripe tomatoes, cored and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
6-8 slices cooked apple smoked bacon
Prepare the fried green tomatoes as stated in the recipe and keep warm.
Spread four of the bread slices with pimento cheese and then spread the softened butter on all eight of the bread slices, and on the opposite side of the pimento cheese.
Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat and lay the pimento cheese bread slice, butter side down.
Top with some arugula leaves, sliced tomato, fried green tomato, bacon and top it off with the other buttered bread slice. Cook until golden brown about 3-5 minutes.
Flip over and continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes until golden brown.
Remove from heat to a cutting board, slice diagonally, and serve with your favorite summertime beverage.
Pimento Cheese Ingredients:
1 pound cream cheese, softened at room temperature
4 cups mayo (Duke’s)
5 cup white cheddar cheese, shredded
5 cups yellow cheddar cheese, shredded
1 14-ounce can diced pimentos (liquid drained)
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup dill pickle juice
Combine all the ingredients together in a mixer and mix on low until well incorporated, or mix in a large bowl by hand until well incorporated.
Boathouse Fried Green Tomatoes:
3 very firm, large green tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2 inch slices
2 cups buttermilk
3 cups vegetable or peanut oil for frying
1 cup Adluh Brand Seafood Breader
2 cups Japanese Bread Crumbs
In a food processor, grind the Japanese Bread Crumbs until they are fine powder. Mix thoroughly with the Seafood Breader. Submerge the tomato slices in the buttermilk and allow to soak for two hours. In a deep sauce pot, heat the oil to 350 degrees. Pull the tomatoes one at a time from the buttermilk and immediately drop into breading mix. Pat tomatoes with mix until both sides are adequately covered. Repeat for all of the tomatoes. Carefully drop the breaded tomatoes into the hot oil and cook them for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown.
Remove them from the oil with tongs or a wire skimmer and drain on paper towel lined plates. Reserve for use with the Fried Green Tomato BLT.
Peg Duthie - Nashville, TN
B3LT's (Bacon, Basil, Babaghannouj LTs)
10 slices of bread
1 small eggplant
1 cup fresh basil
1/3 cup olive oil
1 package bacon
1–2 pounds tomatoes, sliced 1/4" thick
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons lemon juice
10 leaves lettuce
Toast bread if desired. Fry or microwave bacon to desired crispness. Microwave eggplant by placing it whole in a dish and covering it after stabbing it a few times with a knife. Heat on hight until tender (about five minutes), turning once. When cool, scoop out the innards (approximately one cup) and set aside. Puree bail and olive oil in food processor. Add eggplant innards, tahini, lemon juice and salt and blend until smooth. Use this as your BLT spread.
Note: the eggplant-basil spread also works as a dip.
Hich Elbetri, Chef-Owner, SANDWHICH - Chapel Hill, NC
Sophia: A Luxurious BLT
The inspiration for the Sophia came completely out of the blue. One day I was sitting in our narrow kitchen office and started thinking about our homemade pesto, and about pancetta versus bacon, and about how at that time we were using ricotta salata cheese in only one recipe. I started thinking, “What else could I do with all these delicious Italian ingredients?” I looked to my side, where we store the boxes of locally-grown tomatoes I had gotten from the nearby farmers’ market. And my brain started twirling….
The result was a really special kind of BLT. We decided to name it Sophia a little bit after Sophia Loren. The sandwich is exotic and beautifully delicious and, well, so is Sophia Loren. Also, since this BLT contains three Italian ingredients, not counting the tomatoes and arugula, which also figure prominently in Italian cuisine, it seemed only right to tip my hat to Italy. With our customers, the name really stuck and they request the sandwich by name, even when it isn’t on our specials menu.
Makes one luxurious BLT.
Pancetta – 4 thin slices
Your favorite white sandwich bread
Fresh arugula (the spicier the better)
Ricotta salata cheese
Juicy summer tomatoes
Salt & pepper to taste
Cook the pancetta in the oven at 400 degrees until cooked to your preference (we like it crispy). Set aside on paper towels to drain.
Butter the bread slices and grill them on only one side (you can use a cast-iron skillet to achieve a similar effect). Spread garlic mayonnaise on the grilled side of one slice of bread, and spread pesto on the grilled side of the other slice of bread.
Pile arugula onto the mayo side, put lots of juicy slices of tomato on top, and season them with salt and pepper to taste. Be aware that your pancetta and your pesto might both be quite salty, so you might not need any salt. Make sure to cover all the surface area with tomatoes.
Shave slices of ricotta salata with a cheese plane or a vegetable peeler. Cover the tomatoes nicely with shavings of the cheese. Then top the sandwich with the pesto side of the other piece of bread. Slice on the diagonal and serve. We serve ours with homemade cucumber pickles on the side and we always suggest our homemade Moroccan Iced Tea to chase it down.
*We take Hellman’s mayo and mix in pureed raw garlic, mustard seeds and cayenne pepper. The important thing is to have a really delicious spread – not ordinary mayo.
Kathleen Ellington, owner and chef Kathleen's Art Cafe - Dallas, TX
As a true lover of the great tomato, I was weaned on BLT
sandwiches. I have a version we serve in our restaurant for brunch that
is to die for.
2 slices of whole wheat toast
2 tablespoons of real mayonnaise
4 slices of crisp bacon
2 slices of beefsteak tomatoes or 4 medium slices
2 fried eggs
1/2 avocado, sliced
1 cup of shredded iceberg lettuce
On each slice of toast, spread a tablespoon of mayo, place two slices of bacon on mayo, then tomato slices, salt and pepper to taste, then place fried eggs, and garnish egg with sliced avocado. Place shredded iceberg lettuce around the perimeter of dish. Dig in!
Libby Garner - Nashville, TN
Corn tortilla (taco shaped)
Refried black beans
1-2 strips bacon
1/4 mild onion
2 stalks celery
cilantro to taste
splash of tomato salsa, medium heat
Cut vegetables, fruit, and herbs for salsa. Add cilantro and salt. Put lettuce leaf in tortilla. Add black beans and bacon strips. Put salsa on top. Enjoy.
Sara Gibbs - Louisville, KY
Grilled Asparagus BLT
Basil Feta Mayonnaise
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Dash kosher salt
Several grindings of black pepper
1 bunch asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
8 slices toasted sourdough bread
12 slices home-grown tomato
4 pieces leaf lettuce
12 slices crisply cooked bacon
For the basil feta mayonnaise:
Whisk all ingredients together in small bowl. Refrigerate until ready for use.
For the grilled asparagus:
Break off the tough ends of the asparagus and discard. Trim the ends and wash thoroughly. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes, until bright green and crisp tender. Set aside.
For each sandwich:
Spread both sides of the toasted bread with basil feta mayonnaise. Place 6 spears of asparagus, 3 slices of bacon, 3 slices of tomato and a piece of leaf lettuce on 1 slice of bread. Top with the remaining slice of bread. Secure with toothpicks. Cut in half and serve immediately.
Winston Hoy - Surfside Beach, SC
My early thoughts about embellishing the classic BLT amounted to no more than adding sliced sweet onion and cucumbers to the bacon, lettuce, and tomato along with mayonnaise on soft white bread. Then the Camp Nashville event came along and I enrolled. That’s when I found out about the catfish BLT and the call to all SFA members to provide their ideas about embellishing the classic BLT. I turned it over in my mind and was leaning toward a shad roe BLT.
Then the current issue of Gravy arrived and I read the article on liver mush by Timothy Davis. I grew up in the foothills of North Carolina eating liver mush and other pork-related concoctions. We were in the heart of the “liver mush capital”—the Cleveland, McDowell, and Rutherford Counties triangle. I love liver mush, our kids love it, my wife loves it, and we delight in serving it to our guests and friends—who generally don’t like it but will try it.
Here is the Rutherford County BLT. The recipe will make two BLTs, enough for one hungry person or two, as a starter.
• A block of liver mush. Brands I am familiar with are Hunter’s (Marion, NC), Mack’s (Shelby, NC), Neese’s (Greensboro, NC and called liver pudding), and Jenkins. Then there is scrapple. All will work even though they are somewhat different in texture and taste.
• 3” biscuit cutter
• Yellow mustard, 1 teaspoon
• Mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon
• Ripe garden tomato about 3” or less in diameter, 2 slices each about 1/4" thick
• Garden lettuce leaves cut into 3” rounds with the biscuit cutter
• Bacon, 2 strips
• Butter, 1 tablespoon
• 4 slices good, fresh, soft white bread, (Pepperidge Farm Original White works well) cut with the biscuit cutter into four 3” rounds.
Fry the bacon crisp and drain on a paper towel. Pour all grease from the pan, but don’t wipe the pan. Slice two 1/4" pieces of liver mush and cut with the biscuit cutter into two 3” rounds. Put the biscuit cutter on the package to figure out how to cut the package to get 3” rounds. Put the butter in the bacon pan and cook the liver mush on medium to medium high heat until crisp. Turn and cook until crisp on the other side. (NOTE: How you fry the liver mush is critical to your enjoyment of this sandwich. If you have never eaten liver mush, you will want to cook it nice and crisp. If you have eaten liver mush, you will cook it to your taste. I cook it crisp on the outside and soft in the middle, and I cook it in an ample amount of butter. Hunter’s and Mack’s are my favorite brands.)
Cook the leftover bits of liver mush in the same pan for a snack while you assemble the sandwiches. Cook them really crisp.
Mix the mayo and mustard in a small bowl. Spread one side of each round of the bread with the mixture. Place a piece of the fried liver mush on a bread round on the spread side, a slice of the bacon broken in half and then a couple of pieces of the cut lettuce. Put a tomato slice on the other bread round on the spread side, and salt and pepper to taste. Put the halves together.
Assemble the next sandwich.
Enjoy your BLT with a glass of chilled wine, a glass of sweet tea, or my favorite way—with a glass of cold sweet milk.
PS: If all this cutting is too much effort, just make it a regular BLT and put it on two slices of bread assembled your own way. The taste is the same.
Margo Kenney - Santa Barbara, CA
I am originally from Nashville, Belle Meade, a second generation Harpeth Hall girl. Anyway, my mother was not a prolific cook, as we always had a cook/maid who lived with us. But she was particular about certain dishes, and the BLT was one of them.
Back in the fifties, in Nashville, one could find home-grown tomatoes at H.G. Hills grocery store. A lady in what really looked like a nurse's uniform (I can't remember her name, but I can see her as clear as day), would weigh the tomatoes, put them in a white paper bag, and write the price on the bag with a grease pencil.
We would pick up some Pepperidge Farm whole-wheat bread, the only brand of whole-grain bread sold then in the South.
We would pick up a pint of Mrs. Killebrew's Mayonnaise, a local homemade one with the right proportions of Wesson oil, lemon, egg, and paprika. This was only if we didn't have any homemade mayo at home. The maid used to make me churn the mayonnaise in a tall glass Wesson Oil churn. It took forever. Before she died, I was at her house, and she gave it to me, as she said, "You always were the one who used this the most, Miss Margo." It is now on in a niche in my dining room, and it almost qualifies as an antique.
When Momma and I arrived home, she would send me out to pick some Bibb lettuce. She always grew the things she couldn't buy at the store, but absolutely had to have for proper cuisine. She used to grow horseradish, because all she could get in the store was a prepared horseradish that she complained had sugar in it. As any Southerner of a certain age can remember, sugar was for dessert. Cornbread, BBQ sauce, slaw, so many things that are now loaded with sugar, used to be solely savory dishes.
But to us, the perfect BLT was:
Slightly toasted Pepperidge Farm whole wheat bread
Fried thick smoked bacon
Thickly sliced home-grown tomatoes
And a big glass of iced tea with lemon and mint.
The whole wheat is much easier to find, now. I haven't had homemade mayonnaise in years, so I use Trader Joe's. The bacon is usually precooked and frozen. Living in Santa Barbara, I have given up on growing good tomatoes (not enough heat), so I buy them from the farmers' market, looking for the hottest locale, e.g., Fresno. I use Romaine lettuce. I still use Lipton's to brew the tea, and I still have a slip of the original mint plant from Nashville, which all Southerners take with them to every house or apartment they move to after they leave home. Now I can pick a lemon from my yard.
But I can still remember those perfect BLT's on hot summer days in Nashville.
Carolyn Kolb - New Orleans, LA
Hot-Hot Brown BLT’s
Some of my favorite summer memories involve things you were never supposed to do, like swimming in the gravel pit. Oh, we were warned that if the quicksand didn’t get you, then you were likely to get lockjaw from rusty nails or get bit by a cottonmouth. No wonder everybody wanted to swim in the gravel pit.
The most fun was riding horses into the gravel pit. Now that was an adventure!
My particular gravel pit belonged to the Bateman’s, and it had a little island in it. In the summer when we got bored, we’d put bridles on the horses and just ride them into the water and swim to the island. As far as I know, everybody had a good time.
So, with horses in mind, that old bluegrass favorite, the “Hot Brown” provides the inspiration for a glorified summery BLT that’s gonna have you galloping back for seconds.
Ingredients for Sandwiches:
8 thick slices homemade or home-style white bread
16 pieces of bacon, fried, drained, and as crisp as you like them. Save some bacon grease to grease the griddle or skillet for the bread
3 or 4 home-grown tomatoes, skinned. Enough to make 16 medium slices
3 or 4 pieces leftover fried chicken breasts, boned and sliced (with bits of crusts and skin included with slices) and separated into eight portions
1/2 cup finely shredded iceberg lettuce
Salt and pepper to taste
Ingredients for Hot Hot Brown Sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
4 ounces Pepper Jack cheese, grated or minced into fine pieces
1 teaspoon Creole mustard
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon Panola Pepper Sauce (or to taste)
Directions for Sauce:
Melt butter in saucepan, add flour, and stir until the bubbles go down. Slowly add the half and half, stirring constantly till thickened. DO NOT BOIL. Add the mustard and pepper sauce. Add the cheese. Stir. Take off fire. Cover surface with wax paper.
Directions for Sandwiches:
Toast the bread or, using the paper towel and bacon grease, grease a griddle or skillet and fry the bread until lightly browned. Arrange bread slices on a pan that can go in the broiler. Make the open-faced sandwiches by topping the bread with a thin layer of mayonnaise, then one layer fried chicken slices, then one layer of bacon, and then one layer of tomato slices. Spoon the Hot Hot Brown Sauce over the sandwiches, dividing equally. Run the pan in the broiler until the sandwiches are beginning to brown and are bubbling. Top each with a sprinkling of chilled shredded iceberg lettuce.
Mary Beth Lasseter - Oxford, MS
Sandwiches should be easy. If you plan in advance for this one, it will be easy. But I would never recommend lighting up the grill for a sandwich! You'll need to plan in advance for this one. Grill out one night, and throw some pineapple on the coals. Keep the grilled pineapple in your fridge to have handy for the BPLT.
Benton's Smoked Bacon
Baby Romaine lettuce
Tabasco & mayo
Fried Green Tomato
Toasted Italian bread, thinly sliced
Throw fresh pineapple on the grill one night. Seal it in some Tupperware and save it in the fridge for your next BPLT sandwich-making day.
On sandwich day:
Begin by frying your green tomato. Slice it 1/4" thick. Dip it in flour, egg wash, and then an Italian breadcrumb/Cajun seasoning mixture. Put about 1/4" vegetable oil in your skillet and fry it up (leaving about 3 minutes on each side). Drain on a paper towel.
Crisp the Benton's Bacon in a cast iron skillet. Open your kitchen door, or else you're likely to set off your smoke detector.
Toast your Italian bread.
Mix your mayo with Tabasco, making it spicy to taste.
Coat both sides of the bread with mayo, and pile all the rest of the ingredients in the middle. Make sure that your pineapple comes straight from the fridge, because the cold grilled pineapple is the perfect complement to the hot fried green tomato and the spicy mayo mixture.
Ed Lee - Louisville, KY
We serve this as a small bite, or amuse bouche, because it is so rich. It’s perfect for picnics, cocktails parties or any event where you need a showstopper of an hors d’oeuvre.
There is no lettuce in our BLT. We replaced the lettuce with foie gras – hence the L stands for liver. We make our sandwiches with what is essentially a bacon paté.
My first job in a restaurant was in a greasy diner in New York called The Big Apple Restaurant. We served all the classic diner dishes in the most awful manners possible. But I loved those cheap incarnations of classic American foods: BLT, corned beef, turkey club, milkshakes and—my personal favorite—pancakes.
Years later, I find myself in Louisville at a major crossroad: finding inspiration from those classic dishes from my New York youth, incorporating the techniques of the European cuisines that I have been studying for the past ten years, and living in the South where the proclivity to insist on genuine, hand-crafted ingredients is both natural and expected. To me, this recipe neatly embraces all three stages of my life and my career.
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup diced onions
2 pounds bacon ends (we recommend Benton’s bacon in Tennessee)
1 cup fruity red wine
2 lengths scallion
4 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1/4 pound Foie Gras
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon. ground black pepper
Good quality hard grating cheese (aged gouda is nice – we like to use a cheese called Myrtlewood from Sweetgrass Dairy in Georgia)
Oven-dried cherry tomatoes
Good quality cereal or multi grain bread sliced very thin
For the bacon paté:
Warm the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the diced onions. Cook slowly until the onions become translucent.
Add the bacon ends and the red wine. Simmer slowly over low heat until most of the wine is reduced away. Remove the bacon and onions. Drain off the extra fat and discard.
Transfer bacon and onions to a food processor. Add the chopped
scallions, Dijon, Foie Gras, sherry vinegar, black pepper.
Puree until a rough paste forms.
Arrange the sliced bread on a work surface. Smear a little Dijon on each slice. Hand grate the cheese over each slice. Place the paté in an even layer about 1/2" thick over every other slice of bread. Place the oven-dried cherry tomatoes over the paté. Close the sandwich with the other slice of bread. Press gently and cook on a heavy black skillet over low heat with a little olive oil until the bread gets crispy. Flip sandwich and repeat on other side.
Remove and drain on paper towels.
Cut the sandwich using a serrated knife into one inch squares.
Joy Lewis - Nashville, TN
P "Double B" LTs
Honey wheat berry bread
Oscar Mayer thick-sliced hickory-smoked bacon
Peter Pan crunch peanut butter
Fresh sliced home-grown tomatoes
Kraft creamy Miracle Whip
On low heat, cook the bacon until crisply in a frying pan. Toast the bread. Spread the crunchy peanut butter on one slice of bread and the miracle whip on the other. Pile the sliced tomatoes, crispy bacon, and cut lettuce on top of the sliced bread. Put the top slice on to complete the sandwich. Enjoy your delicious P "Double B" LT!
James Murray - Cambridge, WI
Jimbone’s Country Made BLT
The components that assemble this sandwich are etched in a seasonal history of food in our family. It starts with farm-raised and family-butchered slab bacon that was house-smoked and carved to order. This is married with garden fresh tomatoes, still ripe and warm from the vine, butter lettuces, and a simple spread of salad dressing. The sweetness of the dressing balances with the savory qualities of the bacon, tomato and seasonings. The fluffy interior of the bread pairs with the crispy pan-fried crust adds multiple dimensions of texture to the sandwich. This was a traditional summer meal…no sides needed.
6 slices slab bacon, fried crisp (reserve the fat)
4 slices garden fresh red ripe tomato, sliced 1/4" thick
2 pieces butter lettuce, cleaned and dried
2 ounces Miracle Whip salad dressing
Course salt and cracked pepper, to taste
2 slices Texas toast
Pan fry the bacon in a skillet until crisp. Remove from the skillet and blot on towel. Slice the tomatoes and clean/dry the lettuce. Pan fry the Texas toast in bacon fat until golden brown.
To assemble, spread both sides of Texas toast with salad dressing. Season the tomatoes and lettuce with salt and pepper. Place lettuce down first on toast, top lettuce with tomatoes and top the tomatoes with the bacon. Close the sandwich with the remaining bread slice.
Try adding the following components for a signature addition:
*Panfried Soft Shell Crab
*Smoked Pork Butt
*Crispy Fried Pork Loin
*Crumbled Pork Rinds
*Batter-Fried Chicken Breast
*Panfried Shrimp Patties
Pamela Palmer - San Francisco, CA
It started in the late 1970s with avocado and bacon cheeseburgers at a restaurant in Long Beach, California. My first bite of that burger convinced me – bacon and avocado belonged together.
Then I moved to San Francisco. Lots and lots of avocados. Wonderful bread. Bacon of any variety. Chipotle mayonnaise. Arugula, butter lettuce, red leaf lettuce. It was flavor heaven.
Here is the recipe for my favorite BLT.
Good loaf bread sliced and very lightly toasted. My favorite is a French round loaf (please no sourdough or whole-wheat) but an unsliced white loaf would be just fine. The trick is to slice it yourself and barely toast it.
Cooked bacon. You get to pick your favorite brand. Just don’t overcook it. Not limp, not overly crispy is what you’re trying to achieve.
Mayonnaise. I use Best Foods. On the East Coast it’s Hellman's. You can make your own if you’re so inclined. And you can add a little bit of chipotle for some zip. I use the Herdez brand which comes in a can. They are H-O-T, so add a really tiny piece to your mayonnaise and mash it in well. If you want more heat, just keep adding more tiny pieces. One thing—wash your hands when you are done and do not touch your face, mouth, or eyes while you have chili oil on your hands because you will be very unhappy.
Lettuce. Here we get into serious preferences. I’m fond of arugula probably because I’ve been growing it for 20 years and love the taste. If you don’t like it I would say butter lettuce or red leaf lettuce are the next best. I’m not fond of iceberg. If you love iceberg, go for it.
Tomatoes. Vine-ripened, preferably from the garden of a friend. Farm stand is the next best. Out of season—not acceptable.
Avocados. Pick any variety you have available. As long as they are just exactly ripe they will be fine. Haas, the pebbly blackish ones, are the most readily available, but if you’re lucky you might find smooth-skinned medium green Fuertes. Outside avocado growing regions your best bet is Haas.
Assembly. Slather both slices of toasted bread with mayonnaise. Add one lettuce leaf for each piece of bread. Add thinly sliced tomatoes on one piece of bread. Add bacon pieces sparingly; you don’t want them to overlap. Then add avocado slices. The point is to have the middle of the sandwich between the mayo and lettuce.
And now the fun begins. You need to put this sandwich together and gently press it down. It’s going to squish but that’s OK. Cut it in half (assuming the bread slices are large), tuck a napkin in your collar and down your front, and stand over the sink (just kidding, I think) to eat. It will drip, bits of things will fall out, and it will be DELICIOUS.
Have fun and enjoy.
Ashley Pinson - Nashville, TN
FRIED GREEN BLT
*1st place winner at the Tomato Art Festival
Applewood smoked bacon
Mayo & Pesto
1 fried green tomato
Toast sourdough bread lightly. Mix mayo and pesto. Take 1/4 " sliced tomatoes, batter in flour, then milk, then breadcrumbs, and fry in skillet with 1/4" vegetable oil. Assemble. Enjoy.
Betty Sasser - Charlotte, NC
BLTT – The Extra T Stands for Trout
Mimosa Grill in Charlotte, North Carolina has been serving fine southern cooking since 1996. We are always looking for ways to take what is most southern from our backgrounds, and put it into our menu. We grew up fishing for trout in the North Carolina mountains. We grew up with some of the best tomatoes that soil could grow. We grew up knowing that slow cooking/smoking was special.
Our most popular item at Mimosa is a smoked trout and crabmeat cake created by Executive Chef Tom Condron. We smoke trout at Mimosa every day. Chef Tom and I planted a tomato garden a few years back in my yard with about 40 heirloom tomato plants we bought from a grower in South Georgia. We had more tomatoes than three restaurants could sell for about a month. The beefsteaks we grew were the inspiration for this popular sandwich Chef Tom introduced at Mimosa.
Luckily, we have some real local farmers supplying us now.
The bacon is apple smoked, the lettuce is locally grown—as are the
tomatoes—and we use either a North Carolina Trout or an Idaho trout.
Don't forget the Duke's mayo and the sweet tea!
2 slices apple smoked bacon, cut in half
2 crisp lettuce leaves
1/2 pound Smoked Carolina Mountain Trout, sliced
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 slices artisan white bread, toasted
3 slices home-grown beefsteak tomato
1 generous tablespoon Duke's Mayonnaise
Place bacon in a skillet over medium heat. Mix together the mustard powder, curry powder, and red pepper flakes. As soon as you turn the bacon over, sprinkle the spice mixture onto the cooked side of the bacon.
Place the lettuce, smoked trout, and tomato onto one slice of toasted bread, then top with the seasoned cooked bacon. Spread Duke's Mayonnaise on the top slice of bread and place on top of the sandwich. Serve with Ice Cold Carolina Sweet Tea.
Pat Snyder - Nashville, TN
My favorite embellishment to a BLT is mayo, creamy peanut butter, and cheese (preferably cheddar cheese), on your choice of toast. Sometimes avocado, too. And don’t forget a little salt and pepper on the tomato. It was “invented” by my now 89-year-old father when I was little, and it brings back great memories of summer, fresh tomatoes, and eating lunch with my dad. Simple, but oh so good!
Kit Swaggert - Nashville, TN
We have two family traditions when it comes to the BLT.
First, is the BLAT, which is a BLT with the addition of some slices of fresh avocado. It is awesome and I'm sure we were not the first to think of it.
Second, is a thing that I grew up with that is called, simply, tomato toast, which you have for breakfast (or lunch or supper or midnight snack). You get some good bread, either home-baked or from a really good bakery, toast it, slather it with butter, top with some nice juicy slices of home-grown tomato, then salt and pepper, and enjoy with a strong cup of coffee.
There is no better way to start a sultry summer day. Everyone in my mother's family eats tomatoes this way, but I've never run across it in any other family tradition. We, of course, have passed it along to our children and anyone else who happens to visit our house in the summertime.
Christa Williams - Wagener, SC
From the time I was a little girl, I was in love with peanut butter. Since this was a staple in my family, in order for me to learn to like tomatoes, my mom put peanut butter on my BLT. Surprise, surprise, the peanut butter actually enhances the flavor of the bacon and goes quite well with it. My father tried it and he always liked to put peanut butter on the side with the bacon, and mayonnaise on the side with the lettuce and tomato. Either way is great. To this day, I still eat peanut butter on my BLT. I do get some funny looks in restaurants when I ask for it but when I convince others to try it, they find it really is great. Peanut butter and bacon and tomato, who would have thunk it?
Stephanie and Michael - Nashville, TN
The Beaten Chicken BLT
Pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, and then marinate in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, ground pepper, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Place in the fridge overnight.
Take the flattened chicken and roll it in a mixture of bread crumbs, low fat mayo, crushed pecans, and parmesan cheese. Place it on a roasting rack and cook at 250 degrees for twenty minutes.
While the chicken cooks, heat up the maple smoked bacon and slice up one Ugly Heirloom and a bunch of Sweet 100s. Toast the bread at this time.
We'll use shredded lettuce, so get that prepped now, too.
Once the chicken is done, set up the assembly line and put the mayo, tomatoes, bacon, chicken, and lettuce on the toasted bread.
Cut in half and eat!