The BLT is a classic creation. The grilled bread, the creaminess of the mayo, the salty crunch of the bacon balanced by the cool lettuce leaves and slices of juicy tomato. How can you improve on that? Well, if you're Sameh Wadi of 8-month-old Saffron in Minneapolis, you reimagine the B and the T (and even the L, a little) into what Food & Wine's "Mouthing Off" called Minneapolis's Best New Sandwich.
The creation of this sandwich starts weeks before you actually order the thing. Instead of traditional bacon, which is smoked pork belly, Wadi makes his own version from lamb bellies, which are seasoned in a rub of sugar, salt, and a blend of spices that includes cardamom, paprika and orange zest. Depending on the size of the belly, they will marinate anywhere from several hours to several days before being very lightly smoked over a mixture of applewood and cherrywood, for only 20 minutes, so it doesn't drown out the delicate flavor of the lamb. After air-drying for a week to mellow out the smokiness and concentrate the lamb flavor, the belly is ready to be sliced and fried up crisp for the sandwich.
No butter smeared Wonder bread for this BLT. Wadi uses a vanilla egg challah from the Breadsmith in Minnetonka, which is sliced and brushed with rendered lamb fat before being grilled on both sides.
Once the bread is grilled (in rendered lamb fat—did I mention that?), one slice is smeared with tarragon-flavored aioli (the "mayo"), while the other slice gets a generous slathering of the chef's own Saffron Tomato Jam (the "tomato"). Seeing as the bacon is made from lamb, the arugula standing in for the usual lettuce might be the least fancified element of this sandwich.
Right now the sandwich is only available on the late-night menu at Saffron, but Wadi says he plans on adding an open-face version to the dinner menu soon. Want to try this at home? Curing your own lamb bacon might be a bit daunting, but you can at least replace your tomato slices with Wadi's Saffron Tomato Jam (below).
Saffron Tomato Jam
2 large shallots, sliced 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar 3 tablespoons honey 1 tablespoons ras el hanoot (North African spice mixture) Pinch of saffron 1 can of San Marzano Tomatoes, drained and crushed Salt
Sauté shallots in the olive oil until translucent, and then add the honey. Continue sautéing until caramelized and then add the vinegar and spices. Cook for another 5 minutes on medium heat, before adding the tomatoes. Cook for about an hour, until the tomatoes break down completely. Season with salt and reserve.
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