Sandwiched: BLT with Candied Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Jam


The greatest column since sliced bread.


Bite me. [Photograph: María del Mar Sacasa]



Tips and tricks for making the best sandwiches at home.

At a diner somewhere in Vermont, I sat alone waiting for my breakfast, downing cup after cup of coffee after a long drive that had begun before sunrise. Having no one to talk to, I eavesdropped on the neighboring booth, crowded with four local gentlemen, white-haired and flannel plaid-clad. Crops, weather, pesky wives; innocuous banter blended with the clatter of plates and cutlery in the background.

Lulled by these sounds and distracted by the billowing clouds of creamer blossoming in coffee, I was drifting, until, "Hey, Jim! I thought you were a vegetarian now!" "Not on Sundays."

Well, now. I know plenty of vegetarians and pescatarians and whenever we engage in discussions about the whys and wherefores of their dietary choices, I hear the usual "I get totally grossed out by how animals are slaughtered," or "It's bad for you," etc. etc. Eat what you want, I say, but I always, always wonder, "What is it that makes your no-meat convictions waver?"

You guessed it, folks: BACON.

The sizzle, the scent, the buttery crunch; the siren call renders most powerless. I don't need to tell you what a big part bacon plays in my recipes, seeing as I sneak it into as many as I can, including cake.

BLTs are one of my top orders at diners and sandwich shops: toasted bread, ripe tomatoes, refreshing iceberg lettuce, a good slather of mayonnaise, and a layer of crisp, greasy bacon. It can't be messed up, but of course, it can get a few alterations.

My BLT starts with candied bacon: thick-cut strips are rubbed with dark brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and black pepper, then baked until crisp and caramelized. The salty, sweet, crisp, sticky, spicy combination will make you wonder how bacon could actually taste better than it does in its natural state.

Though I said you couldn't mess up a BLT, I have had the unfortunate need to throw the "T" out on multiple occasions. Please don't give me a tomato that's pink instead of red, nor one that's spongy and pulpy and wet because you put it in the fridge. To avoid this fiasco, I make a tomato jam whose flavors are ketchup-inspired.

Iceberg lettuce is a must in this sandwich: crisp, cool, and fresh, it adds crunch and balances the intense flavors of the bacon and tomato jam.

The final touch is mayo-spread bread (note: slices are spread on both sides with mayonnaise) that's oven-toasted until golden. It's not a classified secret, but people are often surprised that rather than use butter you can spread mayonnaise on bread for griddled and oven-baked sandwiches. It's a nice shortcut (no need to wait for butter to soften prior to spreading it on a soft slice) and also adds a unique richness to the end result.

Try it in this recipe and next time you make a grilled cheese—even if you're not a mayo fan, you'll love it.