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.
- For the Candied Bacon:
- 16 strips thick-cut bacon
- 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- For the Tomato Jam:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved
- 3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
- 3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- For the Assembly:
- 8 slices (about 3/4-inch thick) brioche loaf or other soft loaf bread
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 8 thin slices cheddar cheese
- 4 teaspoons Dijon or spicy mustard
- 8 small iceberg lettuce leaves
For the Candied Bacon: Adjust oven racks to upper middle and lower middle positions and preheat oven to 400°F. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with foil. Arrange 8 bacon strips in single layer on each sheet. Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and pepper in small bowl. Rub sugar mixture all over both sides of bacon strips and bake until crisp, 16 to 18 minutes, alternating sheets’ positions and turning bacon strips with tongs halfway through baking. Transfer sheets to cooling racks and transfer bacon to large plate. When cool enough to handle, discard rendered fat and foil.
For the Tomato Jam: While bacon cooks, heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add tomatoes, brown sugar, garlic, shallot, vinegar, Worcestershire, red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and cook, stirring until tomatoes are softened and lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Transfer to bowl and let cool to room temperature.
For the Assembly: Spread both sides of each bread slice with mayonnaise. Arrange bread on now-empty baking sheets and bake until browned, turning once halfway through cooking, about 6 minutes.
Transfer bread to cutting board. Spread 4 slices with mustard. Top remaining 4 slices with 1 slice cheese.
Spread mustard-spread slices with tomato jam, then top with 4 slices bacon, and lettuce. Press remaining 4 slices, cheese-side down, onto lettuce. Slice on the diagonal and serve.
2 rimmed baking sheets, foil, tongs, 2 cooling racks, large skillet