Monday, February 13, 2006

Ultimate B.L.T.

Ultimate BLT
Oh praise be to the sun, our bright shining ally in the center of our solar system. For you, you are the eternal fire in our universe, the keeper of the light, and the giver of life.
In September of each year our fiery orb crosses the celestial equator from the north to the south, a journey celebrated by many cultures on this third planet from the sun as the Autumnal Equinox. To astrologers it’s the day the sun enters into the sign of Libra, the constellation of the balance. The Mayans were dazzled by all the colors forming into triangles of light on their pyramid at Chickén Itzá. The Japanese celebrate Higan, also known as the six perfections: perseverance, effort, meditation, wisdom, observance of precepts, and giving. They also believe that this special day is an opportune time to reflect on life’s interior meanings.
I celebrate this day of equal light and darkness by creating the ultimate bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich.
It all starts with a journey to the fertile fields of Corralitos, where my destination is the much-heralded Corralitos Sausage Company, to acquire the “B” of my Ultimate BLT. While it is true that my ancient ancestors would frown on my current choice of savory, in my own wonderful, compassionate soul I forgive them. For if my great grandfather Israel Kennett could only have sampled this tasty piece of piggy, surely he would have understood why I journey south to purchase a two-pound slab of swine. It’s a lean bit of bacon, light on salt, no artificial ingredients, and smoked on the wood of an apple tree. Yes, the very tree that tempted Eve is now sacrificing itself to the flames to add just the right flavor to our dearly departed omnivorous, domesticated, hoofed mammal.
This venture to the south is followed by a Wednesday afternoon trip to the farmer’s market to purchase Molino dry-farmed tomatoes and Route One lettuce.
Dry farming utilizes soil moisture from the prior winter’s rain as the only form of irrigation. The advantages are a concentrated flavor and a sugar-acid balance that make this pomodoro the ultimate, most blissful, most flavorful little red beauty that ever sprouted from God’s green earth. I am a personal friend of Joe Curry, and he saves his very best tomatoes and puts them aside just for me. As Joe places the ripest of his harvest in my bag, I sing out, “bella, bellissima pomodoro.”
With the lettuce I keep it pure and simple. None of this radicchio or arugula stuff, just pure and crisp romaine lettuce is all that’s needed. I place the lettuce in the same canvas bag as the Molino tomatoes, for it’s good they get acquainted before they start working together.
Ah, the bread—the proper bread is a great source of debate with many lovers of the BLT. Shall it be rye, brown, francese, plain white, or ciabatta? The choice of bread has been, and I’m afraid will always be, a source of debate among lovers of this classic sandwich. The answer for me is as follows. What we have going on is a very delicate balance of textures and flavors. The crisp lettuce, the juicy but not too loose tomato, and the warm and crunchy bacon. A bread with too much body mass will overwhelm and stifle the wonderful trio of bacon, lettuce, and tomato. Making a BLT on a francese roll would be like experiencing an intimate scene of dialogue in a film and having the music on so loud that the words are lost. The bread must act as both a platform and a vehicle for our lovely trio, one that will only enhance the experience and not in any way, shape, or form (and I do mean this literally) negate it.
A great BLT is a complex edible symphony, one in which all the parts maintain their individuality, yet at the same time surrender their tasty nuances in the true spirit of gastronomic gestalt and dwell as one. This equinox I choose Sumano’s Bakery ciabatta bread. Though I am skeptical about its naked and pale texture, I feel it will toast up well, and its many crevices will add some fun places for the mayo to dwell.
With the mayonnaise choice I have to stay with tradition and of course go with Hellmann’s, though for some reason it’s known west of the Mississippi as Best Foods. I don’t waste my time with some kind of safflower oil concoction or other type of healthy alternative.
My ingredients are now all together, but the critically intense work has just begun. For now without the correct timing and the correct application of all the ingredients, my ritual could easily plummet into a spiritual abyss.
All ingredients must sit together at room temperature as I invoke the spirit of all the great BLT makers in all the luncheonettes in New York City. I heat my cast iron skillet (using a Teflon pan would be heresy) to a comfortable medium heat.
I then lay the bacon down four strips per sandwich, and as I do, the strips greet the metal with a friendly sizzley “hello.” As they are slowly cooking, I cut the tomatoes, neither too thin nor too thick, and place them down ever so gently on a plate to await their glorious marriage.
The lettuce has been carefully washed and spun with all traces of ribs removed. The mayonnaise is open and eager to join this eatable canvas.
Once the bacon has been turned, the bread swings into action. It has to be brown all the way but with no traces of crusty darkness. As the toast is finishing, I remove the bacon and gently pat it down with a paper towel.
Now it’s time to assemble my edible equinox creation. Mayo on both pieces of toast, then the tomatoes. I then place the lettuce between the tomato and the bacon, for I feel it’s texturally more secure that way. I don’t want an immediate confluence of tomato and bacon; I like the lettuce to work as a buffer. Here’s where many folks really go askew: they push the bread down so hard that the bacon is crushed. One must gently, ever so gently caress the concoction together. Then I take a sharp knife and make a diagonal cut. A straight cut is what people from small towns in Nebraska and Ohio execute. I place the masterpiece on a plate, where it waits for the consuming mouth to enjoy the warm and crunchy (yet still pliable) bacon, the exploding sensation of a dry-farm Molino tomato, the joyous lettuce, the condiment-ing mayonnaise and ever-so-supportive bread.
My first Ultimate BLT goes to my neighbor. With this offering I realize that I am truly invoking the Japanese Equinox celebration of Higan, illustrating the six perfections: perseverance, effort, meditation, wisdom, observance of precepts, and giving.

12 comments:

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Anonymous said...

Great resource. keep it up!!Thanks a lot for interesting discussion, I found a lot of useful information!With the best regards!
David

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