Today’s sandwich is the “Tomato Confit BLT.” It combines crisp bacon, Boston bibb lettuce, tomato confit, and mayonnaise on fresh-baked bread.
Notes: Is there a better sandwich on planet Earth than the classic bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich? Variations on the sandwich’s classic structure are almost always completely unnecessary, and often take away from what is already a perfectly balanced combination of crisp, salty, fatty bacon, with crunchy, cool lettuce, and a juicy, acidic sweetness from the tomatoes. Adding cheese or avocado or lobster is almost never an improvement, such is the excellence already inherent in this sandwich.
Unleeeeeessssssss…you are in Maine in the middle of Winter when your BLT craving hits. There’s a reason we tend to think of BLTs as a Summertime sandwich; the deliciousness of tomatoes picked at the height of their season are a major contributor to your overall impression of a BLT. And unless you are willing to take out a sketchy payday loan on a bunch of organic hydroponic vine-ripened vat-grown stem cell tomatoes flown in from Argentina, you’re simply not going to scratch your BLT itch with the kind of tough, flavorless, pale tomatoes found at the supermarket this time of year.
Enter the “Tomato Confit BLT,” one of the few variations on the classic sandwich that I dare say may be better than the original. Normally, when I think of “confit,” I think of something French, poached in its own fat, as with duck, until the flesh becomes impossibly tender and soft. Adding fat to meat imparts a huge blast of flavor, and even acts as a preservative. It’s a wonderful way to coax additional flavor and texture out of an ingredient that may need a boost, like the tough leg of an aquatic waterfowl, say, or the three-for-a-dollar softball-sized tomatoes at Hannaford.
“Oh ho,” you say, “but tomatoes are a fat-free food! How in the world are we to prepare them confit-style?” That’s easy. We’re going to cover them in bacon fat. A little bacon fat, a sprinkle of salt, and three hours in the oven at low temperature are all you need to transform tough, flavorless tomatoes into bite-sized grenades of acid and flavor with the consistency of a warm custard. Piled high on a BLT, they bring more tomato flavor to the sandwich than you ever thought possible.
The rest of the standard BLT rules apply. Use a fresh loaf of sourdough, or a loaf of Jillian’s no-knead Dutch oven bread. Get the thickest-cut bacon you can find (I used Oscar Meyer “Super Thick Cut”), and cook it slow and low in a frying pan until it is dark brown and crisp, but still chewy. You don’t want bacon that shatters when you take a bite. I like a soft Boston-style lettuce, and as much Hellmann’s Blue Ribbon as I can fit onto a butter knife, on both sides of the bread, please. Toast your bread in a little butter on just one side, so that the outside of the bread gets a little crunchy, while the inside stays soft and warm. Spend a little time making a tomato confit, and your reward will be one of the best BLTs you’ve ever tasted.
Tomato Confit B.L.T.
Makes two big sandwiches; likely enough for four people. Adapted from a recipe on The Meaning of Pie.
- 3/4 pound of thick-cut bacon
- 6 large tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4 slices fresh Sourdough bread
- 4 leaves Boston lettuce
- 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
Place oven racks in middle position of oven, and preheat oven to 275.
In a large frying pan over low heat, cook bacon, turning occasionally, until brown and crisp, about 20 minutes total. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
Place a paper towel over the mouth of a heat-proof container, and carefully pour bacon fat through paper towel to remove any chunks or burned bits.
Slice tomatoes to 1/3 inch thick, and arrange on parchment paper in a single layer on a large baking sheet, or two if needed.
Using a teaspoon, drizzle each tomato with some of the strained bacon fat. Turn each tomato over, and repeat so that both sides are covered in fat. Sprinkle each tomato lightly with Kosher salt.
Bake in preheated oven for about three hours, flipping once. Check tomatoes often during the last half hour, and remove before any blackening occurs.
Butter one side of each slice of bread, and grill butter-side down in a frying pan over medium heat, until one side of bread turns crisp and golden. Remove from pan.
To assemble: For each sandwich, spread mayonnaise on two slices of bread, with the toasted side down. Arrange a layer of bacon, then the lettuce, then half of the tomatoes on one slice of bread. Top with remaining slice and serve.