Bring Out the Best in Bacon
BLT sandwiches are just one way to savor tasty bacon.
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A perfect bacon-lettuce-and-tomato sandwich is simple, and if you go for the best ingredients, the results can be glorious.
The tomato has to be garden-raised, vine-ripened and recently picked, preferably within a couple of hours. Try to use garden-fresh lettuce. I prefer leaf, Boston or Bibb. I usually have homemade garlic mayonnaise in the fridge, but I can't argue against either Hellmann's or Miracle Whip. I grew up with the latter in my school lunches, and, unlike some of my pals, I don't snub it. The bread has to be artisan style. Idiosyncrasies are tolerated. My husband likes his bread toasted but not too dark. Sometimes I tuck in few big leaves of basil and a couple of rings of thinly sliced red onion.
Truth be told, a good BLT is all about the bacon. If you are worried about calories, eat bacon less often and eat only two slices, but make it the best you can find. Life is short, and you deserve good bacon.
I checked out many kinds of bacon to determine the ideal B for a BLT. Here are five types of bacon listed here in order of preference.
1. Dry-rub slab bacon, cut from a whole piece into 1/8-inch-thick slices - this is often called "country style." There was little shrinkage, the flavor was excellent and the bacon stayed crisp the longest. This is my favorite.
2. Yorkshire Farms vacuum-packed, uncured and dry-rubbed bacon slices - the slices weren't as thick, but the bacon had good flavor and little shrinkage. They stayed crisp in the sandwich. Niman Ranch smoked thick slices made from heirloom porkers tied for second place.
3. Cottage Butt Bacon - as an experiment, I tried smoked and cured pork shoulder butt made by Wil-Den Family Farms. It tastes like a ham slice, and because it is so thin, it needs only a few minutes in the skillet to frazzle. This tender-meaty bacon is delicious in a BLT and great with breakfast eggs.
4. Sugardale thick-sliced, hickory smoked bacon - this vacuum-packed supermarket product is a good default bacon to have on hand. It cooks up crisp and flavorful, and I always have it in the freezer.
5. Thin-sliced, vacuum-packed bacon - most of these bacons are not worth their cheaper prices. The slices shrink, crumble and don't deliver the flavor. Forget it.
I cook bacon on the stovetop. It's easy to watch, fills the house with delicious aroma and makes the crispest bacon. In a cold, heavy skillet large enough to hold the slices in a single layer, arrange the slices and, please note, cook over LOW to medium-low heat. Cooking bacon at a low temperature minimizes shrinking, curling and uneven cooking. It also cuts down on spattering. Turn slices often until they are browned and crisp. Drain on paper towels. Others might prefer to use the microwave, although I find that it usually yields slices that are dry and hard.
If you're cooking for a crowd, use the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place wire racks in a baking tray. Arrange the slices in a single layer on the racks and bake until desired crispness, about 15 to 20 minutes. Or, just place the slices directly on the baking sheet. Cooking in their own fat, they will be crisper than when baked on the rack.
I prefer to turn the slices with chopsticks rather than a fork or tongs, and I use kitchen scissors to snip into the occasional fat ruffle so that the strips lay flat.
Cooked leftovers are not a problem. Crumbled bacon is wonderful in salads (especially Cobb), as a topping for thick soup, added to biscuits or pancakes, mixed into scrambled eggs or a frittata, tossed with German-style potato salad, partnered with sauteed liver and onions, added to chowder, topping an extravagant burger or used as a garnish for cooked vegetables as well as pasta.
Then there are the bacon drippings. In the old days, before Lipitor, I'd fry bacon and set it aside, then fry chicken pieces in the bacon fat (plus butter) until crisp, thicken the drippings with flour and make cream gravy, scraping up the browned bits in the skillet. Crumbled bacon topped the dish with buttery whipped potatoes on the side.
Now older and a bit wiser, I'll keep a few tablespoons of clear bacon drippings for spinach salad dressing.
The slow cooker makes preparation for this French-German dish easy.