You never know where you’ll learn a life-altering cooking technique. Longtime readers will know that I glean most of my food knowledge from Saturday afternoon PBS cooking shows (hat-tips to Lidia, Bridget & Julia, and Mary Ann Esposito), but today’s post is a result of following pastry chef extraordinaire Nicole Rucker on Instagram.
Nicole wears many hats: proprietor of Fat & Flour in the Grand Central Market, author of the delightful cookbook Dappled (you’ll be seeing some recipes here from it soon), and inaugural guest on my podcast, Lunch Therapy. She’s also, it turns out, a bacon whisperer.
A few weeks ago on her Instagram stories, she wrote a screed — well maybe not a screed, it wasn’t angry — a rant about bacon basically asking why anyone would cook it in a skillet when you can cook it in the oven? I’m going off my memory here (Person Woman Man Camera TV) but her point was that in a skillet the bacon splatters grease everywhere; in the oven, cooked on foil, it crisps up perfectly and then you throw the foil away and you’re done.
Ever since reading Nicole’s bacon treatise, I’ve cooked my bacon this way exclusively. It truly is a game changer; less for the no-mess and more for how perfectly the bacon comes out: it’s deep, dark brown and dream crispy. This is how restaurants do it, Nicole explained, and now I see why. It’s fool-proof.
Once you have bacon like that, it’s easy to make a most excellent BLT. My strategy is to cook the bacon first, to slice the juiciest, reddest tomato in my larder (larder?!), and then to mix some mayo and Dijon mustard, and toss some arugula with olive oil and white Balsamic (my new favorite ingredient) with salt and pepper. The bread (store-bought seven grain) wasn’t ideal — it’s what I had in my freezer — but with everything else so excellent, it didn’t really matter. And there are those who swear by ordinary bread in a summer tomato sandwich, so maybe that’s not a big deal. Toasting it helps.
Spread on the mayo-mustard, layer in the tomato, pile on the arugula, and then deploy your bacon. A most excellent BLT indeed.
A Most Excellent BLT
- 4 – 6 pieces bacon (uncooked) I love Nueske's Applewood smoked
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 2 Tbs Dijon mustard
- 2 big handfuls arugula
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 1 splash white Balsamic vinegar lemon juice or white wine vinegar works just as well
- Salt and pepper
- 1 large red heirloom tomato
- 4 pieces sandwich bread Use your favorite.
- Place the bacon on a foil-lined cookie sheet and insert into the oven. Set the temperature to 375 and cook for 20 minutes or so until the bacon is deep, dark brown and incredibly crisp. Pour off the fat (save for another use!) and remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate.
- Mix the mayo and mustard together and set aside.
- In a large bowl, toss the arugula with the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and taste as you go. It should be bright and sharp.
- Using a serrated knife, slice your tomato into thick slices.
- Place your sandwich bread in the toaster and toast until golden brown.
- To assemble: slather the mustard-mayo on to both sides of the bread; add the tomato (season with salt and pepper), the arugula (if it's too much, put some on the side and call it a salad), and the bacon. Slice in half and eat right away.
Bacon for a Crowd (Amateur Gourmet; guess I already knew this!)
Grilled Cheese BLT (Simply Recipes)
The Ultimate BLT Sandwich Recipe (Serious Eats)
Juicy BLT Recipe (NYT)
Grilled Bacon BLTs (Bon Appetit)