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Build A Better BLT | Sandwich Advice From Chef Mary Ann Esposito

Superior ingredients and one extra step will turn your next BLT into a lunchtime masterpiece.

Like us on Facebook to learn how to win an autographed copy of Mary Ann's newest cookbook!As host of PBS's Ciao Italia, America's longest running cooking shown, Chef Network Partner Mary Ann Esposito is primarily known for her expertise on Italian cuisine. While Mary Ann has been to Italy dozens of times and cooked alongside some of the most decorated Italian chefs in recent history, one of her favorite lunchtime dishes is the classic Bacon Lettuce and Tomato sandwich. As simple as this sandwich is, Mary Ann passionately believes that paying attention to the small details makes a huge difference. We asked her to share with us her best BLT advice and here are her recommendations in her own words:

It’s America’s sweetheart sandwich, the BLT, the one you ordered more frequently than any other in your favorite restaurant or made at home when fresh tomatoes were in season. The sandwich is so iconic that it needs only its BLT initials to describe it but enjoying a really good one requires some TLC.

Come summer I could consume a BLT every day with tomatoes from my garden. Thanks to Backyard Farms, I enjoy BLTs year-round and I have experimented with different ways of making them. From choosing the bread (to toast or not) to the plumpest, ripe tomatoes, to the crunch of the lettuce, to cooking the bacon just so, and adding the right ratio of mayo.

Let's talk about the bread. Limp slices of bread are not an option; nor is bread with lots of holes. Bread with a tight crumb like a sourdough or semolina bread is perfect but if you really want to make a memorable BLT, use brioche. Thick slices of this slightly golden yellow sweet bread plays off nicely with the tomatoes. Toasting it gives added texture to that first bite.

The tomatoes should be round slices of meaty Backyard Farms Beefsteak. Cut them with a serrated knife to prevent ripping the skin. After slicing, lay the slices on paper towels to absorb excess juices because that can make your sandwich soggy.

Now the lettuce; go for the crunchiest and that means hearts of romaine leaves because they will not go limp like other lettuce types.

For the bacon; buy good quality; cook it in the microwave on several sheets of paper towel. The bacon comes out perfectly crisp and is not greasy because the paper towels absorb the excess fat. Stovetop and oven cooking are ok but a lot messier.

Now comes the artistic part because this is no wimpy-looking BLT; this is a BLT with attitude, one you can sink your teeth into by putting all those ingredients together in a way that your taste buds will get equal attention from everything.

Backyard Farms Beefsteak Tomato BLT

Makes 2

1 Backyard Farms Beefsteak tomato, stemmed and cut into 4 rounds

Salt

8 strips bacon

4 thick slices good bread like brioche, semolina or sourdough

Mayonnaise

8 hearts of romaine lettuce leaves

First, have all the ingredients ready. Step one: toast the bread. Lay one slice on a cutting board and lightly coat the slice with your favorite mayo.  

Place a couple of romaine leaves over the mayo.

Add two strips of bacon on top of the lettuce. Top with a tomato slice.

Repeat with a second layer. This extra step is the difference between a good BLT and a BETTER BLT. That extra layer of bacon, lettuce and tomato will not only make the sandwich heartier with a minimal amount of extra calories, it will enhance the overall experience.

Spread the second slice of bread with mayo and place it on top. Use a sharp knife to cut the sandwich diagonally in half.  

Have several napkins at the ready and take that first big bite. Now you know why you love BLTs!

Recipe prepared for Backyard Farms by Mary Ann Esposito whose newest cookbook, Ciao Italia: My Lifelong Food Adventures in Italy is in stores November 1, 2018. Photos by Chef Network Partner Liz Harris of Floating Kitchen.