No produce is more seasonally perfect than a summer tomato, and no dish captures this much-anticipated culinary phenomenon quite like a BLT.
But what’s the best way to prepare summer’s favorite sandwich?
Do you stick with the basics, or do you go off the rails with modern improvements?
I know you purists are finger-wagging at the idea that a regular ole BLT could possibly be improved upon. The mingling of red, ripe tomato slices—meaty and full-in-the-mouth—with tender lettuce, crisp bacon and waves of mayo on squishy white bread is the summer equivalent of Thanksgiving turkey and dressing. It’s the dish you wait for all year, and the one that tastes best when made simply and consumed in the season (and often over the kitchen sink).
This is your opportunity to go nuts with mayo (no one’s judging), to eat cheap white bread (even if you pooh-pooh it the rest of the year), and to feel the magically melded ingredients drip down your chin while you stuff one bite, and then another, into your awaiting gob.
But while the common BLT is as near a perfect dish as one could hope for, there’s an argument to be made that it likes a glow up every now and then. Swap out Bunny or Wonder for homemade sourdough. Elevate supermarket bacon with rashers from a local meat market. Use curly leaf lettuces to introduce extra flavor while maintaining crunch, incorporate heirloom tomatoes and, if you’re feeling really ambitious, make your own mayo.
The good news is, there’s plenty of time—and fresh tomatoes—to enjoy scores of BLTs, some delightfully regular, and others stylishly delicious.
Tips for making the most of your BLT:
The time for tomatoes is this very minute
June, no question, is tomato season in Louisiana. While you can find regionally grown tomatoes in some independent supermarkets, the best source is the area’s regional farmers markets. The Red Stick Farmers Market continues to be a leading source with multiple vendors bringing different sizes and varieties of Louisiana-grown tomatoes to its weekly markets.
Substitute butcher’s bacon
A vine ripe summer tomato is a BLT’s top priority, but its second is bacon. Level up your bacon game with fresh cured bacon from a regional meat market. Source bacon from the recently expanded Iverstine Butcher, Cutrer’s Meat Market at the Red Stick Farmers Market and other local meat markets.
Make your own mayo
It’s easy. For real. We’re talking egg yolks and oil in a blender with a few other ingredients. Here’s a classic Martha Stewart recipe for reference. Customize its flavor in any direction you like, and keep it in the fridge for a week. It also makes a great gift this time of year, especially when accompanied by a few fresh tomatoes.
BLOTs and BESTs are yummy, too
Add a thin slice of onion (red or Vidalia work especially well) for a bracing kick and an extra layer of crunch, or add an over easy egg. The BEST, made with bacon, egg, sprouts and tomatoes, is the original version of this sandwich, enjoyed by generations of diners at Louie’s Cafe.
Vary the bread
This is where purists hold their ground. Soft, cloud-like and perfect for babies and old people, white bread was made for tomato sandwiches and BLTs. Still, eat enough of it as you’re gorging on the season’s short-lived bounty and you may just want something different, like slices from a toothsome French boule or loaf rosemary sourdough. Baton Rouge is awash in cottage bakers these days, like Maru Bread Company and Garden District-based Tout va Bien, that are great for sourcing specialty loaves.