VIDEO: Yes, You Can Make a Better BLT—Here’s How

We caught up with ‘wichcraft’s executive chef Mike Barbera to learn how we can do a better job of making our favorite summer sandwich at home.

Earlier this year, I made a bold vow to myself: I was not going to buy any tomatoes this summer. Not only did I have intentions of picking buckets of plump crimson orbs from a dense balcony hedgerow of tomato plants, but I also committed to starting said garden from seed. Nope, no potted plants for me, thank you — I was going full-blown urban homesteader and no blight, negligence or lure of Greenmarket tomatoes was going to stop me.

Well, tomato season update: I have not grown a single one. In fact, I don’t even have any plants, nor did I ever; the seeds — which are fabulous and Rooftop Ready — are still in their packets, sprouting stunted by the chill of my freezer. It’s mid-August and I thought my life would be so different… what happened?

I have my excuses for never even beginning this project — like moving apartments around planting time, going on vacation for two weeks and regular weekend excursions — but those don’t change the fact that my balcony is tomato-less. Thankfully though, the city’s markets are now awash with the adored summer fruit, so I have nothing but my own laxness to lament.

My preferred way to seize the summer market bounty? Three letters: BLT. Tomatoes shine in this sandwich and because it’s so simple, it’s only as good as its parts — so you best not skimp. That’s why I go to the Greenmarket, where I know I’m bound to find the tomato my summer dreams are made of, even if it didn’t grow on my little slice of New York property.

Eckerton Hill Farms is known for being a standout of the season with mini crates of heirloom cherry tomatoes practically spilling off of their tables. Another item to note about Eckerton Hill, as well as so many other farms at the Greenmarkets, is that they also grow for wholesale accounts throughout the city, including the city’s several ‘wichcraft locations. In fact, ‘wichcraft loves their tomatoes so much that they have a whole special summer sandwich crafted around Eckerton Hill’s tomatoes — yes, a seasonal BLT.

It’s a fleeting menu option, as it should be. Being in the business of seasonal sandwiches, we caught up with their executive chef Mike Barbera to learn more about why the best BLT tomatoes usually come from the farmers market, why it’s important to not toast sides of each slice of bread and what he believes to be the ideal tomato slice thickness. What’s more, they shared their aioli recipe with us (below) so that even if our tomatoes aren’t homegrown (points to self), at least something between the two slices of bread can be homemade.

Watch the video above to learn more and try these two recipes at home before it’s no longer BLT season:

BLT

Makes 1 sandwich

2 pieces country bread (Barbera uses slices from Pain d’Avignon in the video)
4 pieces heritage bacon (the bacon in the video comes from Ozark Mountain Pork Cooperative)
1 Greenmarket tomato
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 pieces mixed baby lettuce
1 ounce aioli (see recipe below)

  1. Toast two slices country bread on one side only.
  2. Slice tomato into ½ inch thick slices. Season evenly with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. In a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, cook bacon until golden brown and crisp on both sides. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
  4. Slather 1 ounce aioli on toasted side of one slice of country bread.
  5. Layer on top of aioli with 2.5 slices of tomato, 4 pieces of bacon, mixed baby lettuce and close sandwich with toasted side facing into sandwich.
  6. Cut in half and serve.

Aioli

Makes about 1½ cups

1 large egg yolk
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon chopped garlic
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 cup grapeseed oil
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Place the egg yolk, Dijon mustard, garlic, cayenne pepper and vinegar in a food processor or blender. Start the food processor or blender and slowly add the grapeseed oil in a thin, even stream.
  2. When half of the oil has been added, add 1 tablespoon water. Then, slowly add the remaining grapeseed oil and blend until fully incorporated. If the aioli looks a bit thick, add another 1 teaspoon of water.
  3. Slowly add the extra virgin olive oil and blend until you have a smooth consistency. Season with the salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.

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Ariel Lauren Wilson

Lauren grew up on her family's farm in the North Carolina mountains. She now lives in New York and is the editor of Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn.