The Homemade BLT Challenge

I jumped on the bandwagon on Michael Ruhlman’s blog to join in on this summer’s BLT From Scratch Challenge, which was one to creatively make a BLT sandwich entirely from scratch, making the bread, the bacon, growing the tomato and lettuce, making the mayonnaise, and then sending in a writeup of the results.

Here is the basis for my entry, Panino del Po,  (Bacon Butty Italian Stylie, in Jamie Oliverese)

I made the  basic pancetta recipe from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing with friends M and B some time ago.  Here is a picture of us with our lovely tied rolls of pork belly, ready to hang for curing.  As you can see, I was wearing the official Team Bacon t-shirt when we did it.

Pancetta, Rolled and tied, ready for cure

Pancetta, Rolled and tied, ready for cure

Here is what the results look like, sliced, before cooking.

Slices of cured goodness for the sandwiches

Slices of cured goodness for the sandwiches

The tomatoes have been growing along, pretty slowly, but have changed to some lovely colors.  I think the micro climate near our driveway has been warmer than that of many others this year, despite our Minnesota locale.  I picked out two pretty tomatoes for the project.

A Jubilee and a Cuor di Bue

The one on the left is a Jubilee (I think).  The one on the right is a Cuor di Bue, which has taken over as one of my favorite tomato varieties.  You can see that it is shaped somewhat like the heart of an ox, which is the meaning behind its name.  Both of these varieties have dense “beefsteak” texture, and are juicy but not watery when you slice them. In the interest of giving credit where it’s due, I’d need to thank Whitewater Gardens for starting the seedlings, and my DH for helping with the watering of the plants.

While my love of Italian flavors is influencing my overall product, good toast was an essential for my sandwiches.  My current favorite bread for toast and club sandwiches is Pain de Mie.

The prepared pan and risen dough

The prepared pan and risen dough

I used Nick Kindelsperger’s recipe from The Paupered Chef.  I had better luck with this recipe than I have had with others.  This is the first time I’ve had a perfectly even colored crust. Since it came out so well, I’m happy to say I’ve now checked #78 of the Cook’s 100 off my list.

Even shape and even browning

Even shape and even browning

For the mayonnaise (or otherwise emulsified sauce, also #54 of the Cook’s 100),  I chose the basic recipe using one egg yolk from Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, also by Michael Ruhlman, but not without prior research in the works of Julia Child and Simone Beck.  The main tipping point was not that quoting Michael Ruhlman again might provide me with a better chance at a prize in the challenge, but for the simple reason that I didn’t need two and a half cups of mayonnaise for only two sandwiches.  Ruhlman’s recipe yields about a cup, which was more than enough.

Mise en place for armstrong mayo

Mise en place for arm-strong mayo

I decided to use the mayonnaise as my arm workout for today.  And I’m glad I did.  It’s very satisfying to improve one’s understanding of the egg and emulsion, as Julia Child might say.  Beating the 1 yolk, 1/2 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. lemon juice together with a teaspoon of water, then drizzling 1 cup of canola oil into it very very slowly while whisking constantly does, really, create a cup of mayonnaise.

After tasting the basic mayo, I flavored it with some balsamic vinegar (1-2 tsp.) to fit in with the other Italian flavors.

Arm-strong Mayonnaise

"Arm-strong" Mayonnaise

Finally, while Panino del Po was completely homemade, it does not contain lettuce, since we never got any lettuce planted.  Instead, to stay with the Italian flavor profile, and still use home grown ingredients, I used large basil leaves which we grew alongside our tomatoes in containers.

Sandwich fillings, ready while the bread is sliced and toasted

Sandwich fillings, ready while the bread is sliced and toasted

Here’s how the sandwich finally looked:

The end result, ready to eat

The end result, ready to eat

I’m no Donna Ruhlman, so the photos of this may not do the sandwich justice. This was a lot of fun to make and to eat.  It was well worth the effort.  This project entertained me several times.

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4 Responses to The Homemade BLT Challenge

  1. Mary Nelson says:

    Looks like my kind of feast! Just a question about the Earth Box tomatoes–I have only two plants in my box, per the instructions included with the product. Seems like a waste of space to me! Is it possible to add herbs alongside the tomatoes? Sounds like you did! Any slowdown on the tomatoes with competition for soil enhancement and water?

  2. admin says:

    I put three tomato plants in one Earthbox one year, and didn’t have as good results.
    We have two Earthboxes this year of just herbs…. (mostly because we really like basil and rosemary). The placement of the fertilizer is different for herbs than for tomatoes, so I’ve not combined them in the same box. Doesn’t mean it won’t work, but I have had good results when I follow the directions, and not as good results when I don’t.

  3. wow! congrats! an amazing project indeed and your results are simply amazing. not to mention, i’m such a huge fan of BLT’s!!

  4. James says:

    Wow – the pancetta looks so good!

What do YOU think?