Reto Biaggi, owner of Reto’s Kitchen, was the winner of the recent BLT Challenge at the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market. Biaggi and his team of Chris Clegg and Amanda Row served over 400 sandwiches for the annual event, which is a fundraiser for the market.
What was on your winning sandwich?
We used tomatoes from Farlow Farm. Some of them were yellow. We sprinkled salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar on them and drained them on paper towels to get the tomato water to come out, and it concentrated the flavor.
The sandwich is about the tomato, so it needs to have a big, nice piece of tomato. Then, with that tomato you want the flavors of garlic, lemon, basil, a little bit of Dijon mustard and olive oil beaten into the mayo. You can deactivate the strong garlic flavor by letting the garlic marinate in the lemon juice. The mayo will accept a fair amount of olive oil.
Thick bacon. The bacon fat was used to toast the bread. If you don’t have enough mayo, it will be dry. You have to have mayo on both sides. We wanted crispy bread, crispy bacon, fresh tomato. Iceberg lettuce is best for crunch and freshness. We prepared it in a way that people could eat at a picnic table.
What about the bread?
For me, it was easy because I know a French baker, I just went to them. When I eat a BLT, the bread is the envelope. It’s more about what is in between. I want to have tomato juice and mayo on the corner of my mouth. It has to be a big bite of juicy tomato and then some crunchy stuff. The bacon helps with the meatiness of the tomato.
When I tried the sandwich with just bread, the bread got moist, and it kind of fell apart. We decided to toast the bread on the griddle. We thought of using butter, but it’s kind of nice to use bacon fat. But olive oil would’ve been perfect. The bacon fat is very good for you! It’s just a matter of thinking about it in a way where I know it would be successful and good experience for the people at the market.
What is the most important part of a BLT?
The tomato is the most important part. The marinating I do will help tomatoes throughout the year, even when tomatoes are not in season. They are still OK. I just go and get really nice tomatoes. I don’t worry too much about the variety.
What tips do you have for making the perfect tomato sandwich?
Don’t hesitate to season that tomato before you put it inside the sandwich. Put that salt and pepper on there. It’s fine. Cook the bacon in the skillet at the last minute. Most will put the bread in the toaster, but I recommend toasting the bread in the skillet at the last minute either in the bacon fat or with olive oil. Letting the bacon and the bread getting hot and crispy is important. Add a little of mayo. Maybe you could season your mayonnaise a little bit with of garlic. Maybe a little basil. Too much basil and it becomes an Italian sandwich. The BLT is somewhat American. Some people don’t like the meaty taste of the tomato, so you can add a little basil as a licorice note as a background. Then lettuce.
If you wanted to make it vegetarian, what protein would you recommend?
I’m thinking mushrooms. Portobello is too big to work with. I like porcini. It should be sautéed mushrooms. You can take some big slices of mushrooms and sauté them in a skillet. You could brown them and have them a little crispy around the edges.
— As told to Carl Wilson. Contact him at 336-373-7145 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.