BRINGING HOME THE BACON: GEORGE’S NON-TRADITIONAL BLT

Here in Des Moines, it’s Baconfest time! If you weren’t fast on the draw, chances are you missed out on tickets this year, but no worries! You can still get your bacon fix and tweet back at your homies with some great DIY bacon dishes from your own kitchen.

It’s bacon time.

Gateway Market is a good place to start – the place is like a crack house for bacon addicts. I am proud to say that we sell great bacon, including Webster City, Niman Ranch, Des Moines Bacon Company and Nueske’s. You can’t go wrong with any of these – they’re all a cut above that bland, limp bacon you find in most stores.

My favorite bacon. It doesn’t come pre-sliced, so be prepared!

However, my absolute FAVORITE is the Smithfield Olde World Cure Country Pepper Bacon we sell at Gateway. If you like pepper bacon and haven’t tried this, you need to. It is that good!

When it comes to food, I am a traditionalist (mostly). But I also love a good BLT. And since we are in the winter months, which put us about as far away from a good BLT as you can get, I thought I’d take an unconventional approach for your newest bacon fix!

For four sandwiches, you will need:

  • 1 pound bacon
  • 8 slices Pullman’s white bread or Gateway’s Country Italian
  • 12 to 16 ounces pimento cheese spread (recipe below)
  • 1 cup loosely packed baby lettuce
  • 4 sliced boiled eggs (or 1 egg per sandwich)
  • 4 tablespoons of mayo
  • 2 to 3 tomatoes (it’s winter; you’ll want to fry them)

Here are some special notes:

Bacon: You’ll want about four to six slices per sandwich. If you buy the Smithfield bacon (which you have to slice on your own), use about half the slab. Each slice should be about 1/8th of an inch. Cook these slices until they become brown and crisp.

Bread: Old school breads work best here. I like the South Union Bakery Pullman loaf or Country Italian at Gateway. I tend to stay clear of breads that have too much going on for this sandwich. But if you have a whole grain option that you like, by all means use it. You can toast it or butter and grill it. Your preference.

Smithfield bacon on Gateway Market’s Pullman bread. It’s a beautiful thing.

Pimento cheese:You’re going to use 3 to 4 tablespoons per sandwich. Yes, there’s a recipe below, but you can also purchase Chef Bill’s Southern inspired version at Gateway. It is so good that I tend to add a little extra to my sandwich!

Lettuces: About ¼ cup of lettuce works perfect on this BLT. If you can’t find baby lettuce, arugula will do.

Mayo: You saw right, you’ll use one tablespoon of mayo per sandwich. Now that Paula Deen is your doctor, let me be your cook!

Tomatoes: January tomatoes are perfect for frying the way you do with green ones in season. Here’s how to do that: Slice the tomatoes and dredge them in seasoned white flour. Dip into buttermilk, followed by seasoned corn flour or corn meal. Slip the slices slowly into a pan of hot oil that is at least 350 degrees until crispy and lightly brown. You will need to flip them and cook on both sides.

To assemble your sandwich:

Place 4 of the slices of toasted bread on a cutting board. Spread each slice of toast with 1 and 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of pimento cheese. Add the fried tomatoes, followed by the slices of cooked bacon.

Pimento cheese – add some jalapeños for an extra punch.

Add the baby lettuces, mayo and the sliced eggs. Spread the 1 and 1/2 to 2 tablespoons pimento cheese on the remaining slices of toast and place cheese side down to finish the sandwich. Cut in half and enjoy.

Make these sandwiches. Today, if you have to.

Pimiento Cheese Recipe

This recipe is from Chef Bill Overdyk at Gateway. It calls for a pound of cheddar cheese – using the best cheddars will be spendy. So, keep that in mind. Also keep in mind that it could be the best pimento cheese spread you’ve ever tasted!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise  (Use the good stuff and don’t get cheap on me!)
  • 4 ounces diced pimiento, drained
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • Pinch of garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. grated onion
  • 1/8 tsp. ground red pepper for heat. (If you’re using a more reasonably priced cheese and want a little “umph,” Or try diced jalapeño or chipotle powder!)
  • 8-oz. block sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded*
  • 8-oz block extra sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup cream cheese, optional (Chef Bill likes the cream cheese for flavor.)

*For the sharp cheddar, I would use Widmer 6 year cheddar. Creamy and smooth, both sweet and sharp, and aged 6 years at Widmer Cellars in Wisconsin, this cheese is old enough to be quite sharp, but still creamy enough to melt well if making notes for mac and cheese. Their one-year cheddar works well also!

Just stir together the first five ingredients in a large bowl. Then stir in the cheeses and store in a refrigerator for up to one week.

Try this on a burger – you’ll love it! You can add diced bacon right to this spread for a tasty dip for crackers and veggies.

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