Friday, September 5, 2008
Making a Colbert Special
With food prices going up, people are constantly going on about not wasting food and how much food is usually wasted in developed country. I read that about 1/3 of all food in the U.K. ends up being thrown out for various reasons. I'm sure that the statistics are similarly high in the U.S.
Some wastage of food is hard to avoid. During transport, things are damaged, rot, or are infested. It's impossible to avoid wasting some food on the production end. A lot of food is also wasted by restaurants and markets because of the higher standards and early sell-by dates they have to deal with. It's only on the consumer level that waste can be more actively avoided as we only need to apply our own standards and care to make sure we use things up before they go off.
I try to make sure to never waste food because it's so expensive here. Sometimes I can't keep on top of things which ripen faster than expected, especially in the summer, but I do try. The worst situation though is when meat spoils because it's so high on the food chain that you know that you've just damaged the environment for no benefit whatsoever.
Generally speaking, meat never spoils in our home with one exception and that's bacon. The main problem is that we can't eat it fast enough once a one-pound package is defrosted and opened up. I'm not a huge bacon fan and my CH is not a big eater so we tend to get through half the pack on the weekend and then it becomes a struggle to incorporate the rest of it into meals during the weekdays to finish it up before it gets nasty.
The only way to make sure it doesn't go to waste is for me to try and eat some of it for lunch. Up until Stephen Colbert reminded us that a B.L.T. is his favorite sandwich, I hadn't even considered using bacon in this way. It's one of those things which may be common enough back home but you forget is an option when you've been away from the food culture for awhile. I'm guessing some people would say that's probably a good thing since this isn't exactly a richly nutritious lunch. That being said, I think people are sometimes a little too hysterical about bacon. Yes, it's bad for you, but a little now and then won't kill you.
So, if you're not the hysterical type and you've got a taste for a B.L.T., I've got a few sammich-making tips for you.
Point 1: Toast the bread and leave it to cool in the toaster oven.
If you toast the bread and put it on a plate, it'll get "toast sweat" on the underside and get soggy on the bottom. If you use it while it's still hot, your mayonnaise will melt into it.
Point 2: Shake the grease off the bacon, but don't blot it on paper towels.
This may be slightly controversial but I believe it is best to use the little bit of bacon fat left on the slice after a few good shakes to act as a "dressing" for the tomato and lettuce. The acidity of the tomato and the oil from the bacon combine very well.
Point 3: Salt the tomato slices.
Even though bacon is salty, the sandwich is going to taste bland if you don't salt the tomato. Tomato can hold up to a fair bit of salt so I salt the slices normally and don't factor the bacon's saltiness into the equation. I also advise using very thin tomato slices to keep the sandwich from getting unwieldy.
Point 4: Apply mayonnaise thinly to one slice of bread and place it in contact with the lettuce.
The general rule with delis and sandwich-making is that mayonnaise must come in contact with the meat. However, since the bacon is oily and the mayo is oily, it just makes a slippery sandwich. Of course, you can just eat it on dry toast, but what fun would that be? Also, the mayo forms a thin oil-based barrier between the moist lettuce (though you should try to dry it as well as possible after washing) and the bread won't get soggy.
Point 5: Don't overdo the bacon.
The bacon should be just enough for flavor. This isn't a bacon sandwich, it's lettuce and tomato enhanced with bacon. I use as many slices as needed to cover the bread with about 1/4 inch gaps between the slices. If the bacon slices are touching or overlapping, you've got more than you need and the bacon flavor will overwhelm the vegetables. A really nice balance is more like a bacon salad flavor than a bacon sandwich.