Building a Late Summer BLT

Ryan ConklinRyan Conklin is a Chef Manager for Culinary & Nutritional Services at Rex. His mission is to bring healthy, gourmet cuisine to the Rex community & shed the label of “hospital food.”

As I get older in my culinary journey, this phrase starts to become more important to me everyday. There is a tendency on our world to construct dishes that are over-complicated and definitely neglect to highlight the quality of the individual ingredients.

Very often, as with making a quality pizza, less can actually become more! That was our inspiration today as I worked with guest Chef Tessa Nguyen to artfully craft a sandwich that was a little bit salty, smokey, sweet, and crunchy. With the help of two grill cooks, who handled all the orders, today I watched dozens of customers walk up to our grill station and all order the same thing one after another: The Ultimate BLT.

In the spirit of the late North Carolina summer, I really wanted to highlight this sandwich for lunch, and what a success it was. It all started with the bacon, which was house made from fresh pork belly that we cured for a week in a flavorful brine. It was then cold smoked for two hours using applewood chips. I sliced it nice and thick which gave it a meaty texture as this was one of the highlights of the sandwich.

After that, there was some really sexy (that’s right, I said it) heirloom tomatoes that were hand picked in the morning at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh. Today’s variety were all locally grown, and included Cherokee Purples, Marvel Stripes, and Brandywines. They were absolutely delicious, being both perfectly ripened and juicy. We sliced them rather thick, with the hopes of the tomato juices bursting in your mouth as you take your first bite.

To top it off,  we used a couple young red leaf lettuce fillets on each sandwich. They were plush and crisp at the same time, still having a rich flavor, which is not something achieved when using Iceberg lettuce.

As we layered these ingredients atop of our lightly toasted  Wheatberry bread, the top piece was brushed with a generous schmear of a lovely lemon basil mayonnaise that Chef Tessa made with basil picked right from our herb garden just five minutes prior. This spread that she made was perfectly seasoned with just a hint of fresh garlic.

What a sandwich, perfect for this time of the year when the tomatoes are at the peak of freshness here in North Carolina. I was happy, and I’m sure the 40 plus people that enjoyed one for lunch in Raleigh today felt just the same.

Five layers of Love,

Chef Ryan

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