I am standing behind the line, toes angled toward the net post, feet positioned inches apart with the left slightly forward of the right. I take the ball in my left hand; small, yellow, fuzzy, and cup it with my fingers, as if we are making friends. The racket is low to my side, gripped lightly with my right hand. I lift my left hand, giving it an upward motion to toss the ball. As the ball releases from my cupped fingers, the racket simultaneously glides back and swings up until my elbow is pointed straight back, upper arm parallel with the ground, hand so close to my head I look as if I might be scratching my ear.
It is that moment, that defines the serve. Has the ball gone high enough, straight enough into the air? Are my eyes following the yellow ball of fuzz while my racket reaches toward it with the intention of sending it strategically over the net to the opposite court with great force? Will my mind stay focused and shut out the noise of negativity in my head that stands in the way of the mechanics of all these motions?
Thwackk!! My wrist snaps forward and the strings make contact. The ball sails through the air toward my opponent, landing just inside the line. It’s not complicated…or is it!?
Tennis is like a BLT. The ingredients are simple, but if you leave out one of the parts, it just doesn’t work. Or, if you have all the parts, but don’t put them together properly, it doesn’t work out well.
I practiced that motion, my tennis serve, oh so many times today, that as I came home to make lunch, I realized, I needed a BLT. I needed to assemble something perfect today, something I was so familiar with that I could “ace” it without giving it much thought. S o m e d a y , I hope my tennis serve will be as easy as making a BLT, but for now, I think it is time to eat.
Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato (sandwich)
I can’t decide which of these pieces makes it my favorite. Is it the cool tanginess of the tomato cutting through the salty bacon, the crispy crunch of the fresh lettuce between my teeth, or the creaminess of the mayonnaise stepping up, washing over and bringing the flavors together into a harmonious blend of sweet, salty, creamy and crispy tang?
There is something magical about the mixture of these simple ingredients, but the mixture must be correct; fussed enough, yet not over-fussed. The bacon should be crisp, but not burnt. Thin slices of quality bacon provide the perfect texture; uneven, limp-cooked slices should be avoided (on and off the court).
The tomatoes should be full of flavor and sliced to a 1/4 of an inch. The lettuce need be crisp; good choices are Boston, Romaine or Bibb. Sometimes I use Arugula because I like the bite of pepper it provides, and then again…sometimes I only have mixed greens.
Mayonnaise is an e s s e n t i a l . It does not need to be homemade. I use Wildwood Aioli which is readily available now in stores (refrigerator aisle) and is basically a good-quality mayonnaise. I really think the sandwich should be renamed the BLTM (Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato and Mayonnaise sandwich), because without the mayonnaise, the trio will not properly mix. In fact, I think it might just be the magical ingredient. They call it mixed-doubles, not mixed-singles for a reason.
I don’t know where you stand on the bread thing, but I am of the camp that feels it must be toasted. Not too much; just enough. The right amount of crust will hold the juices in and give way perfectly, softening the bread without falling apart. A thickish slice is best and something hearty like a como or batard is preferred. I usually only eat whole wheat bread, but this is one place I like to make an exception…unless of course, I can’t (today it was Campagnolo, from Grand Central Bakery, because that is what I had).
Contrary to the order for which the sandwich is named (B, L, T), the bacon should not be first. The tomato and the lettuce should make contact with the mayonnaise, with the bacon pillowed gently in-between.
There is no recipe required to make a BLT, just a few simple mechanics that should be followed:
1. Cook the bacon
I like to use 3 slices per sandwich. I heat the oven to 400-degrees. I set my slices on a tin, lined with foil and cook it for approximately 10 minutes, or until it has rendered the fat and turned a nice shade of brown. I then set it aside on a paper towel until the rest of the fixings are ready.
2. Toast the bread
I like to use a loaf from which I cut the slices myself, to a thickness of 3/4”. Although I do love burnt toast, for this sandwich, the bread should be toasted lightly and look the color of a very-light golden brown.
3. Slather both slices of bread with mayonnaise, on one side
4. Slice a tomato into 1/4” slices and lay them out over one of the slices of bread
5. Sprinkle, ever-so lightly, with sea salt
(This is optional)
6. Lay three slices of bacon over the tomatoes
7. Lay a few leaves of freshly-rinsed and dried lettuce on top of the bacon
8. Top with the second slice of bread
9. Push gently together
(This helps coax out the juices)
10. Slice and SERVE…
…yes, you heard me – SERVE!!