By Deb Hopson
July 7, 2017
Crispy, smoky bacon with a salty tang may be one of life’s greatest culinary pleasures. Bacon-lovers new to low carb may go a little wild at first, after years of low-fat guilt and deprivation, but it is undoubtedly a serious perk among the LCHF and keto crowds. Although humble, the classic bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich known as a BLT is famous for good reason — it’s simple, quick, and delicious when well- executed. While BLTs typically include bread of some sort, our low carb version skips the bread. Don’t worry, though, because you won’t even miss it. Let’s face it, the bread is just a convenient way of holding all of the ingredients together, and lettuce does a perfectly good job of that on its own.
While “B” is for Bacon and BLT, it also happens to stand for “B-Team” in the case of this post. If you’ll notice the byline, it’s Deb here, creating my first cooking post because Laura has been ill for some time. She’s going to be just fine, but it’s become clear that someone is going to have to step up and keep this blog thing rolling while she recuperates. It appears ‘that someone’ is going to be me.
I’ll be sharing some of my go-to meals with you, but please understand that Laura and I have very different cooking backgrounds. Hers is professionally-trained, for starters. All of my training basically comes from tips I’ve gleaned from her, as well as personal experience gained through the sheer desperation of trying to get low carb meals on the table on a day-to-day basis. You’ll also note that Laura garnishes her dishes with fresh herbs scattered on the edges of her plates, which are then artfully displayed on lovely textiles in a beautiful kitchen. Sadly, no fresh herbs here. In fact, I feel compelled to apologize ahead of time for the cooked bacon picture, below. Let’s face it, my culinary style can best be described as, “hot, tasty, and down where you can get it.” Despite the less-than-compelling photo, looking at it still makes my mouth water.
Now that your expectations have been re-calibrated, let’s move on. While BLTs are not exactly high-brow culinary fare, they are a much-loved classic. As with most dishes, BLTs are only as good as the ingredients we use to make them. For me, it’s all about the bacon and how it’s prepared. I love good, thick-sliced bacon cooked in the oven. My favorite is this Farmers Hickory-Brand Applewood Smoked Center Cut Bacon that I get at Costco. I do want to note that while it says “sugar-cured” on the package, it still comes in at 0 carbs per slice, so it cannot be that much sugar. However, everyone has their tolerance level, so shop accordingly. Even Laura and I differ on that kind of thing — she might prefer to look for something without any sugar, but it’s close enough for me.
Now, as much as I love bacon, I really hate cooking it on the stovetop. It’s a lot of mess for very little return. That is, you can only cook so many pieces at a time in a frying pan and it splatters everywhere. In the oven, the bacon cooks more evenly, there’s less standing by the stove, and there’s something about cooking the thick bacon in the oven (vs the stovetop) that causes it to simply melt in your mouth. Seriously, it is the best bacon ever. The first bite of this bacon, fresh from the oven, makes my eyes roll back in my head. It makes me do this.
I start by using two half sheet pans lined with heavy-duty foil, lay the bacon slices out in a single layer, and then place the pans in a pre-heated convection oven to 400F. If you don’t have a convection oven, set yours anywhere from 400F to 425F. Let’s face it, all ovens have their quirks, so the first time or two you make this you’re going to have to find out what works best with your appliance.
I place one of the pans on the lower rack and the other on the middle rack and set the timer for 20 minutes. To keep the bacon cooking evenly, I switch the pans on the racks and cook for another 10 minutes. At that point, I pull out one pan at a time and, using tongs, flip the bacon over, and place the pans back in the oven to cook for about 10 minutes more. Check the bacon again, and you can decide if it’s done based on your personal preference. I like my bacon cooked to the point where, when I turn the bacon over, it is a little stiff, not floppy. And because some slices cook faster than others, I will often prep a paper plate with paper towels and then pull out the pieces that cook the fastest first and put the rest back in the oven until done to my liking.
Once the bacon has cooled, it goes in a ziplock bag and is stored in the fridge for 7 to 10 days. It’s perfect for quick breakfasts, BLTs, and salads. I pull out however many slices I need, transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate, and give them a quick reheat in the microwave. If you still have some left after 10 days, you can place the bag straight in the freezer. However, it’s never around long enough in my house to even begin to worry about it going bad. Okay, truthfully, I’ve finally found a way to make “male refrigerator blindness” work for me. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this phenomenon, it’s the complete inability of many males to find something, no matter how obvious, in the refrigerator. I simply roll up the ziplock bag and hide it in plain sight. No man I’ve ever met is going to unroll the bag to see what it is…certainly not my husband. So, it’s mine, all mine — except for what my teenage daughter swipes! She’s a lot harder to fool!
When I’m ready to make a BLT, I gather together romaine lettuce, tomatoes, mayo, pesto, bacon, and deli-style turkey breast for additional protein. I imagine that it would be even better with freshly-roasted, sliced turkey breast, but that’s not usually in my refrigerator, so I make do.
Of course, no recipe is needed here. Make it the way you like it. Pesto or no pesto? Turkey? Or with just the B, L & T? It’s up to you. For me, it’s all of the above. Laura doesn’t care for tomatoes, so she uses roasted red peppers instead. As a side note, I will point out that the pesto in the little jar in the above photo is from Laura’s freezer. We both LOVE the Kirkland pesto from Costco and think it is the best-prepared pesto you can get, but we have a hard time using it up quickly enough. Laura cleverly puts the extra into these little jars and freezes them so there is no waste of precious pesto. She’s a damn genius.
I’m compelled to point out that Laura gives me a hard time (affectionately, of course) about my using Best Foods brand mayonnaise instead of what she refers to as “healthy mayonnaise.” While I’m aware that Best Foods is made with soybean oil (yikes), which I otherwise generally avoid, I haven’t been able to find a healthy prepared mayo that I like the taste of. Although I do make homemade mayo from time to time, I confess that there’s always Best Foods in my fridge. Rather than wear a cone of shame, I simply embrace the old saying about perfect being the enemy of good.
Tah dah! Here it is, in all its dubious glory. It's kind of hard to make something like this look good in a photo, especially using an iPhone and without an artful dusting of herbs, but the taste is simply amazing. It’s even better with a few generous grinds of black pepper. You might be asking yourself if the type of bacon and how it’s prepared could possibly make that big of a difference, but you’ll just have to trust me on this. The best BLTs start with the best bacon! OK, the tomatoes are important, too, but we all know deep down that it’s all about the bacon.