By Paul Suplee,
MBA, CEC, PC-3
(Reprint from July 11, 2019) This heat wave has once again brought out the best in us Marylanders, or is it ‘we’ Marylanders? I can never remember. But I digress.
For as long as I can remember, Mid-Atlantic folk have tended to complain all winter long that it is entirely too cold, and, dammit, where is summer? Then when summer arrives, after a more-than-pleasant spring, Marylanders shout from the rooftop, “What in the hell happened to spring? It’s so stinking hot! I can’t wait until it cools down!”
I laugh every time that I hear this ubiquitous complaint, an evil smirk passing across my face as I don’t mind heat or cold. I’ve written many times that the seasons themselves were the primary driving force for my return from San Diego after 3 1/2 years: there are no seasons there.
And while it is beautiful, I missed the typical scorching Maryland hot afternoon on which we watched the black clouds rip across the bay and dump torrential rain in a wicked thunderstorm, before quickly leaving us 10 degrees cooler with blue, sunny skies. Yes, I loved and still love those moments, even as a sailor as a young buck. I guess you can call me a thrill seeker.
The seasons also offer us food geeks an opportunity to diversify our menus, and we love doing that. Of course, we still have to “cook to the crowd,” but shaking things up a bit rejuvenates us. And today is a special day, arriving a tad later than last year; The arrival of our heirloom tomatoes from Chesterfield Heirlooms, a wonderful little farm in Pittsville.
I get excited when the local produce starts rolling in, such as the shishito peppers, aforementioned tomatoes, fresh herbs and even ginger. Later in the summer, we will be getting some Texas red okra to soak in buttermilk and then batter and fry, one of my favorite little southern dishes.
Baby bok choy should be a regular item soon and with some Johnson’s Bay oysters arriving Thursday, maybe it’s time to put the Korean oysters back on the menu for the summer. Finally, a breath of fresh air. And with summer in full-swing, we do as we can to spruce up our specials and offer our guests some great choices.
For me personally, the summer has been great so far. While I am exhausted, we have managed to cram a great many little adventures into our ridiculous schedule. Working around the clock (not my favorite thing to do), I try to take advantage of my one day a week to do the things I truly love: including taking the kids to the beach, surfing, fishing, paddling, simple walks on the beach or basically anything that does not include cooking or cleaning. I do enough of that at work.
So, back to the fresh produce, the one sandwich that comes back into my life every July is the BLT, an all-time favorite. There is something about the sweet-tart flavors of a vine-ripened Maryland tomato that will bring any dish to a whole new level.
As a child, I would eat tomatoes like apples, something that my brother could never bring himself to do, testament to the many differing tastes of people. So, this sandwich may not indeed be for everyone, but if you like bacon and tomato, I’m pretty sure that you’ll be making this soon.
For me, I also have to top it with Duke’s Mayonnaise, and before you start yelling at me about Miracle Whip or Hellman’s, I’m just going to go on record to say that it must be Duke’s. If it’s not, we cannot be friends. In fact, I probably won’t even acknowledge you in public. Period.
With that being said, I will allow you to use the mayonnaise of your choosing. I mean, it is your sandwich, and this is mine. Either way, please just make sure to have your Maryland tomato on hand. You know, the one that was grown in the sweltering heat? It’s summertime, baby!
1 lb. Thick cut pepper bacon
8 pieces white bread
Duke’s Mayonnaise, as needed
Romaine or iceberg lettuce, as needed
Fresh heirloom tomatoes, as needed
- Now you may need more than a pound of bacon to make four sandwiches. Four ounces per person really is enough, but, in reality, I could eat a half a pound at a go, which could explain my “food baby” as of late.
- When cooking the bacon, you can do it the old-fashioned way in a pan on the rangetop, or you can do it the cool way, which follows:
- Lay the bacon out on a baking pan and bake at 350F for about 15-19 minutes (time will vary with your oven).
- Remove to paper towels or a drain rack and set aside until it’s sandwich time.
- I am certainly not one to begrudge you your toasted bread, but I was raised on roast beef sandwiches and BLTs on white bread, not toasted. As such, I get to eat a little bit of my childhood when I make it the old way. I’ll leave this up to you.
If you want to start the Duke’s mayo v. Miracle Whip v. Hellman’s debate, look me up on Facebook and we can start a group.
Paul Suplee is the owner of the boxcar restaurant
and senior lecturer of culinary arts at UMES.