Saturday, August 29, 2009
Like so many medical professionals, my father feels that any low-fat dietary guidelines, exercise regimes and requirements of good hydration are not necessarily a good prescription for him. When I was very young, I would go with him on rounds and then if the timing was right we would have a full-fat snack at the hospital cafe.
The healthcare system at that time was wholly different—a time before FEE-BASED valet parking at oncology departments, before security alarms on babies in the nursery, before bullet proof glass in Emergency triage centers. And a snackshop, staffed by volunteers, including me as a high school candy-striper, was considered a worthy amenity for the patients.
The hospital café had a few small tables and a long counter. Unlike the cafeteria in the basement, the café served food to order. Rather than the heart-healthy, tasteless options on hospital menus these days, the café served delicious Americana food that didn’t skimp on sugar, butter or mayonnaise. Specialties included toads in a hole, stellar egg salad on toast, butter-soaked crispy shredded hash browns and thick milk shakes. But, the most delicious offering was the BLTs--the salty, crispy bacon contrasting with the softness of the mayonnaise soaked white bread and the coolness of the lettuce. And, in my mind, a BLT is one of the few occasions where the requisite bread is white and none other.
The simplicity of name belies the complexity of the BLT—tangy, sweet mayo; salty, crispy bacon; crunchy, wet lettuce; soft, moist tomatoes. Thanks to Ruhlman, we took our late August challenge to create a variety of BLT inspired dishes that lives up to the complexity but changes up the format.
We started the challenge with the ingredients. The homemade bacon was so simple it’s frankly criminal to claim any real labor. The tomatoes and leafy greens were from Belle and her dad’s garden; though again in all honesty they really only worked intermittently on the project.
The first dish we created from the ingredients was BLT pie. The whole pie began with a dream and an incredible craving for tomato pie. This Southern delicacy is not something that I have actually ever eaten making the dream even more compelling. My friend suggested Laurie Colwin’s recipe for Tomato Pie, but I had a desire for tomatoes encased in flaky pastry. Laurie Colwin’s recipe did however include a rich mayonnaise and cheddar topping that hit the right tone of love manifested through unctuous, fatty gooiness, so I used that topping for the BLT pie subbing homemade mayonnaise for Hellman's.
The delicious pie moved me, who is often described as a small or even birdlike eater, to eat three slices for lunch. It had a flaky cheddar cheese crust that held up to the complex filling. Tomatoes and caramelized onions brought sweetness and moisture to the party; bacon spice and saltiness; and the Swiss chard and kale brought seriousness.
My father, who is always suspicious of the healthy hocus pocus that that is part and parcel of my cuisine, not only enjoyed the pie but later mentioned this dish as a specimen of a good dinner entrée--little did he know that he was the inspiration.
Cheddar Pie crust recipe at Gourmet Magazine. I wished I had subbed lard for the shortening, but had to accept that I didn’t. You need both a top and bottom crust.
Slice 4-5 medium tomatoes and then place in a colander to drain. if they are really juicy tomatoes, give them a squeeze.
4-5 slices of thick cut bacon and set aside meat.
1 large onion sliced in rings in bacon drippings
2.5 cups chopped Swiss Chard and Kale (next time I might use escarole). Keep the greens slightly undercooked.
Place greens as the bottom layer of the pie.
Top with shredded bacon.
Top with tomatoes and rings of red onions.
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 cups cheddar cheese
Handful basil chopped
2 T rice wine vinegar
Add this mayo-cheese mixture to the pie.
Top the pie with second crust.
After the egg wash, bake at 375 until golden brown about 35-40 minutes. (Tent the edges for the last 15 minutes.)
This is my entry for One Local Summer. The bacon homemade; tomatoes, basil and greens were from the garden; the onions, eggs were from Maple Valley Sugarbush, the cheddar was Amish. And, it is also my entry for Grow Your Own hosted by Andrea of Andrea's Recipes for the 2nd Anniversary of the event. And of course, my entry for Ruhlman's BLT challenge.