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.

Pie filling:
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.


lisaiscooking said...

The hospital snackshop of yesteryear sounds like a dream compared to current hospital cafeteria food! What a great idea for the BLT challenge. The cheddar crust looks incredible.

Heather S-G said...

Wow...that is soooo gorgeous! The colors are stunning! I bet this is super healthy, too (yay, dad)...and cheddar crust, mmmmmm! I love cheddar crust w/ an apple pie, too :D

Y said...

Love the sound of the pie crust. Funny, I can't ever imagine having a blt in a hospital cafeteria :)

La Cuisine d'Helene said...

Wow this looks delicious. You also always improved your pictures.

Anonymous said...

The pictures look gorgeous, and I'm glad the Colwin recipe was helpful in making what looks to be a masterpiece. Happy eating!

angela@spinachtiger said...

Cheese crust, bacon and you still wanted lard? Yes, great idea.

Zoë said...


Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I always love it when I come across something unique and different and promises to be delicious.

shaz said...

I love BLTs and this looks soo tasty (who says it's not healthy, it's got green stuff in it). Those tomatoes look a little naughty...

melissa said...

I have part of a package of bacon left from bacon, grassfed beef, grassfed cheddar burgers last week (yum!) so now I know what I'll make for dinner tomorrow night. We raise our own pork and eggs and my youngest loves bacon--this looks delicious and beautiful! I just wish I was better with pie crust. Great inspiration. Thanks.

Joanne said...

This looks truly amazing. I love the story behind it. You definitely took the classic and often pedestrian BLT to a whole new level. I am in awe.

Anonymous said...

I wish I liked sliced tomatoes, it looks that good!

Love the cheddar crust too! :D

Sophie said...

Beautiful meal! I have to agree, it's a shame what hospitals serve these days. When I was little, whenever a new cousin was born, I always liked going to the hospital cafeteria for a bowl of soup and those little star shaped crackers :).

Reeni said...

My mouth is watering on sight. What a beautiful and incredibly delicious pie!!!

grace said...

eeeek! that pre-cheesed, pre-baked version is so colorful and stunning! and come on--pie is appealing to me whether it's sweet or savory, and this is an outstanding creation. incidentally, i eat like a bird, too--an emu, or perhaps a condor, or any other super-large bird that can consume a lot. :)

Anonymous said...

I totally forgot that we volunteered at the snack shop. I remember making chocolate malted milkshakes.

xoxo Mary

Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction said...

Sounds delicious - looks like a really tasty use for all of the tasty garden tomatoes I have on hand!

Anonymous said...

A BLT Pie sounds like a fabulous idea! The cheddar crust must be really good!

Unknown said...

It sounds like we had a similar upbringing, thanks for reminding me about hospitals of yore (even if that was only fifteen years ago!).

I will definitely be making this pie for my doctor dad. Thanks!

Bombay-Bruxelles said...

This looks great! From a sandwich to a pie? How creative of you :-)!!

~~louise~~ said...

Incredible, simply incredible!!! I was a candy striper too. Do they still have candy stripers at hospitals?

I spent many afternoons after school in the hospital cafeteria as a young girl. My father was in the hospital for what seemed like forever and the cafeteria ladies fed us lunch while my mom was upstairs.

I am so making this pie with the works!!! Thanks for sharing, MM

Andrea Meyers said...

I can't begin to describe how good that pie looks and sounds. I'm all for savory pies and think my husband would love this. Thanks for sharing with Grow Your Own!

TS of eatingclub vancouver said...

This BLT Pie is a little genius. ;D

test it comm said...

This is a great take on a tomato pie! I really like the Swiss Chard and Kale in there for something healthy!

Anonymous said...

Outstanding! Congratulations on Ruhlman's BLT challenge!

Ben said...

Congratulations on winning! That looks really, really good. I'm currently all out of bacon, I'll definitely try this out with my next batch!

Magpie said...

I need to try this. It looks sublime.

Kate. said...

Did you notice that that Gourmet recipe calls for milk in the crust and then doesn't mention it in the recipe ingredients? I am making it going, oh sh*t, I forgot to add the milk! Only to see that it doesn't call for it... strange... :) Can't wait for my BLT pie to be ready!