illustration by Chip Holton
Or why “C” has no place in a “BLT”
by Jay Pierce
“No fat on fat” is the cardinal rule of sandwich construction.
This maxim may be illustrated by the example of the Lucky 32 Ham & Havarti Sandwich. I list the order of ingredients from the plate up so that no element is overwhelmed or rendered inert by another and the symphonic convergence of their flavors produce a sum greater than its constituent parts. Fold three generous slices of deli ham and top with two slices of havarti, warm the ham and melt the cheese in the oven, split and toast the bread (a chewy French roll), slather the bottom piece with whole-grained mustard, place the ham and cheese atop it, then, leaves of iceberg lettuce, a pinch of salt, three slices of tomato, salt and pepper, and a generous schmear of Creole-spiked mayonnaise to the top piece of bread before placing it atop the stacked ingredients. The layering of contrasts in this prescription is essential, and it results in the most flavorful combination of the chosen ingredients. Here’s why: The mayo can’t touch the cheese, but must touch the tomatoes. When mayonnaise abuts cheese, the two lipid entities cancel out each other’s unique contribution. The mustard should be adjacent to the ham because of their affinity for each other; mustard’s sulfurous bite brings out the porky sweetness of city ham.
Any pedestrian sandwich can benefit from this studied approach. After all, a BLT is all about the tomatoes’ sweet acidity heightened by the luxuriousness of the mayonnaise; the bacon plays second fiddle by contributing smokiness and salt (not so much fat, because the best BLTs feature crispy bacon). A slice of cheese would throw the entire thing out of whack. Ultimately, by reducing the ingredients to their base properties, and arranging them thoughtfully, the resulting sandwich can be a transcendental experience.