Food52 challenged me to a BLT-off for their tomato week so of course I had to create a sandwich inspired by the two cuisines that had the most powerful influence on the way that I think about food. This BLT combines my Sichuan background and deep American Southern roots. The bacon is spiced with my version of the five spice powder and then cooked in the oven to crispy. Extra crunch is added with a play on the Southern favorite, fried green tomatoes. The tomatoes are coated with a broken rice powder used in traditional Sichuan recipes such as my Pork Ribs + Sweet Potato Steamed with Spiced Rice Meal. To further enhance the tartness of the green tomatoes, I lightly pickled some peashoots with rice vinegar and added those to the sandwich. I am all about the textures in this sandwich, no mushiness here. An epic sandwich obviously requires a magical sauce to bind all the flavors together. This sandwich is anchored with a homemade spicy Sichuan mayo that is laced with the soul of Sichuan cooking, fermented broadbean chili paste (buy here). It is truly addictive. TK requested that all mayos I make from now on be this way. If you are interested in reading more about the complex ways that spice and heat are expressed in Sichuan food, take a look at my recent article that I wrote for The Kitchn (link).
If you are a vegetarian, this sandwich is also delicious without the bacon or maybe with an addition of avocado and/or eggs would also be great. The beauty of the BLT is that it is literally a list of basic bare bones ingredients with infinite opportunities for customization.
Be sure to follow along on Facebook tomorrow for the BLT-off where the editors at Food52 will be recreating my BLT along with the creations of several other bloggers. This sandwich is ready to do battle.
S P I C Y S I C H U A N B L T W I T H 5 S P I C E B A C O N + F R I E D G R E E N T O M A T O E S
makes 2 sandwiches
spicy sichuan mayo
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1 1/2 tablespoon Pixian broadbean chili paste
5 spice powder
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon whole sichuan peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
1 star anise
4 dried hot Sichuan or Thai chiles
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup pea shoots
1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar
4 slices of thick cut bacon
4 slices whole grain sandwich bread
1/4 cup long grain rice, such as jasmine
1 green tomato
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup flour
4 pieces lettuce, such as Batavian or Boston
for the mayo
In a mixing bowl, combine the egg yolk, mustard, vinegar, and garlic. With a whisk, vigorously whisk the ingredients together and drip in a couple drops of the oil to start and then slowly increase to a steady drizzle. Whisk until everything comes together. Use a knife to mince up the chili paste. Add to the mayo. Set aside.
for the 5 spice powder
Over medium high heat, toast the coriander, cumin, black peppercorns, sichuan peppercorns, allspice, star anise, and chiles. They are done when they have darkened and smell fragrant. Finely grind in a spice grinder. Mix in the cinnamon and set aside.
for the sandwich
Combine the pea shoots, rice vinegar, and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Mix well and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and set a rack in the lower third of the oven . Cover a baking sheet with some parchment paper or foil, arrange 4 slices of bacon on the tray. Make sure there is space between each slice. Rub in approximately ¼ teaspoon of the “five” spice powder on each side of the bacon. Place the baking sheet in the oven and cook for 12-15 minutes. Time will vary depending on how crispy you prefer your bacon. Place on a sheet of paper towel to keep crispy.
At the same time, dab a bit of butter on each side of the bread slices, toast in the oven on a separate baking sheet. 3-5 minutes each side on the middle rack.
While the bacon is cooking, fry the tomatoes. Over medium high heat, lightly toast the rice and roughly grind in a spice grinder to a mixture of sizes. Add the remainder of the “five” spice powder to the rice and mix well. Slice the tomato into four ¼ inch slices. Place rice mixture, buttermilk, and flour onto three separate plates. Heat ¾ inch of grapeseed oil in a small pan. The oil is ready when a pinch of flour dropped into the oil immediately blooms. Working with a single slice of tomato at a time, sprinkle a small pinch of salt on each side, coat in flour (knock off any excess), then buttermilk, and then finally the rice mixture. Fry each side for about 1 minute. Set aside on a sheet of paper towel.
Assemble the sandwich – slather each slice of bread with the mayo, top with two pieces of lettuce, two slices of fried green tomato, then break two slices of bacon in half and add those, finally arrange the pea shoots on top. Finish with the second slice of bread. Repeat for the other sandwich. Cut in halves and serve immediately.
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