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An extremely seasonally dependent recipe.
How are you? How’s your kitchen? Over here in mine, I’m desperately clinging to the last few days of tomato season, which takes me quite directly into the topic of today’s Fresh Letter: the recipe for My Perfect Tomato Sandwich.
But before we dive in, I do need to address the proverbial elephant in this virtual room. I learned, via a recent Wednesday poll, that there’s a 49% chance you’ve never even heard of a tomato sandwich…let alone tried one. This is very distressing to me! So a quick primer: a tomato sandwich is what it sounds like. Bread, tomato, and maybe a couple other extremely simple fixins (think salt, pepper, and some sort of fat). That’s it. It’s not a BLT. It’s not a cheese sandwich with a slice of tomato on it. The bread is the vehicle. The tomato is the star. Its genius is in its simplicity. Because when tomatoes are as good as they are right now, your sandwich will need little else.
Now let’s talk specifics. I haven’t called this recipe The Perfect Tomato Sandwich, and there’s a reason for that. Tomato sandwiches are incredibly personal.
Yes, the humble tomato sando is simple in concept as I just described, but the variations are endlessly vast. What kind of bread are you using? Is it toasted? How thick is your tomato slice? And does it rest for a bit once it’s salted to let out juices or skip that step all together? Don’t even get me started on the great mayo debate. Or maybe you’re opting for olive oil…or even butter. Tomato sandwich enthusiasts have opinions! Here’s mine…
My Perfect Tomato Sandwich
Yield: 1 perfect (to me) sandwich
1 tomato, it should be the best heirloom (see note) you can find at your local grocery store, farm stand, or farmer’s market
2 slices soft potato bread, fresh, un-toasted, and not the butts, please!
Freshly cracked black pepper
Maldon salt (yes, two types of salt!)
Use a serrated knife (I often use my bread knife) to cut a slice from the center of your tomato, about 1/2 inch thick. If you can’t find a tomato large enough so that a single slice will cover most of the bread, cut however many slices you’ll need so the tomato lies in a single layer on the bread.
Lightly salt the tomato on both sides with sea salt, then set aside. The salt will encourage the tomato to let out just a bit of juice for that perfect bite.
While the tomato rests for a bit (work fast, you don’t want it resting too long and letting out too much juice) add a thin layer of mayo to each piece of bread. It should be enough mayo that it doesn’t immediately soak into the bread, but not so much that it will ooze out of the sandwich. Use your judgement, but here’s a visual guide:
Place the tomato slice on top of one of the mayo-ed pieces of bread. Add 5 course cracks of black pepper and a 3-finger pinch of flakey Maldon salt to the tomato. The order matters here, you want the salt to be the very last thing that hits the surface of the tomato before you top it with its other piece of bread, mayo-side down of course. This way, you get a little crunch from the flakey salt.
Use your serrated knife again to carefully cut the sandwich in half. I’m a rectangles gal, but you can cut triangles on the diagonal if you must.
Enjoy standing over the sink. It’s gonna be delicious and it’s gonna be messy. Repeat as many times as possible before the heirlooms leave the markets.
Note: you’re going for a tomato that’s heavy when you pick it up. That means it’s ready to burst with juice. It should definitely not be mushy to the touch, but also not rock hard. When you give it a whiff, do so at the place where its stem once was. It should still smell like that stem. If you can find one that’s large enough to be about the size of your bread at its widest point, that’s best, but not completely necessary. Opt for quality over size, always.
My tip this week? Give this sandwich a try, especially if you’ve never had a tomato sandwich before. A secondary tip, use this recipe as a jumping off point to find the variation that makes your perfect tomato sandwich. Maybe you’re looking for a more complex flavor (try sourdough!), want a sandwich that has a bit more chew (toast your bread!), or you aren’t much of a mayo fan (use olive oil or butter instead!)…the possibilities are endless, and I promise you, they’re all delicious.
Okay, we’ve covered it. I hope you have a lovely, tomato-filled, well-fed week ahead.
With love and a tip of my chef’s hat,