Timeless American handheld BLTs and club sandwiches have a rich history and have evolved significantly as recipes were passed down and altered over time. These iconic sandwiches draw out feelings of nostalgia and provide an excellent canvas to prepare new and inventive takes to increase appeal and profitability.
Build a Better BLT
Start with the “B.” Thick-cut slices of cured, smoked bacon, sprinkled with brown sugar, peppercorns, and a drizzle of maple syrup can instantly enhance flavor. Or try other flavors such as roasted garlic-chipotle, sriracha-sesame, and balsamic-brown sugar bacon. Bacon can also be seasoned with spices such as Cajun, mustard powder, or a pickled jalapeño brine for an amplified spice factor.Other creative proteins work well along with bacon like lobster, smoked salmon, a fried egg, or pulled short ribs to complement the bacon’s smokiness and salty taste. Smoked seitan bacon, a vegetarian bacon made with the protein portion of wheat, adds the same hickory taste as authentic bacon and opens the door for BLT options to an extended range of diners. Meat alternatives in BLTs also provide opportunity for cross-utilization as they can be added to multiple vegetarian menu items.
Other creative proteins work well along with bacon like lobster, smoked salmon, a fried egg, or pulled short ribs to complement the bacon’s smokiness and salty taste. Smoked seitan bacon, a vegetarian bacon made with the protein portion of wheat, adds the same hickory taste as authentic bacon and opens the door for BLT options to an extended range of diners. Meat alternatives in BLTs also provide opportunity for cross-utilization as they can be added to multiple vegetarian menu items.
According to Technomic Inc., made-to-order freshness and quality are the two most important factors driving away-from-home sandwich sales – meaning freshness cannot be overlooked. Besides lettuce and tomato, use additional fresh components such as arugula, pea shoots, kale, or avocado that will catch the eye of health-conscious customers and those focused on ingredient transparency.
Mayonnaise is the go-to sauce for BLTs, but take it up a notch by adding herbs or spicy elements like gochujang. Or, implement other unique sauces such as onion marmalade, gingered tomato jam, fig-balsamic glaze, or brown sugar and maple syrup for a truly custom touch that will add value to your sandwiches.
Versatile Variations of BLTs
A wide selection of items on your menu can take on the “BLT” identity. BLT breakfast sandwiches make for a profitable menu item as breakfast sandwiches reign as 2017’s dish of the year, according to Andrew Freeman & Co., a restaurant and hospitality consultant company. Extend BLT breakfast sandwiches into all day menus and serve on ciabatta, French toast, or savory Cheddar waffles. Recently spotted on menus, BLT panzanella salads and BLT tarts with bacon jam are inventive takes that can be served across multiple dayparts. Serve a hot pressed BLT panini that will appeal to customers during colder months. A BLT panini might be comprised of bacon, arugula, tomato, pancetta, and sharp white Cheddar topped with a rhubarb relish. Grilled cheese, pizzas, tostadas, and salads are other adaptable menu items that can embrace the BLT concept.
Enter: The Club Sandwich
Popularized by gentlemen’s clubs, these favored classic sandwiches have had countless renditions over the years. White bread was the original club sandwich foundation, providing an excellent platform to transform the average club into a top-notch offering by using upscale bread such as ciabatta or brioche. Hearty slices of sourdough or Texas toast will draw consumers’ attention before they even take a bite. Maines has a selection of bread varieties to choose from for your signature club.
One of the most distinctive components that draws diners to these stacked sensations is its third slice of bread. The original recipe from 1924 was surprisingly sophisticated, containing shad-roe caviar, minced ham, minced olives, and lettuce layered between three thin slices of white bread. Since then, many more variations have been tested with outside-the-box ingredients such as anchovies, celery, and cucumber covered in spreads like cream cheese and jam. Fried oyster club sandwiches were also a hip concoction in 1956, served with fried bacon, oysters dredged in seasoned flour and fried in bacon fat with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise, all served on buttered toast. The historical aspect of the club sandwich can boost appeal by taking diners back to the days of lunch counters and old-time social clubs.
A great way to improve your signature club is by experimenting with proteins. Try using brined, maple-Dijon glazed, or candied bacon, roasted or dry-brined turkey, cured ham, or seafood, which can be perceived as more upscale and premium.
While it isn’t a traditional element found on a club sandwich, cheese is always a good idea! Try adding white Cheddar, pepper Jack, Swiss, Welsh Cheddar, or ricotta. Don’t forget to get creative with condiments – mix mayo with basil or sun-dried tomato pesto, or create chile-herb mayonnaise with jalapeño, garlic, cilantro, parsley, lemon zest, and lemon juice.