Well I suppose I’ve rested comfortably on the laurels of my exhaustive grilled cheese post long enough. Most of that cheese I think has finally passed now, or so I believe, and so we can finally move on to the next level of sandwichhood, and it’s a good one.
For those keeping track at home, and those just joining us, the levels so far have been:
L1 – Peanut Butter
L2 – Bologna (or ham, or other plain cold meat)
L3 – Mayo Salad (Tuna, Egg, Chicken)
L4 – Grilled Cheese
If you need a refresher, please wander back to previous posts.
We can spread stuff, we can stack stuff, we max mix stuff and we can grill stuff. We’re finally ready for bacon.
Now look, I am not one of those bacon freaks circa 2010 who bought all that bacon memorabilia and posted bacon memes, and got in heated discussions over it being a superfood or whatever. I did once buy a jar of “baconaise” around that time, but I think I only used it once, and probably because I was too broke to buy actual bacon.
I really like bacon, sure. Most people who eat meat do, but as a friend once pointed out to me, it’s one of the more expensive meats you can get when it comes to cooked weight. 500 g of cheap uncooked bacon is usually about $5, and it’s cooked weight is probably a third of that at best, putting it up there with the most premium salamis. That said, bacon is also a lot more widely accessible, and even the cheapest is pretty darn good. Plus if you save the grease and use it as cooking fat, you just got all those extra grams back right there.
Speaking of bacon freaks, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk a bit about ‘Bacon Mania’, which peaked in the US and Canada between 2007 and 2013. Do you remember when suddenly there was just bacon themed crap everywhere? When everyone’s man-child friend started forming an identity as “someone who aggressively loves bacon”? Bacon scented everything? The Baconator? The Double Down? The meteoric rise of Bacon in chocolate, and bacon weaved turkeys?
I’ve had Baconators. They were good. I had a double down in 2010. It was salty and honestly terrible. As I said above, I tried bacon-aise. It was…. not good enough to try a second time, I guess? Bacon in chocolate is ok sometimes, and bacon on turkey I still fully support. Turkey breast really needs the help.
And that brings me to where I’m going with all of this. The ultimate expression of bacon. What bacon mania was looking for. What that strange cultural obsession was trying to achieve, but never could. A new perfect way to have bacon. Quantity alone couldn’t do it. Bourbon and ice cream and chocolate couldn’t quite get there. Fried chicken as bread, and bacon scented cologne were big misses. None of them could defeat the original perfect incarnation. Not even close. And when the wave of aggressive bacon fueled ambition finally crested and rolled back it was as if it were bowing to defeat and hands of the masters. The BLT and The Clubhouse.
…and also, their cousin from Toronto the Peameal Bacon sandwich, and their ne’er-do-well nephew, the stoner bagel
So, first off, Let’s start with the clubhouse.
Since its invention, the club has been one of the ultimate restaurant sandwiches. If a restaurant has a sandwiches section on their menu, i’m pretty sure they’re legally obligated to have some version of a clubhouse. A restaurant’s clubhouse is a reflection of the restaurant itself and its goals and aspirations. Is it the sandwich cut in four with frilly toothpicks through white bread, with over broiled bacon and under ripe tomato with iceberg? Well, you’re either in a classic diner, or a cheap hotel restaurant. Are there seemingly way too many adjectives describing the bread and/or bacon? Is there avocado or aioli? Well then you just may be in a gastro pub there bud.
Since I was about 14, I have had a dream of reviewing sandwiches, specifically clubhouse sandwiches at every restaurant I’ve ever been to. I remember it started with a particularly good one in La Ronge Saskatchewan. Lack of ambition, a new abundance of maturity and responsibility, and this gig economy have forced me to diversify my singular clubhouse dream to this wide ranging blog. Maybe I can still do a “clubhouses of the Yukon” month or something one of these days.
Back to the sandwich, the Club has no really solid origin story. Some say it started at the Union Club in New York City where a version of it first appeared in 1889. It was their special “Clubhouse Sandwich”. The Saratoga Springs Club also claims ownership of its origin from 1894. There are also stories of it being invented by a guy who came home after his servants had all gone to bed and so he threw a few things together on toast. He liked it so much he got the club he was a member of to make it for him regularly, and then let them use the recipe.
Whatever the origin, its popularity grew quick, and restaurants all around were copying the recipe as early as 1899. What’s the recipe? Toasted bread, Mayo, chicken (or sometimes turkey), Bacon (sometimes ham), lettuce and tomato. Usually cheese too, but not always. Believe it or not, the triple decker, the frilly toothpicks and triangles are not original. In fact in 1971, American food guru James Beard referred to the triple decker version as a bastardization of one of the great sandwiches of all time.
Still, in my research, I made mine a triple decker. It’s what I used to and i think we can all agree it’s the modern standard. I had a great single layer one on focaccia at a place once. Anyway, for this one I used sourdough bread, and I used both ham and turkey.
Next, The BLT.
This may surprise you, but though the ingredients were around for a long while and were certainly all put together at many points in the 19th and 20’th centuries, the BLT is actually an evolution of the Clubhouse and not the other way around. Sure there is some evidence to suggest there were Victorian era tea sandwiches with these ingredients, but nothing concrete. There are references to Bacon, Tomato and Mayo sandwiches beginning in the 1920’s, But Bacon Lettuce and Tomato did not become widely popular in restaurants until after the second world war. Even then, the acronym “BLT” was restaurant shorthand, and not widely acknowledged by the public until as late as the 1970’s .
So toasted bread, mayo, lettuce, tomato, and bacon, is actually somehow kind of a modern sandwich. It’s a paired down clubhouse that keeps the cool tomato and lettuce and against warm toast and warm bacon. That’s what sold the clubhouse before it. That cool on hot perfect combo. This is the paired down perfect expression of bacon.
Next, The Peameal bacon Sandwich
Ok this one is a little off the map, but it’s also a very good bacon related sandwich and so I felt I had to include it. I also wanted to set the record straight on so called “Canadian bacon”. First of all, no one calls it that, and second, you can’t really get it anywhere in Canada besides Toronto. Peameal bacon is nice with a breakfast in Toronto but if you ever find yourself there, go to the St Lawrence market downtown and get a peameal bacon sandwich on a bun with cheese.
They can come with other things too, but all you really need is the melty cheese. My friend Chris Chin took me there for this sandwich the first time I ever visited Toronto years and years ago. Chris is also who I most associate with the next, and the most indulgent of the bacon sandwiches. In fact, I and some others I know call this sandwich “The Chris Chin”. In other circles it is also known as the stoner bagel
Though I was never much into the ol’ left handed cigarettes, during my 20’s I definitely ate a lot of over the top, and what might be described as “stoner” foods. As a sandwich guy, who usually woke up late in day, the stoner bagel was a frequent go to. My version is a paired down version of what good ol’ Chris Chin used to make, meaning I use slightly less than a full package of bacon. Once, when Chris and I were roommates, he asked me if I wanted a sandwich.
The answer was of course yes, and he proceeded to make this incredible creation. He placed that sandwich in front of me, and then went about his day. He didn’t even make himself one!! Just for me. That is the kind of guy Chris Chin is. Please go make this sandwich, and when you’re done, go shout his name from your rooftops, or on twitter or whatever. He’s a hell of a guy and deserves your praise. Here is how I remember he made it, but with slightly less bacon. Do not substitute anything.
Fry us as many slices of bacon as you think are appropriate. Take an Everything Bagel and toast it. Take half an avocado and spread it on the bottom piece. Add a bit of salt and pepper and a bit of lime if you’re saucy (i am). Spread some mayo and if you can find it, a bit of inglehoffer creamy dill mustard on the top piece.
Put a bit of spinach on that and some thin sliced tomato. Put a little pepper on that tomato. When the bacon is ready, take it out of the pan, but leave the pan on, and arrange the bacon on top of the avocado, and then slice some cheddar cheese and put it on top of the bacon. The drop 1 or two eggs in the still hot bacon fat and fry over easy to over medium. When ready, put eggs still hot on top of the cheese so it melts a bit. Put the top on and slice it in half.
If you have any facial hair, you will need a napkin, and will immediately have to wash your face when finished, but you may also be dead by then. enjoy
These are, in my mind, the top examples of how to eat bacon on a sandwich. Breakfast sandwiches are a separate category because they can have bacon, sausage, or ham.
Peameal bacon piled high on a bun with cheese. Pure bacon flavour.
BLT, Bacon’s salt and smoke and heat balanced with cool fresh and creamy
Clubhouse. Same as above but with cheese and chicken or turkey to make it a full meal.
The Chris Chin: Let’s see how far we can take this shit.
These sandwiches are why Bacon Mania couldn’t last (thank god). It was unnecessary. Bacon already had really great friends. So many other ingredients had been bacon boosters from over a hundred years ago. Bacon on bacon doesn’t make bacon better. It makes it lonely.
This is Sandwich Dad……good day.