By Chef Tom Yates
It’s raining tomatoes. After a sleepy start due to all the heavy spring rains, ripe heirlooms have finally crashed our farmers markets in dizzying waves. Lost in the spell of the sultry purples, perky greens, vibrant reds, care-free oranges, demure whites, and come hither hybrids, the challenge of choosing is real. With varying sugar to acid ratios, all the colors and varieties bring something different to the table. When it comes to summer tomatoes, we love what we love. Taste, like beauty, lies in the eye of the beholder. I’m easy. Very easy. Whether sweet, tart, ugly, gnarled, or drop dead gorgeous, I adore them all. They flaunt, I fall. Win.
With so many tomatoes, kick back, and enjoy the ride.
Really, nothing tops the simplistic beauty of a sliced and salted ripe-to-the-core sun-kissed summer tomato. Or, for a throwback to childhood, toss a few sliced tomatoes on cheap supermarket white bread with a mayo smear and take a bite. Not feeling it? More is more. Slap crunchy bacon, crisp lettuce, and ripe tomatoes on toasted bread for a classic summer B.L.T.. Better yet, take it up a notch and replace the crispy bacon with bacon jam for a slammin’ heirloom tomato homespun home run.
Scoot on over B.L.T., there’s a new kid in town.
Bacon Jam, Basil, and Heirloom Tomato Sandwich.
Bacon jam just might be the beacon for all that is good and right in this world. Small effort, big payoff.
After heating a large cast iron skillet over a medium flame, I sliced 1 lb Stone Cross Farm smoked bacon into 3/4” pieces and tossed them into the skillet. When the bacon started to crisp, I scooped it out with a slotted spoon, set it aside. I reserved 1 Tablespoon bacon fat in the hot skillet, drained the remaining fat, and added 1 cup chopped Boyle County Red Bull candy onions. After sweating the onions until they turned translucent, I scattered 4 minced garlic cloves into the skillet. Just before the garlic browned, I deglazed the skillet with 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar and 1/3 cup brewed coffee, scraped the tasty bacon bits from the bottom of the pan, and
I added 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup Oberholtzer’s sorghum, 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, and cracked black pepper. After tumbling the reserved bacon into the molten mix, I brought the jam to a boil, reduced it to a low simmer, covered the skillet, and let it bubble away for 1 1/2 hours, stirring and adding a splash of water from time to time.
When jammy enough, I pulled the bacon jam from the heat, scraped it into a container, and set it aside.
Build it and they will come.
After slathering bacon jam onto toasted Bluegrass Bakery Black Pepper Parmesan Bread, I feathered fresh garden basil into the sticky jam, piled wet juicy slices of Casey County, Pulaski County, Fayette County heirloom tomatoes over the basil, drizzled the jewels with extra virgin olive, and finished with a flurry of flaked sea salt, cracked black pepper, and snipped garden chives.
Green Zebra. Lemon Boy. Mountain Trash Red. Cherokee Purple. Big White. Kentucky Beefsteak. Orange Persimmon. Purple Plum. Taste the colors.
This article also appears on page 18 of the August 2019 print edition of Ace Weekly.
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