When Top Chef judge and restaurateur Tom Colicchio and his business partner Sisha Ortuzar opened 'Wichcraft 13 years ago, they had no idea it would become as enormous a success as it has—or that its ingenious, flavor-packed sandwiches would become synonymous with "lunch" for so many busy New Yorkers.
Back then, Colicchio and his team already had hits on their hands with Craft and Craftbar—both groundbreaking farm-to-table restaurants when they first opened in Manhattan —and 'Wichcraft was just meant to be a little sandwich shop spinoff. Ortuzar, who was then one of the chefs at Craft, "was known for doing these great sandwiches after work and said hey, let’s do a sandwich restaurant. And that’s how 'Wichcraft was born," Colicchio told The Feast. Over the years, that little sandwich shop has grown into a ubiquitous chain—which just opened its ninth branch and is opening its tenth in Grand Central this fall—thanks to Colicchio and Ortuzar's knack for creating some of the most thrilling ingredient-driven sandwiches, soups and lunch offerings in NYC.
Tom Colicchio (right) with Sisha Ortuzar.
Still, as Colicchio himself admits, sometimes those lunch orders could take a little longer to prepare than a rushed and hungry customer might like. Now, with its brand-new location in Tribeca, Colicchio says the reconceived kitchen set-up will let the orders come out "much faster." Its sandwiches, like the phenomenal BLT, will take an average of "five minutes as opposed to 12-13 minutes," Colicchio said. The tweaking and rebranding of 'Wichcraft will soon spread to all shops in the chain, and Colicchio said he's hoping to expand 'Wichcraft to other cities in the near future. In the meantime, anyone who won't be visiting in person anytime soon can live vicariously through this must-try BLT recipe, which perfects the classic American sandwich.
The BLT is available starting August 1 at the new Tribeca location and all the 'Wichcraft shops. But for anyone trying the recipe at home, there's one crucial secret to making the sandwich come out perfectly, Colicchio says. "If you’re gonna make a BLT, you have to have great tomatoes, in season and fresh. Otherwise don’t make it."
'Wichcraft BLT; Photo credit: Peden + Munk.
If you're like us, you'll be whipping up this sandwich multiple times a week, all the way through tomato season. In New York, that's typically August until early September, and that's the only time you'll find this BLT on 'Wichcraft's menu. (The sandwich shops use Eckerton Hill Farms tomatoes from the Union Square Greenmarket, along with Berkshire bacon.) After the season is over, it's not just the tomatoes that'll be gone. The sandwich will vanish too.
'Wichcraft BLT Recipe:
Makes 4 sandwiches
1 pound ripe heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes, sliced ½-inch thick (Tip: Sit the tomato stem side down on the counter and using a very sharp knife, slice it horizontally to prevent the juices from running out.)
1 pound thick-cut bacon
4 large leaves of Bibb lettuce
8 slices country bread
4 tablespoons aioli (see recipe below)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the BLT:
In a heavy skillet, over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until golden brown and crisp on both sides. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Toast the bread on one side only. Evenly spread the aioli on the toasted side of four slices of bread. Place the tomatoes on top of the aioli, making sure the slices don’t overlap and the surface of the bread is covered. Season the tomatoes with sea salt and pepper. Place the bacon over the tomatoes, followed by the lettuce. Close the sandwiches with the remaining four bread slices, toasted side down. Carefully cut into halves and serve.
For the aioli:
1 large egg yolk, preferably from a pasture-raised egg
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon chopped garlic
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 cup grapeseed oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Place the egg yolk, mustard, garlic, cayenne pepper, and vinegar in a food processor or blender. Start the blender and slowly add the grapeseed oi in a thin, even stream. When half of the oil has been added, add 1 tablespoon water. Then slowly add the remaining grapeseed oil and blend until you have a smooth aioli. Season with the salt and pepper. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.
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