The Ultimate Sandwich - The Pimento Cheese & Bacon Bagel
Updated: Feb 20
This is by far my favourite sandwich. It takes a little effort to make but is far from complicated and can be easily adjusted to incorporate your favourite bread or meat if you're not mad about bacon (Which would make you vegetarian/vegan unable to eat bacon for religious reasons or just plain odd).
I have to admit something early in this recipe, I stole the original idea about 25 years ago and developed it into my own creation. A local baker called it a "cheese and bacon big bite" and it was simply a soft hot-dog roll, with savoury cheese, lettuce and a slice of super crispy streaky bacon. I loved it and I think it is one of probably 20 taste sensations that got me really excited about food as younger man.
I remember it now, it was packaged with a small sheet of a kind of plastic film on top in a white paper bag. The film stopped the cheese from soaking into the bag. I must have been around 17 and had started my first job. The baker was next door so was my obvious lunch spot. I stayed in that job six years and must have had that sandwich at least three times a week which means I ate that baker's Cheese & Bacon Big-Bite nearly 1000 times. It was that good. 25 years later, I think mine is even better.
It doesn't take a gastronome of Gordon Ramsay's caliber to know that Cheese and Bacon flavours are going to work on the taste front and you don't have to be Marco Pierre-White to work out that crunchy bacon and soft cheese are going to work well on the texture front but I hope (and believe) you'll see that every element of this sandwich plays it's own part. It probably took me 20 years to get this sandwich to the place where I wouldn't change another thing, however, the beauty of food is that everyone appreciates it differently so I encourage you to make my recipe once and then play around with it to make your own Ultimate Sandwich. In the meantime, here's mine, I hope you enjoy it as much as I have:
Ingredients - Makes 2 sandwiches (but you might not want to share!)
2 Fresh Plain White Bagels (chewy but not dry)
3 slices of good quality streaky bacon
1 handful of freshly and chopped Iceberg lettuce
150g of Savoury Cheese or Pimento Cheese (keep this and the lettuce cold in the fridge until required)
1 Tbsp of Mango Chutney
Ground Black Pepper
Fry the bacon slices in a dry pan on medium heat, don't move the rashers around much and they will crisp. If the bacon starts to smoke, the pan is too hot. If there is no frying "sizzle", it's too cold.
Remove the bacon from the pan and rest on a paper towel to soak up the grease.
You should have some rendered down bacon fat in your frying pan - do not get rid of it!
Slice the bagels in half and place face down in your frying pan, fry them gently until the faces are lightly toasted and the bagels are warmed through. The Bacon grease will add flavour to the bread.
While the bagel is still warm, spread the cold cheese onto the bottom bun and the mango chutney onto the top bun
Place the chopped lettuce on top of the cheese
Take the 3 crispy bacon rashers and cut each one in half so you have 6 pieces
Put 3 pieces of bacon on top of the lettuce of each bagel
Grind a twist of black pepper into the bacon and put the other half of the bagel (with the mango chutney on) on top
Serve whole, preferably half wrapped with a paper napkin or serviette
Eat while the bagel is still warm and the lettuce and cheese are still cold.
Tips & Tricks
I love that the mango chutney brings a fruity slightly spicy note to the soft cold rich cheese and salty hot bacon but I know not everyone is a fan of fruit with their meat. You could swap it out for a mild hot sauce or simply don't replace it, just be careful that you don't kill the flavour and you can still taste the cheese and bacon flavour sensation
For a festive twist, try swapping the mango chutney for cranberry sauce or apple sauce.
If you can't get fresh bagels a good kaiser roll or Portuguese roll will work well, ideally nothing too crusty like french bread or it will all just spill out when you bite into it.
Whilst the bacon is pretty integral to the dish, if you must, you could swap it out for some breaded chicken, the key is that it should be warm and have a little crunch to it if possible.
If you want to make a full meal out if it, add breaded chicken to the sandwich and serve with a side of fries and coleslaw.
The objective is to get hot cold, savoury, sweet, salty, soft and crunchy all working together. If you're aware what part each ingredient plays and can stick to the formula, you can change the dish to suit your taste.
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