If you haven’t noticed by now, I greatly enjoy Downton Abbey. In this week’s recap, I promised to tell you all about the finger sandwiches I took with me to the Downton viewing party I attended on Sunday. So here we are! These are perfect party foods, appetizers, and, of course, at tea.
You know what finger sandwiches, or tea sandwiches, are, right? They’re delicate, dainty, tiny sandwiches, usually only a bite or two, typically consumed with one’s afternoon tea, especially at a high tea. By nature, I am not very tiny, delicate, or dainty, so making these was a fun exercise in restraint and miniature.
Well, maybe not restraint. I made four different types of tea sandwiches: cucumber, egg salad, salmon, and watercress and goat cheese. None of these are particularly complicated, but precision counts in tea sandwiches! Let me explain.
To make all four of these sandwiches, take two big loaves of sandwich bread–one white, one pumpernickel or wheat, and slice off all of the crusts, so that each slice of bread is now an exact square. (If the only pumpernickel you could find is a boule, slice the crusts off so you get a 3:2 ratio rectangle.) You may want to omit the smaller slices at the beginning and end of your loaf.
Now, decide which filling you would like on which bread. Smoked salmon and pumpernickel go together incredibly well, and white bread and cucumber just seems like the epitome of the tea sandwich, but really, there are no wrong answers or flavors here. You’re going to use half a loaf for each sandwich.
How good are you at multi-tasking? You can deal with keeping an eye on something on the stove while you’re doing other things, right? Awesome. Okay, put six eggs in cold water in a pot on the stove (the water should come 1/2 inch over the tops of the eggs) and turn the heat up high. Once the water has come to a gentle boil, immediately cover and turn off the heat. Let sit for exactly 7 minutes, and then put the eggs into a bowl of ice water.
While you’re waiting for your egg water to boil, prep your cucumber. Run a fork down the sides of an unpeeled cucumer, scoring the skin. Now, if you’ve got a mandoline, high-five! Use the thinnest setting, and slice the heck out of your cucumber. Otherwise, using a very sharp knife, make the thinnest slices of cucumber you can. Throw the cucumber slices in a medium-sized bowl, and add one cup of water and one half cup of apple cider vinegar. Let them sit for half an hour or so.
While your eggs are still cooking and your cucumbers are pickling just the tiniest bit, bang out the easy sandwiches!
For the goat cheese and watercress, simply combine a diced 1/4 of a cup of watercress with 5.5 oz of chevre, or whatever vaguely similar size of goat cheese your store carries. If your goat cheese isn’t mixing properly, microwave it for 15-30 seconds, and try again. You can also do this for the cream cheese mentioned below. In all cases, we want things smooth and spreadable. Now, take whichever half-a-loaf you have dedicated to the watercress and chevre, and count out your slices–you need an even number! Spread the mixture on half of the slices (so, on a quarter of an entire loaf) making sure to evenly coat the bread all the way to the edges. Add the tops, so you’ve got several big ole sandwiches. Check the eggs! Are they boiling? If so, heat off, cover on, timer for seven minutes.
You have a decision to make next. What shape do you want your tea sandwiches to be? I went with tiny squares, because I wanted to make a delicious checkerboard, but long narrow sandwiches and triangles are also valid options. No matter which shape you ultimately decide on, each full-slice-sized square sandwich ought to make about 4 tea sandwiches, or 6 if your initial loaf of bread was more conducive to a rectangle.
Now, smoked salmon: another easy-peasy one! Take another half-a-loaf, cream cheese on both sides of the bread, and a decent-sized layer of smoked salmon on top of half of them. I sprinkled a bit of salt and vinegar on my smoked salmon before putting their tops on, and wished i’d remembered to buy capers like I’d planned. Slice these the same way you sliced the first ones, and boom! Halfway done! Look at you! Except not really, because egg salad.
Speaking of which, how are your eggs? Is your seven minutes up? If so, cold water, stat! And then you can stop worrying about the eggs.
Your cucumber slices, though! Have they been soaking for a half hour-ish? If so, take them out and lay them out on some paper towel, and pat them dry. We want a hint of vinegar, not an overpowering amount. You have another decision to make, as regards to the spread on the cucumber sandwiches. I used a fancy one I found on the internet, but I’m pretty sure all the other cucumber sandwiches I’ve ever had in my life were simply bread, butter, and cucumber. If you want to make a spread, though, mix 4 oz cream cheese with 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise, 1/4 teaspoon of garlic salt, and a big dash of Worcestershire sauce. Mix thoroughly, apply to bread, add on a healthy layer of cucumber. I may have gone so far as to cut some slices in half so they’d distribute more evenly. Add the tops, cut to the desired size, and done.
Egg salad time! Peel your eggs, and dice the bejeezus out of them. Dice’em really, really finely. Then, I added 1/3 of a cup of mayo, 2 incredibly-finely-diced celery stalks, 2 tablespoons diced fresh chives, and salt and pepper to taste. Take your final half a loaf, spread this on pretty thickly on half those slices, and top and cut. You’re all done!
Now, for presentation! I took a rectangular serving tray (alright, fine, it was a level of my cupcake carrier) and alternated the square sandwiches, making a checkerboard pattern with them, but your imagination’s your limit in this case! Make patterns, stack’em up high, whatever you please.
And speaking of “whatever you please,” these are only a few of the many kinds of tea sandwiches that are out there! Tomato, ham, chicken salad, cream cheese with walnuts or almonds–the possibilities are endless, as long as the sandwich is tiny, crustless, and not, well, overpoweringly flavorful! You want to be able to taste your
wine tea, afterall!
Here’s the ingredient list:
Goat cheese and watercress:
5.5 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup diced watercress
4 oz smoked salmon
Cream cheese, to taste (I used about 3 oz?)
1 medium cucumber
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
4 oz cream cheese
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 dash Worcestershire
salt and pepper
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 stalks celery
1/2 bunch chives
salt and pepper
2 large loaves of sandwich bread, one white, one pumpernickel or whole wheat
Make these on Sunday in time for Downton Abbey! Or for your next tea party!