Sandwich Wednesday – Tea Sandwiches – Not Your Mother’s

Tomorrow’s thanksgiving. Once again, the magazines and catalogs have been pouring in, and I fear for my mailman’s back. Yesterday, he stuck that pink card on our door, and I had to schlep to the post office to pick up the overflow.

Flipping through the pile, I scanned turkey photos, turkey basters, wreaths, carved pumpkins, pumpkin pies, pecan pies, thanksgiving cookies, stuffing recipes, families toasting marshmallows, and a lot of plaid.

Once home, I called Florence Meat Market in the Village and ordered a 22-pound turkey for pick up Wednesday. Florence supplies a lot of fancy turkeys to fancy people. (like us) They’re expensive, organic and barded with fat to keep the meat moist. To make a good turkey, you need a tried and true roasting method, but more important, you need to brine the bird, dunking it for a day in a salt bath, which imparts crucial flavor. It should be like sea water: I use a cup of salt per gallon.

Turkey’s boring. Without following all these steps you end up with a plate of bird-shaped dust. But it’s thanksgiving, so you eat turkey. Next day turkey, however, is an entirely different matter. The meat’s plain, but piled in a sandwich with stuffing, cranberry sauce, and perhaps gravy, you have a minor miracle. (Post to come.) Today we tackle tea sandwiches.

Like thanksgiving, tea parties are unforgiving occasions which abide by certain customs i.e. you serve finger food in the form of sandwiches, the blander the better. The insides should taste of water and milk (cucumber and butter), and even if they contain slightly jazzier items (smoked salmon, capers and horseradish sour cream), the elements must be sliced or spread paper-thin. The goal is a sandwich the size of an ipod nano.

How else is a tea party occasion (baby shower, etc.) like thanksgiving? The next day you can make a killer sammie: a giant egg salad sandwich on rye with pickles, lettuce, and tomatoes; a massive bagel sandwich piled with lox and onions; a cucumber salad with radish, sour cream, salt and pepper.

To come up with a tasty tea sandwich, why not begin with the day after? You do have to keep the occasion in mind. It’s not a frat party; it’s a tea party. No cheese steaks or meatball subs. The ingredients should be somewhat delicate, but the flavors should be bold. And it can’t be an Italian sub or something stacked with ingredients.

Olives and pickles pack a big punch in a small package. Anchovies also. Pan bagnat (see previous post), which is basically olives, tuna, and vegetables on a baguette, is relatively light. A tea sandwich with those Meditteranean flavors might work.

Having taken a walk to Katz’s the other day, I couldn’t get my mind off a giant corned beef on rye with mustard. Munching a few slices of tongue, at our kitchen counter, I chuckled at baby shower guests confronted with a platter of Katz’s towering tongue sandwiches. And yet…tongue may be perfect: it’s mild, and unconventional. Which is the goal here, right?

To add flavor, I took a page from David Chang’s restaurant Ma Peche, which serves a salad of tongue tossed with an herby Thai vinaigrette. Herbs and tongue on white bread. There you go.

Now I can’t stop thinking of that thanksgiving sandwich. But tonight I’ll stick the bird in a bucket and drown it in brine so that tomorrow it’ll be edible. And count the seconds until Friday.

New Tea Sandwich 1.
Makes 8

10 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup olive oil
2 plum tomatoes sliced thinly
3 eggs
Fresh marinated anchovies
1 small baguette sliced ¼ inch

  1. Add the oil and garlic to a small pot and heat over very low heat for 45 minutes. Try not to let the cloves brown. Remove from heat and let cool. Pour into a small bowl with the tomato slices and let marinate for a few hours.
  2. Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil. Carefully add the eggs and boil for 13 minutes. Remove, cool in a bowl of ice water. Peel and slice.
  3. To assemble: lift one slice of tomato from the oil and lay it on the bread. Season with salt. Top with an egg slice and season. Top with two anchovy fillets criss-crossed. Drizzle with a little garlic oil.
    (note: the sandwiches should not sit out for too long as the bread may get soggy. If you think they’ll sit, place the egg on the bread first.)

New Tea Sandwich 2
Makes 8

5 cloves garlic, peeled, 3 of them minced, 2 smashed
½ teaspoon crushed chili flakes
4 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce
4 slices white bread, crusts removed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 pound tongue, sliced thinly
small handful cilantro, chopped
small handful mint, chopped

  1. Make the dressing: whisk together in a small bowl the minced garlic, chiles, lime juice, brown sugar, and fish sauce. Reserve.
  2. Preheat the broiler. In a small pan over low heat add the butter and garlic. With the back of a fork, smash the garlic into the melted butter. Remove from heat.
  3. Lay the bread on a flat surface and brush well with the garlic butter. Place under the broiler until the bread colors very lightly. Be sure it doesn’t get dark.
  4. Add the herbs to a small bowl and toss with enough dressing to coat. Lay out the bread flipping two of the slices over so the butter side is down. Divide the tongue (they’re tea sandwiches, so don’t pile it high) and then the herb salad. Slice each sandwich in four squares and serve.

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