Thursday, November 05, 2009

Tips & Tricks: Wicked Wonderland - Tiny Tea Sandwiches

My original food plan this year was to downsize (FAILED) and to focus more on the "savory" food than the "sweets." This was based on last year's party review, where I noticed I had spent most of my time making cupcakes, cookies, and various chocolate-dipped lovelies, but people really ate the artichoke dip and meat & cheese platter. So this year I thought a great "main course" of savory filler food would be tiny tea sandwiches. Simple, finger food (another main focus - I purposely avoided stuff that needed utensils), and a wide appeal. Speaking of wide appeal, I started with a vegetarian-friendly platter of classic PB&J:

I actually do have a secret trick for making great PB&J's that hold up over time - are you ready? Peanut butter on BOTH pieces of bread. It forms sort of a barrier so that the jelly doesn't just soak into the bread and go all hard and ugly on you. Of course, it makes it more likely that the jelly will squirt out unexpectedly, but them's the breaks. Another tip from watching Erberts & Gerberts make my occasional "Pudder" sandwich is to use a rubber scraper to get all the PB out of the jar - especially when you're making so many of these, I emptied 2 jars of peanut butter. I went with classic white bread, creamy peanut butter, and strawberry jelly, mostly since that was my favorite. Hubby stole several during the building process, so they must have been appealing. Since they were a bit messy at times, I cut a square of parchment paper to put between the layers when I stacked them. I debated cutting squares or triangles, and ended up with some of both.

The ham & cheese were on both white and wheat breads for variety - the white went much quicker. I made them like a normal sized sandwich then chopped the whole thing into fourths - I considered cutting the crust, but decided it wasn't worth the extra time & wasting the sides. Since they weren't "drippy" I just stacked them on top of each other on the platter - the toothpicks with the card suits on top were both decorative and functioned to keep the pieces together - found those in the "poker party" area at Party America, I think they're 48 for $2.

Mmm, the turkey bacon is my favorite, I'm a sucker for bacon. I got a huge slab of pre-cooked bacon from Costco that I HIGHLY recommend - it's way better and cheaper than the Hormel I've tried before. Actually, the label still says Hormel, but also Kirkland. I'm pretty sure it was this:

Cooking bacon from scratch has always eluded me - it's too messy and nuanced and I have no patience, plus I honestly love cold bacon so this stuff is the ultimate snack. But I digress. These were just turkey & bacon on white or wheat bread - again, only wheat was leftover at the end, though lots of that was eaten too. I did heat up the bacon per the package directions before I made the sandwiches, just to crisp it up a bit - I prefer soft, but I know not everyone does so I went for a more middle ground.

All of the meat & cheese came from Costco, and it was a good deal, though I don't remember the prices now. I went through 6 loaves of bread but could have gotten by with 3, so I ended up bringing these for lunch all week - not bad by any means, but I'm ready for a change now! I didn't bother trying to save the leftover PB&J, and didn't act soon enough to force anyone to take them home, so there was some waste there. I made all the sandwiches "plain" and set out squeezable mayo, mustard, and ranch as toppings or dips - I highly suggest this over putting it on the actual sandwiches, mostly because I don't actually like any of the sauces but also because it makes them much more perishable. The plain meat & cheese has held up really well over the week in the fridge, though some of the bread is getting a little hard. I'm really glad I used traditional sandwich bread - even though the tiny appetizer loaves are cuter, I used them for another party a few years back and nobody liked the taste (they're really dry in my opinion), plus it was quicker to make one sandwich and cut it into fourths than it would be to make 4X as many smaller sandwiches. Just passing on the wisdom of my experience for you there :)

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