I just love freshly made, petite sized and savory-tasting finger sandwiches with an afternoon tea menu. The search for great ones is part of what inspired my mother, Betty, and me to develop our own fillings and to experiment with breads and other “holders” of the fillings…this because it was and still is extremely rare to find high quality, savory finger sandwiches around where I live, outside of making them yourself. The predominant issues are getting them either served with dry bread or with too much bread to filling ratio. This savory course is traditionally served first in a three course tea menu. The intent of this course should be to whet one’s appetite (not to fill you up).
My take on the best finger sandwich is that it should be – fresh looking and fresh tasting with savory fillings where the flavors stand out versus the bread (or holder). The bread needs to be moist and thin. The Mission Inn Historic Hotel in Riverside, Ca. consistently serves beautiful and interesting finger sandwiches. Here are photos from our last visit:
Open-faced finger sandwiches from the Mission Inn, Riverside…creative, colorful, flavorful – served on just enough fresh tasting bread. Kudos to you Mission Inn chefs.
Since we had difficulty finding finger sandwiches to our liking, we began making our own. My mother used petite pate choux puffs and mini cups made with cheese as holders for her favorite fillings (curried chicken salad with slivered almonds and celery and minced deviled ham). It has been a challenge to find suitable loaves of bread at our local bakeries for the sandwiches the way we like them. During the years of writing Tea With Betty, I did much research into attempting to achieve the right bread, sliced thinly – yet able to hold up to the filling and the “waiting” time until they are to be served.
The best bread to use is the French Pain de Mie (also called a Pullman Loaf in the U.S.). It is a typical sandwich shaped loaf (a rectangle with thin crust). The bread itself has few air holes – perfect for spreading or layering with your chosen fillings. It doesn’t tear easily when spreading butters, creamed cheeses or other fillings – finding this specific loaf around where I live has been a daunting task. So—I decided to make my own. Finding the correct pan was a story unto itself…these days, I see the pans a bit more available in food service supply houses. Here is my pain de mie loaf pan. I ordered it six years ago from a supply house in New York.
My pain de mie (Pullman Bread) loaf pan…just finished baking this loaf. A pastry chef I ran into gave me this advice…”take the lid off immediately upon removing the pan from the oven so you don’t inadvertently “steam” your bread.” I so appreciated this advice.
Now that I have my pan, I searched for a recipe that I felt comfortable making. Martha Stewart’s Hors D’oeuvres Handbook is the one I use most. King Arthur flour has a good one too; however, even though I’ve prepared the loaves several times, I am still not confident that mine will come out correctly until I cut into it…and by then, it is usually too late for me to adjust to another holder if I am preparing sandwiches for that day’s tea time. Candidly, I only make this bread and these finger sandwiches when doing special occasion teas such as for showers or friends gathering to celebrate life or birthdays. It’s become somewhat of my nemesis….this bread…this pain de mie has often turned out to be a “pain to me” in the end. Either the bread doesn’t rise high enough or it’s over cooked… My last loaf looked like this…
My pain de mie loaf, waiting for one more rise before going into the oven
I resorted to an internet search to find a bakery somewhere who makes this particular loaf of bread. Over the years, I have desperately tried to get my local bakeries to make it…they don’t or won’t. I knew that highly acclaimed baker, Nancy Silverton, made it for her La Brea Bread Bakery in Los Angeles. I needed two loaves for my writing buddy and hype girl coach for Tea With Betty, Hils., big birthday a couple months ago. I made my own loaves a week ahead of time and froze them. Our chef friend, who used to make the most incredible tea sandwiches for the Savoy in London, was going to assemble my sandwiches for me the day of the surprise tea party. He uses the whole loaf, intact, to make this incredible five-layered sandwich. I will post about it next week. It is seriously the most impressive finger sandwich you will ever see (I don’t think I am exaggerating 🙂 ). A couple days before the party, I got shaky about my pain de mie loaves, telling my husband that I just wasn’t sure they were high enough or the right texture. He is such a wonderful guy that he told me to call La Brea Bread and order loaves from them…the next day we went to pick them up… soooooo…152 miles of driving and $18 for two loaves later…I had my back up bread in hand. Thank you Nancy Silverton and your awesome staff at La Brea Bread Bakery.
La Brea Bakery, Los Angeles…Nancy Silverton’s bakery…two pain de mie loaves…ready for slicing
Ironically, my chef friend, Clive, preferred my loaves in the end…will show you how they turned out next week.
It was a fun adventure for my husband and me…I got a nice lunch out of the trip and a great cup of tea too.
Enjoy. Drink Tea…It’s good for you 🙂
Yesterday it was mini croissants that we stuffed full with Betty’s curried chicken salad which has toasted, crunchy slivered and blanched almonds and lots of diced, crisp celery and Best Foods (Hellman’s) Mayonnaise. This chicken salad recipe is on my “most requested” savory items list for: shower menus, tea sandwiches, as a filling for pate choux puffs, pastry shells, crispy wonton cups or even as the filling for a papaya, halved, served as an entree. Yesterday I made a triple recipe for the host and my best friend (T.) (and soon to be grandma of twins) babies’ shower. The recipe is below the photos I just had to show you of the cutely decorated dessert table.
It was an absolutely beautiful and relaxed shower for just under 40 guests. The table settings were clever and certainly worth putting on Pinterest :-). Cool blue was the color scheme, with streaming lines of darling “doubles” of onesies and jammies strung over various tables…I think these twin boys received almost every variety of sports-themed outfits in existence. Very cute indeed. And the weather turned out to be delightful…it showered all during the baby shower (showers for the shower :-). Unusual for a So. Cal. summer afternoon (very mid-west like actually)…but T. had the entire event “covered” so it all worked out well.
Very cute “boxes wrapped with baby blankets and stuff” centerpiece…nice job by Grandma T. … Diaper cakes run down the long tables under hanging baby clothes and hydrangea floral pieces…then the sweets hit the dessert table to include Heather’s famously beautiful hand dipped strawberries
This recipe is easy to make…and even easier if you choose to purchase pre-cooked chicken. And, you can prepare it a day ahead too.
Here’s how I like to do it…I cook my own chicken…bone-in, skin on half breasts or a whole chicken and use the breast meat for the salad and the rest for my soup. I sauté a mirepoix (onions, celery, carrots in extra virgin olive oil till softened), add a bay leaf or two, add chicken broth and water, salt and pepper to taste…add the raw chicken and poach for 30 – 45 minutes. Done… lift out chicken, let it cool. Then chop the needed amount for your recipe.
I am enjoying a bowl of the residual broth right now as I type this. This morning, with the leftover broth from poaching the chicken, I made a light, flavorful turkey meatball soup for our lunch. A productive use of the leftover poaching broth.
Here is the recipe…again, you can cook your own chicken, or purchase pre-cooked which most stores now carry.
Recipe: Poached Chicken Salad with Curry and Almonds
Makes approximately 48 petite filled pastry cups or pâté choux puffs.
PREP: 20 minutes to poach chicken + 10 minutes to prepare TOTAL TIME: 30 minutes
1 ½ pounds chicken breast: poach or oven roast, cool then dice
1 cup celery, diced
¼ cup toasted slivered almonds
Juice of ½ fresh lemon
¼ cup minced scallions
½ -1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ -1 cup high quality mayonnaise (Best Foods/Hellmann’s is my favorite and was ALWAYS Betty’s (my mom’s) choice)
The amount of mayo used is dependent on your preference for moistness of your chicken salad.
Instead of mayonnaise, you may substitute with sour cream or crème fraiche for a richer salad.
In a large bowl, add all ingredients and mix with a spoon. Taste. Adjust moisture level and seasonings to your taste.
Fill pastry cups (or whatever you are using for the “holder” with filling, top with paprika, minced chives, or sprig of parsley.
I did not take photos of yesterday’s croissant sandwiches…but here are a couple somewhat blurry ones I had on file…
Enjoy… Always good washed down with a cup of freshly steeped whole leaf tea (of course) 🙂
Curried Chicken Salad with almonds and celery…in pastry cups and in pate choux cups…mini sized. The lemon and fresh herbs give the salad a “lift” which enhances all the flavors…the toasted almonds and crisp celery are crunchy and nice for texture….several guests asked for the recipe…so here it is.. it is also in my Tea With Betty Book.
All you need are incredibly high quality ingredients…and a wildly creative mind, oh and some madly, outstanding skills in the kitchen – that’s what we experienced at Chef Michael Voltaggio’s L.A. restaurant, Ink. this week;
According to the Food & Wine website, Voltaggio was honored as one of 2013’s best new chefs “because his modernist cuisine pushes boundaries — he’ll serve octopus over buttered-popcorn puree — but it is still delicious.”
Interesting flavors, great presentation, very inventive, and superb service are key reasons why I would come back, as well as bring friends and family.
Ink.’s Little Gem Salad…with anchovy puffed cracker and the most stunningly cool and creamy and savory frozen burrata mmmmm – who would have thought to have made an ice cream out of burrata cheese? Voltaggio did. And it took my favorite summer indulgence in cheese to a new level — and I always want my anchovies served this way too…flavor in a puffed cracker
little gems, burrata, anchovy cracker, lemon dressing
Where’s the Hamachi?…gorgeously hidden under delectable tastes of crispy cheese, chives, & tomato – fresh and creamy and salty like the ocean
hamachi, citrus kosho, smoked buttermilk, tomato, oaxacan cheese
Monterey Squid with cippollini onions and chanterelles which whimsically mimic each other in shape and color…creamy, chewy, powerful flavors in each bite
monterey squid, coconut-onion soubise, chanterelles, miso
and we loved the clean, simple table setting…and the fact that they “get” that silverware should be treated with a bit of reverence and care and sanitation….
silverware carefully placed on a stone…off the table
Ink. We will be back.
I had a perfectly prepared whole leaf jasmine green tea to finish off my meal too…served in a tetsubin pot. We went home happy and raving fans…even the 60 mile drive won’t keep us away 🙂
Ink. Subtle…cool…understated exterior and interior…the food and chefs speak for themselves
And YES…the chef is in the kitchen…how nice to actually have the celebrity chef really work in his own kitchen…does it make a difference in the food? We think so.
Seventh Tea Bar Gongfu Style Tea Service
Last week I retraced my steps to Seventh Tea Bar in Costa Mesa to enjoy their gongfu style tea service. This was the location where I inadvertantly dumped my phone into a toilet after taking photos of our last tea service there in May…sooo, I had to make another trip which I didn’t mind 🙂
Seventh Tea Bar…iced tea on tap, walk up counter –guests perusing the menu – tea being steeped – sweets in case … fresh and tasty
We again enjoyed their tea service which included a gongfu setup for the three of us, paired with a variety of sandwiches, spreads and treats. We chose two teas… a sweet Tung Ting Oolong which was served gongfu style…explained below… and a cup of rooibus.
GONGFU style tea service is done by providing you with a brewing vessel, a kettle of hot water & a cup. This ancient form of enjoying tea in multiple stages allows you to experience the tea by infusing the tea several times using smaller amounts of water. Your tea will change with each steep.
Seventh offers a fine array of tea – white, black, green, & oolong – served hot and iced. Their iced teas are on tap…they are refreshing, high quality leaf teas. After having our tea, we shopped for awhile, as I couldn’t resist walking across the parking lot to purchase goodies from any foodies favorite food and restaurant supply store, Surfas . Before we headed home, I went back into Seventh and got an iced Tung Ting Oolong to go…it was light, refreshing, naturally sweet tasting and interesting in how different it tasted versus the hot one we had an hour earlier. Both versions were excellent…we look forward to our next visit!
Traditional gongfu tea service…with a modern twist on sandwiches, spreads …all made on premise from scratch with interesting savory and sweet combinations — their sweets are petite and scrumptious.
It’s so nice having a modern tea bar, serving teas in contemporary and traditional styles, all depending on what YOU want. A modern bar who respects the traditions of steeping tea. The servers really KNOW their tea and how to prepare them too. Check out Seventh in The Mix shopping are in Costa Mesa.
Drink Tea! It’s good for you. Enjoy
My approach to putting in our summer garden this year was thoughtful and meticulous. We planted most items from organic Seeds of Change heirloom seeds, starting them in our new little grow house; then we rebuilt our raised beds and brought in the best vegetable planting soil. After rotating the planting arrangement from last year for better production and ordering heirloom tomato trellises so these abundant plants have room to breathe – we planted and fed with an organic tomato fertilizer from Gardner’s Supply. Now we keep our fingers crossed. The plants are taking off and look healthy…
My first early girls and one zebra are in….they are flavorful and beautiful, yay! I picked four tomatoes along with some of my gorgeous Genovese basil and heirloom chives…will have a little salad with these tonight. I am a proud mama of these babies!
But then we go up to Napa and I walk around the gardens and grow house for the French Laundry restaurant and am stunned. Look at these guys…whew…talk about abundance on a vine! While I would expect nothing less from Thomas Keller’s garden…this season’s harvest was literally breathtaking. Their method of trellising inside their grow house was interesting and obviously, truly effective. There were wires running the length of a planting bed at the top…with reels of string used to tie the top of each tomato stem, something they can reel “up” as the plant grows…it works beautifully.
Partial view of French Laundry summer garden…including grow house, chicken coop, rows and rows of vegetables…the tomatoes in the photos below are just a few of the ones abundantly growing inside the white grow house in the background of this photo
In the hot house…prolific and fascinating varieties of tomatoes…trellised with string on reels…ingenious and effective
Deep purple and purple and orange…beautiful tomatoes