Tea Sandwiches

March 7th, 2009

There was a time in my life when I became a caterer. It was not as a “professional” caterer by any means. It was just something that I enjoyed doing and had me flirting with the idea of going to culinary school. Before committing to that career move, I thought I would see what it was like to cook for a crowd. I made lunches for all of my friends and former co-workers at a large retail firm. With 200 employees it was not hard to get takers for boxed lunches. It was a very successful enterprise and I had more orders than I could sometimes handle. BUT – I was shut down. By management. Because I was taking business away from their in-house dining facilities. Oh well – what could I do? . . . I wasn’t licensed. . . BUT – my food was way, way better.
After that fiasco, I continued to do the occasional small wedding reception, church luncheons, and private home parties. I learned much from this experience and enjoyed it greatly, but came away from it knowing that, as much as I liked to cook, catering was not for me.
One of the most popular recipes that I made for wedding receptions and luncheons was Chicken Almond Tea Sandwiches. These sandwiches would also be good for bridal or baby showers. When my Daughter-In-Law had her baby shower, I brought them and everyone loved them – even the guys who were helping us set up.
The recipe originates with James Beard. I got it out of a Nantucket Cookbook, which included it because, for a time, James Beard cooked at the Straight Wharf Restaurant on the island. James Beard was famous for his hors d’oeuvres. Capitalizing on the cocktail party craze of the late 1930’s, he opened a catering business called Hors D’Oeuvre, Inc. and later wrote a cookbook called Hors D’Oeuvres and Canapes. That started his long career in cooking.
What makes these sandwiches so special is, of course, the way they look, but also because the chicken is flavored with tarragon (chicken and tarragon have a natural affinity), and the ground almonds add a nice crunch. Be patient when you make these, they take awhile but are well worth it. Another aside, try as I might I could not get 4 rounds out of each sandwich -3 was the best I could do. The scraps can be saved and eaten over the kitchen sink at odd times if you so desire.


4 chicken breast halves without skin

3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons dried tarragon ( less if you like)
1teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
24 slices of Pepperige Farm white bread
1 1/2 cups chopped roasted almonds ( the kind that come in a can)
extra mayonnaise for spreading on edges

Place the chicken breasts in a large skillet with water to cover. Bring to a boil with the cover askew. Lower the heat a notch and simmer gently until the chicken is opaque throughout. Remove chicken from the liquid and let cool.

Place the mayonnaise in a bowl and add the celery, onion, tarragon, salt and pepper. Stir to mix well. Break the chicken into large pieces. Working in 2 batches, use a food processor to chop the breasts until they resemble oatmeal. Add the ground chicken to the celery mixture and combine.
Line up 4 slices of bread and spread each slice with some of the chicken mixture, forming a layer 1/4 inch thick. Cover each slice with a second slice. Repeat until you have 12 sandwiches. Using a 1 1/2 inch biscuit cutter, cut out 4 rounds from each sandwich.

Chop roasted almonds in a food processor to the consistency of fine gravel. Pour the chopped almonds into a baking dish or onto a dinner plate. Spread a film of mayonnaise around the cut edges of each sandwich round and roll the sandwich edges in the almonds to coat. Store covered with saran wrap in refrigerator until ready to serve. Makes 48 one (or two) bite sandwiches.

By the way, the cute tiered server came from an antique shop in St. Augustine called A Step Back in Time. It is not an antique, but I liked it, and they have more of them if you are interested.

Printable recipe

8 responses to “Tea Sandwiches”

  1. Penny, the tea sandwiches sound wonderful. I agree that tarragon and chicken go together well. I seem to remember a James Beard onion sandwich that was rolled in parsley (?) on the sides. I enjoyed your story of trying catering. I thought of it once and figured out quickly it was going to be a lot of work and chickened out.

  2. Penny says:

    Sam, I remember that onion sandwich too – Seems like it was his signature appetizer.

  3. Natashya says:

    They are so cute! And they sound delicious. These little tea sandwiches would be a great dish to bring for a daytime pot-luck party.

  4. Penny says:

    Yes they would Natashya. They really are good for a lot of functions. They hold well in the fridge if you keep them covered with saran wrap.

  5. BMK says:

    These look great. I will definitely keep them in mind next time I throw a shower.

  6. OK! these look like cookies to me. I sure would like to be lucky enough to have a bite or two.

  7. Penny says:

    BMK – They are always a hit.

    Foodie – Yeah, they are cute. Thanks

  8. Caro says:

    Can a make these a day in advance. Love the recipe…thanks

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