Sandwiches Are Beautiful, Sandwiches Are (I Guess) Fine!
July 10, 2006 1:22 PM   Subscribe

The challenge: 125 sandwiches suitable for quartering, most of which can be made the day before.

My sister lost the battle, so they're serving sandwiches at her wedding. We will not give in to Those Who Wish To Be Boring so we need some creative yet simple sandwich ideas.

The sandwiches will be primarily assembled the day before, though things like spreads could be added the day of. It's a morning wedding so there's not a lot of time for fiddling that day.

The crowd ranges from meat and potato folk to a wide range of people from other countries so the palates are pretty diverse.

Cost is a concern, though that should be obvious since we're making them ourselves.

She's really okay with having sandwiches, so only sandwiches and sandwich-type items need apply.
posted by wallaby to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I immediately thought of tea sandwiches, which have a certain elegance and panache all their own. There are some good specific suggestions and general tips at this site.
posted by OmieWise at 1:26 PM on July 10, 2006

The first thing that I'd do is talk to your local Whole Foods or equivalent (place with a decent deli that likely does catering). At the very least, you should be able to get a deal on ingredients.

Then, you need to think of four or five different sandwiches that would be good and simple. I'm a vegetarian, so I can't speak so much to the meat, but I'd imagine that coldcuts or pancetta or something can be added pretty easily.

Things you want: Good bread. I don't know if there's any ethnicity that you guys lean toward, but using that as the basis for the sandwiches could be handy. Lavash, pita, panini, etc. I tend to like Italian breads, so I'm gonna recommend you pick up a bunch of panini. Another benefit of working with a deli— they can slice things for you.

Then you want some sort of protein and some sort of veggies for fixin's. Things you want to avoid if you're doing this the day before are moist things; you'll want to put those on just a bit before eating. In fact, you might want to think about simply having a sandwich bar, where people can combine their own ingredients. Mozarella is a great mild cheese, and you can get it fresh pretty much anywhere. Seasoned stuff is OK, but plain tends to work with more. For a more flavorful cheese, I tend to like mahon or some drunken goat cheese (goat cheese soaked in wine). It's really up to you, but a couple of different cheeses are good.

For veggies, get the freshest mix of greens possible, and no iceberg. Iceberg is the inbred king of lettuce, and should be exiled. Instead, go with spinach, bib, leaf, etc. Beefsteak tomatoes hold up better when left, but ideally a good deli or farmer's market can get you some awesome tasting tomatoes. Slice 'em up before hand, but don't put 'em on any bread (it'll get soggy). For spreads, try some pesto or herbed soft cheese. Onions, cucumber and peppers should round it out (all dry, so easily prepared beforehand). If you'd prefer to have these things grilled, you can precook them and just not mix them in with the bread until the morning.

Another idea, depending on what kind of setup you've got, is to go for grilled sandwiches. A couple of sandwich presses could probably be located if you're handy, and you can make up the cheese/meat/bread bit before hand and only slap on some veggies right before heating them.

You can also make (fairly quickly if you have a couple of hands) some PB&Js if kids will be around. Good bread, good jelly, crunchy peanut butter (creamy is for commies). My favorites have a handful of chips tossed into the middle for extra crunch.

Remember— good bread is possibly the most important thing when making a sandwich. It'll hold up better, especially if you're making things the day before, and it'll give better flavor and texture to the meal.
posted by klangklangston at 1:45 PM on July 10, 2006

Wouldn't it be easier to put out cold cuts, some bowls of spread-type sandwich fillings, a tray of sandwich veggies (tomato, onion, pickle), a tray of rolls/breads? Then you wouldn't have to assemble and store the stuff ahead of time and you won't have to worry about the sandwiches getting mushy.

As for actual sandwich fillings, I don't have suggestions. The recipes from omiewise's link look pretty yummy.
posted by necessitas at 1:50 PM on July 10, 2006

Here is my system for truly delicious and classic cucumber sandwiches, which has the advantage of requiring to be made ahead:

(1) Slice the cucumbers very, very thin. If you have a mandolin, now would be a good time to use it, though a sharp knife will do the job just as well. A dull knife is hopeless. The object is to have translucently thin and flexible slices, not opaque disks.
(2) Spread the bread with herb butter, not regular butter, not some lack of butter -- on both sides, always.
(3) Wrap the plate of sandwiches in a damp but well-wrung-out tea towel for at least an hour before serving, right up until the moment when you serve them. Overnight would be fine. This makes the bread nice and moist, gives the cucumbers time to give up a little moisture (the salt in the butter will effectively salt your cucumbers for you), and helps the sandwiches to meld properly.

Use a thinly pre-sliced white sandwich loaf, like the kind Pepperidge Farm makes, and trim the crusts off. You can butter the edges of your sandwiches, if you want to be fancy, and roll them in chopped parsley.

For the herb butter, you will want a stick of nice soft salted butter, or unsalted butter plus a generous pinch of salt, and about 2 tablespoons of very finely minced fresh herbs. I think it is best to include one oniony herb, either chives or garlic scapes. Other nice herbs to include are thyme, italian parsley, and marjoram.

Mash your butter and herbs together thoroughly, and spread every slice of bread with a nice thin (but not skimpy) coat right out to the edge. Overlap the cucumbers about one layer deep (that is, two slices deep where they overlap, one deep elsewhere, no blank spots) in each sandwich, stack the sandwiches on a pretty plate, and wrap with the aforementioned big damp tea towel. Refrigerate.
posted by redfoxtail at 1:59 PM on July 10, 2006 [3 favorites]

I made this sandwich spread for a party last year and it went over very well. I used some fresh baguette bread and it went very well with Chardonnay.
posted by krisobi at 2:18 PM on July 10, 2006

what about wrap pinwheel type things? Similar to this picture. you could make them in veg (salads, cheeses, different spreads) and meat (any type of coldcuts with salads and cheese) varieties, and they can look very pretty.
Use different varieties of flatbread (spinach, sun-dried tomato etc) to add color if you want.
posted by darsh at 2:33 PM on July 10, 2006

Absolutely cucmber sandwiches. They're tasty and wedding-elegant.
* Chicken and chutney with sprouts on whole wheat.
* Dried salted beef (armour or buddig in the U.S.) and cream cheese with spinach on square (lavash) rollups, sliced like sushi (as above).
* Roast beef, arugula and horseradish mayo on sourdough.
* Cheddar cheese, tomato and avocado on whole wheat.
* Cream cheese and jalapeno jelly.
* I'm a fan of that ham salad that is sold in the deli case at my grocery store, on little rolls or biscuits. Jiffy or Bisquick makes great fast biscuits, and there is a whole wheat variety that is [pretty good, too.
* Krisobi's sandwich spread looks yummy.

You can tell it's time for supper. Tuna salad with olives and roasted red pepper on whole wheat. with homegrown lettuce. and a beer.
posted by theora55 at 2:38 PM on July 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

Think seriously about panini. Get some pocketless pita bread. Dig up a few panini presses or George Foreman grills. Assemble them all the day before. Then grill 'em up just before and during the post-wedding meal. Cut each into 6 pieces. They'll be hot (or at least warm) and tasty and non-boring. The possibilities are endless:

* Cuban sandwich: ham, roast pork, swiss cheese, pickle slices, mustard.
* Turkey and cole slaw.
* Greek: feta cheese, olives.
* Middle Eastern: humus, sundried tomato, maybe some marinated grilled eggplant.
* Roast beef and horseradish mayo.

You get the idea.
posted by staggernation at 2:55 PM on July 10, 2006

Peanut Butter, Vanilla, and Honey for the kids, perhaps.
posted by dobbs at 2:57 PM on July 10, 2006

Radish and mint sandwiches are very tasty, very classy. Definitely do the chilling part - it keeps everything crunchy. Also try watercress and olive - these two and the cucumber sandwiches would make a lovely wedding trio.
posted by donnagirl at 3:02 PM on July 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

Be careful about making sandwiches with watery vegetables (e.g. tomatoes) the night before. If you do decide to use them, use mayo on the bread -- the high fat content in the mayonnaise will protect the bread from the water in the tomatoes. Ditto "wet" preserved meats, ones with a lot of water in them (vs. "dry" meats like salami).

Consider making the veggie sandwiches the morning of and the meat sandwiches the night before.

klangklangston's meat suggestions are good -- pancetta is nice and round. Pretty much any form of country ham (prosciutto, serrano, etc.) won't let you down. THIN slices are key here. Thick ones are salty and toothy.

Lots and lots of good suggestions for sandwiches. One more that is easy -- the prawn sandwich.
posted by dw at 3:05 PM on July 10, 2006

This doesn't help with your recipe ideas, but I rememebr seeing an episode of Sandra Lee's "Semi Homemade" on the Food Network where she used cookie cutters to cut the sandwiches.

My sister's first wedding, back in 1976, was sort of like this. It was in a gazebo in a park in Sam Marcos, TX. My mom (and us) made sandwiches over the day or two before and kept them in a big box (or two) in the fridge. The only ones I remember now had homemade pimiento cheese spread. We drove up with them from San Antonio, so I know they traveled o.k. :-)
posted by Robert Angelo at 3:52 PM on July 10, 2006

...that's San Marcos...
posted by Robert Angelo at 3:52 PM on July 10, 2006

I know at a wedding everything is supposed to be classy and sophisticated. However, I know my reletives(who are not particularly classy or sophisticated) would look at a table full of radish and mint, watercress and olive, and cream cheese and jalapeno sandwiches and be put off that there was nothing they wanted to eat. It's a fine line between not putting entirely unspecial crowd pleasers like grilled cheese and fried bologna and pissing off a bunch of hungry uncles because they think my food is gross. I don't know anyone who would mind the idea of sandwiches though, I'm not saying that. It's entirely possible your family isn't like this, also.
I love the idea of a sweet sandwich; dobb's peanut butter, vanilla, and honey sandwiches are genius. An italian coldcut sandwich is a must; proscuitto as many have mentioned, and hot or sweet capicolla is awesome. BLTs might be a good idea, too.
posted by Juliet Banana at 3:55 PM on July 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

Labne on lavash with cucumbers or olives would work well.
posted by jdl at 4:03 PM on July 10, 2006

Donna Hay has a recipe for a great sandwich filling made from cold diced chicken, good mayo, and fresh basil. I'll track it down tonight.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:58 PM on July 10, 2006

Brie and Apple can be done cheaply and well. Making up Coronation chicken is easy and relatively quick depending on how many chickens you cook; Getting a large ham and doing a coke baste is also really tasty and long serving.
posted by DrtyBlvd at 5:54 PM on July 10, 2006

I second the sandwich bar idea. An attractive spread of good breads, cold cuts, fillings like hummus, and so on is pleasing to the eye and easy to prepare, and everybody gets exactly what they want. It doesn't have to be boring. Things like fresh mozzarella (mentioned above), spreads, unique breads, and interesting sides (like exotic fruits, maybe) can get you somewhere beyond "oh, look, coldcuts!" without having to work so hard as to actually make everyone's sandwiches in advance.

Good old Sam Marcos. Whatever became of him, I wonder?
posted by not that girl at 12:09 AM on July 11, 2006

Hrm - can't find that chicken sandwich recipe. From memory, it was just cold diced chicken tossed with a 50/50 blend of whole egg mayo and sour cream, a squeeze of lemon, salt and white pepper, and finely shredded basil. Goes great on toasted sourdough, but also makes great finger sandwiches.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:00 AM on July 11, 2006

The more I think about it, the more I think a sandwich bar is the way to go.
Something to be mindful of: Have two "waves" of food prepared, as popular things tend to go quickly, and that way you can restock so everyone gets some. Probably need more meat and cheese than veggies, but having everything prepared will save you headaches.
posted by klangklangston at 7:35 AM on July 11, 2006

Plus, the sandwich bar lets vegetarians eat (which might not be a big deal for you, depending on who's coming, but I like to stand up for my brethren).
posted by klangklangston at 7:35 AM on July 11, 2006

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