Many Ways with Sandwich Fillings

Appears in

The concept of putting a filling between two slices of bread is hardly new, as pictures of medieval field hands eating this way attest. However, it wasn’t until the mid-eighteenth century that the term sandwich started to be used for it, initially in the context of a delicate and lightweight snack for men busy late at night with work or, more usually, gambling. It’s named for John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, who was one such man. By the late eighteenth century, sandwiches had moved onto dinner tables, still in a very light and tasteful form, but inevitably the term expanded used to describe everything from ladylike finger food to the door step sandwiches of the modern pub. They were very practical for picnics and for shooting teas, as they could be served in a way that appeared genteel yet were easy to transport and to eat.

Many of the recipes in this book make excellent sandwich fillings with a bit of mashing up and sometimes mixing with other things. Salmon Mousse, Potted Cheese, Fish Cream, and Flavored Butters work as spreads; Eggs à la St. James makes a base for a superb egg mayonnaise; and the various poached and roasted meats work cold, especially with a little of their respective sauces. Cold ham, lamb, beef, puréed game, and chicken were all fairly standard options, often with sliced pickles and watercress, or with sauces such as horseradish (for beef), mustard (for ham), or chutney (for game). Cheese of various types was also common. Most fillings were pounded or puréed and mixed with a little sauce or butter to make them easier to apply and safer to eat (no one needs accidental beef down their décolletage, especially in a corset).

If you want some more Downtonesque fillings, however, here are some contemporary suggestions. For all of these, and for the ultimate aristocratic flourish, the bread should be very thinly sliced, and don’t merely cut off the crusts. Instead, stamp out your bread slices with pastry cutters and serve your sandwiches as fluted circles, perfect squares, stars, ovals, leaves, or anything else that comes to hand.

    In this section

    Part of