Here at Weekday Pescatarian we spend a lot of time thinking about dinner parties and weekend brunch menus. Honestly, it's a glorious existence.
But we must not forget the afternoon tea crowd (or Second Lunch, as I call it).
Afternoon tea is a beautiful way to celebrate a wedding, baby, holiday event and mother's day. Perfect little finger sandwiches that look every bit as good as they taste. Paired with tea and scones, you just can't find a better way to spend an afternoon.
Before we get into the recipes for these three amazing pescatarian tea sandwich recipes, let's review a few tips for creating make-ahead tea sandwiches for your next tea party, bridal shower, baby shower or that casual garden tea party you've been planning for Mother's Day.
6 Tips for Perfect, Make Ahead Tea Sandwiches Recipe for Your Next Event:
- Reach for highly flavored but simple fillings that will keep your bread soft, but not soggy, as it waits for service. For instance, smoked salmon is a flavor bomb - bringing lovely umami to any of your favorite sandwiches and sides. Lemon and smoked salmon pair beautifully with dill - another flavorful add-in that brings freshness to the sandwich.
- Fresh herbs to the rescue! If flavor without added moisture is your goal, fresh herbs are a great option. Dill with smoked salmon, rosemary with tuna, and basil (in the form of pesto!) with our shrimp. Whatever the question, herbs are almost always the answer.
- Butter is better. Tea sandwiches include a thin layer of butter on the bread before dressing with your other fillings to create a moisture seal for the bread. Technically, if using cream cheese in your filling, the butter is not as critical. But I like the subtle flavor and texture it adds, so I use it on all my savory tea sandwiches.
- Avoid mayonnaise-heavy salads. You'll notice our three recipes use very little mayo, choosing instead whipped cream cheese (and even smashed white beans) for the binder. If make-ahead recipes that will stand up 12-14 hours later is the priority, leave the giant cup mayonnaise in the fridge and reach for sturdier binders. If using mayo, opt for a smaller amount. For instance, instead of making ultra creamy egg salad sandwiches with tons of mayo, use a few tablespoons of mayo - just enough to hold the savory salad together. If you're determined to use a rich mayo filling, simply make the filling the day before and assemble the mini sandwiches the morning of your event to avoid a soggy bread scenario.
- Tackle the bread dilemma: when choosing bread, it helps to think about the full menu and how the slices' textures and colors will create a cohesive menu experience. For these three little sandwiches, I chose brown bread, whole wheat and brioche. Different colors, different textures and all cut into different shapes. Thin sliced bread (such as Pepperidge Farm brand in the United States) is lovely for these small bites at tea parties. In Portugal, my local grocery store sells loaves of sliced crustless bread. I don't prefer this style, as I like to fill the sandwich to the edges and when I cut off the crust, it creates the perfect clean line.
- Storage solutions: when making your small finger sandwiches the evening before your event, storage is going to be key to the sandwiches integrity the next day. The amount of filling in each sandwich should be pretty modest, with no sloppy oozing when the sandwiches are built. To store, place two layers of damp paper towels in the bottom of your tray of baking sheet. Lay the small pieces of sandwich down in a single layer. Top with another double-layer of damp paper towels, then cover or wrap tightly in plastic wrap. The damp paper towels will keep the sandwiches from drying out until it's time to serve at your afternoon tea party.
Now let's tackle these three savory tea sandwiches - all perfectly pescatarian!
What you'll need to make smoked salmon smørrebrød:
- 6 slices brown bread
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 4 ounces smoked salmon
- 4 tablespoons cream cheese
- 2 tablespoons dill, plus additional for garnish
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest (this is my favorite zester)
- 2 radishes, sliced very thin, for garnish
- Edible flowers, for garnish
Step by step instructions for dainty sandwiches with smoked salmon:
Smørrebrød is a traditional Scandinavian open-faced sandwich, usually served on buttered rye or brown bread, with a smoked fish or cold cut on top, and various sauces or garnishes. This is one of my very favorite versions!
Combine cream cheese, dill and lemon zest, along with a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Mix well to combine
Slice radishes into paper thin slices. Set aside. Lay out 6 slices of brown bread. Spread each with a thin layer of softened butter. Top all 6 slices with a layer of lemon dill cream cheese mixture. Top with slices of smoked salmon.
Using a small round cookie cutter, cut out 2 circles from each slice of bread. (Save the edges for snacking - building tea sandwiches is hungry work!)
Decorate the top of each smørrebrød with radish slices, fresh dill and edible flowers.
What you'll need to make lemon basil shrimp salad tea sandwich recipe:
- 8 slices brioche or potato bread
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 8 ounces small shrimp, diced fine
- 3 tablespoons whipped cream cheese
- 1 tablespoon basil pesto
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 12 long chives, for serving
Step by step instructions for this easy tea sandwich recipe (make ahead):
Tender, succulent shrimp combine with creamy cheese and fresh, herbaceous pesto and lemon zest. It's the loveliest take on a shrimp salad sandwich and one your guests will be talking about all afternoon!
Combine cream cheese, pesto and lemon zest in a small bowl. Mix very well. Fold in the diced shrimp. Taste and add salt and ground black pepper to taste.
Spread 8 slices of potato bread with a thin layer of butter. Top 4 slices of bread with shrimp salad. Close sandwiches. Using a serrated knife, slice off crust edges, wiping the knife between each slice. Then cut each sandwich into 3 fingers. Tie each finger with a chive.
What you'll need to make herby tuna & white bean tea sandwich recipe:
- 6 slices whole wheat bread
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 2 cans tuna in olive oil, drained well
- ¾ cup white beans, roughly smashed
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, diced
- 2 teaspoons fresh chives, diced
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Step by step instructions for tea sandwich recipe make ahead:
I've heard that choosing a favorite child in a family is poor form. I may not be cut out for parenthood. Because this herby tuna salad with white beans is my shining star. Tuna packed in olive oil (drained) creates a rich base, mixed with smashed white beans, just a few tablespoons of mayo, lemon zest, chives and fresh rosemary. It is interesting and unique and completely craveable. Who would choose tuna salad over shrimp or smoked salmon? Well, you don't have to choose. Just eat all three.
Combine smashed white beans, two cans of drained tuna, mayonnaise, diced rosemary, chives and lemon zest in a small bowl. Mix very well. Taste and add salt and ground black pepper to taste.
Spread 6 slices of whole wheat bread with a thin layer of butter. Top 3 buttered bread slices with herbed tuna and white bean mixture. Close sandwiches.
Using a serrated knife, slice off crust edges, wiping the knife between each slice. Then cut each sandwich into 4 small triangles.
To store the finished sandwiches before service, place two layers of damp paper towels in the bottom of a sheet tray or baking sheet. Lay the small pieces of sandwich down in a single layer. Top with another double-layer of damp paper towels, then cover or wrap tightly in plastic wrap. The damp paper towels will keep the sandwiches from drying out until it's time to serve at your afternoon tea party.
Time to (tea) party!
When ready to serve, combine all three different make-ahead tea sandwiches on a tiered serving tray or large board. Decorate the tray with herbs, lemon wedges and edible flowers. Serve with tea, fresh fruit and scones or a light cake.
FAQ's and Serving Suggestions for tea sandwich recipe make ahead:
If you're cooking for non-vegetarians, using diced chicken in the lemon basil shrimp salad to make a fresh chicken salad would be lovely. Ham (especially prosciutto) could be substituted on the smorrebrod sandwich with a similarly delicious effect!
If you're serving a balanced spread of savory sandwiches and sweet options, 3-4 sandwiches per person should be more than enough. Each recipe here yields 12 mini-tea sandwiches, so if you make all 3 recipes, you'll have enough sandwiches for a party of 10-12 people.
You can, but for beautiful, clean edges, you really need to assemble the full sandwich, then cut off the crusts. I've tried it both ways, so this is the voice of experience talking. The mini-sandwiches look best if you take the time to cut off the crusts once the sandwich is built at home.
Scones and tea are the obvious choice! But I love a perfect, light cake with fresh fruit like Almond Cake with Strawberries, or Mom's Old Fashioned Pound Cake with Creamy Lemon Mousse. For a fresh fruit option, honey lime fruit salad is a light and lovely side.
To store, place two layers of damp paper towels in the bottom of your tray or baking sheet. Lay the small pieces of sandwich down in a single layer. Top with another double-layer of damp paper towels, then cover or wrap tightly in plastic wrap. The damp paper towels will keep the sandwiches from drying out until it's time to serve at your afternoon tea party.
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