I will modestly say that the 2010 English Tea was a smashing success. Stay with me here. Recipes will follow.
I know I have written about the tea extensively, but for those of you who don’t know, the women (and one man) of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church put on an elaborate tea every December. Tickets are much sought after and the tea sells out about a week after the tickets go on sale. The tea is headed by “She Who Must Be Obeyed” Wanda Woolen. Here she is surveying the tables between seatings. Everything must be perfect. Nothing is left to chance. If you tend to be on the shy side or your feelings are easily hurt it’s best that you not serve on the tea committee.
There is strict adherence to the line of demarcation between the kitchen crew and the servers in the tea room. And not even Wanda is allowed to cross that line. That’s because there’s no room.
Here are the “Back Hall Generals,” Leslie and Sandra. They are in charge of moving the 250 tea tiers from the kitchen to the servers. You do not enter their space during service. YOU DO NOT. I feared for my life just snapping this photo and ran quickly back into the kitchen after I did.
I will say that very few people aspire to be a Back Hall General, but many contend for the kitchen slots because there is alcohol involved. We are Episcopalians, after all, and it is not at all uncommon to find wine and beer in the church refrigerator. And after four hours of non-stop plating and dish washing between seatings, we need a little nip.
The kitchen crew is hand-selected every year based on several factors. The first is self-sufficiency. We move at lightning speed during the tea and the indecisive are not allowed. The kitchen crew must also be able to deal immediately with impending disaster such as a tier getting dropped in the tea room (it rarely happens, but it does) or an odd request for a teapot of plain hot water because someone brought their own tea (it happened this year). And they must be constantly cheery and funny. No whiners allowed.
Somewhere around the end of the first seating or just after the second seating food has gone out, we break out the wine. Gerald Hancock, the only man allowed in the English Tea kitchen and the chief tea brewer, brings it every year.
Here he is, part of the communal back rub after the tea is over. We are all very happy. The tea went off flawlessly. We have had a few Styrofoam cups of vino. Gerald survived a life-threatening scalding of boiling water (did you know that if you rub plain yellow mustard on a burn that it will soothe the pain?). And clean-up is over.
Wanda was pleased. I believe I will be able to retain my position as Food Chairman next year. We will most definitely have the cucumber sandwiches again. And the heavenly egg salad and curried chicken salad. The shortbread was divine. And the pecan tarts? Unbelievable.
Two of the perennial favorites are the Smoked Turkey with Arugula Mayonnaise and the Blue Moons. Without further ado, the recipes. Enjoy a little wine with them.
Smoked Turkey Tea Sandwiches
12 thin slices firm white bread, crusts trimmed
10 ounces smoked Boar’s Head turkey, thinly sliced
Spread one side of each bread slice thinly with arugula mayonnaise. Layer ½ of the bread slices with equal portions of the turkey and top with remaining bread slices mayonnaise side down. Press lightly to adhere. Cut each sandwich diagonally into quarters. Makes 24 sandwiches.
½ cup mayonnaise
1 cup packed coarsely chopped arugula
1 tablespoon minced shallots
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine the mayonnaise, arugula, shallots and lemon zest in a bowl and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Blue Moon Cheese Sandwiches
2 cups finely grated sharp New York Cheddar cheese
1/3 cup chili sauce
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup chopped stuffed olives
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
Mix together well and chill before using. Trim crust off whole wheat bread and spread with mixture. Cut into 4 triangles.