Nothing says thrifty elegance and nostalgic spring traditions like high tea and cucumber finger sandwiches, so when I was looking for ideas for our Garden Party Swap at 40Berkeley last week the choice was a no-brainer. (Only we paired ours with a delicious, wallet-friendly rose wine from Boston’s own 90+ Cellars rather than tea. It was a party, after all.)
If you need to feed a crowd of classy ladies in Dowager Countess style but also need to keep costs at a minimum — say, for a bridal shower, baby shower, or budget wedding — this warm weather recipe is your ultimate wingwoman. It allowed me to sate 100 stylish swappers for a mere $40, and was honed over the course of a week (thanks to some amazing, and honest, houseguests) using a hybrid of elements from the classic cucumber sandwich and from another summer party staple in my house: New England clam dip. (More on that later!)
In homage to my friend and original Poor Girl Gourmet, Amy McCoy, at whose house I’m stoked to be having brunch this weekend, here’s my recipe laid out with estimated costs and tallied for a “smaller” party of 10-20 people (primarily inspired by this Southern Living recipe I pinned to our Garden Party Ideas board on Pinterest earlier this year.
CUCUMBER-DILL FINGER SANDWICHES
- 2 packages light cream cheese, softened
(2 for $1, bought on sale)
- 2 loaves white sandwich bread
($1.25 each, $2.50 total)
- 3 English cucumbers
($3 for a pack of three, with grocery card)
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
(about 1 bunch, $1)
- 2 cups dices spring onion
(about 1 large bunch, $1)
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
(let’s say $0.25)
- Salt & pepper to taste
(free, from takeout packets)
TOTAL = $8.75 (between $0.89 & $0.43/serving)
Purists beware: unlike traditional tea sandwiches/finger sandwiches, I chose to chop & mix all the ingredients together to save time since we were feeding such a large crowd. The first step is to make sure all the cream cheese is softened. (During the swap, pictured below, we had 10 packets to mix by hand, quintipling the recipe above, so this was crucial. Save your biceps.)
Next, you’ll want to finely dice your English cucumbers, spring onions, and fresh dill. I’m at a loss in the kitchen, especially when cooking in others’ kitchens, without my Philips multi-quick hand blender kit, similar to this DeLonghi set. It makes light work of monotonous tasks, like dicing 30 English cucumbers and 6 bunches of spring onions, below (HUGE thanks to my sous chef Tara Bellucci of the Boston Food Swap for her tireless chopping and cheerful company in the kitchen — couldn’t have pulled this off without you, girl!
Using the food processor attachment to finely dice some, if not all, of your green herbs & veggies will keep the water from the cucumbers contained, which is a hugely added bonus in making the cream cheese mixture more spreadable on the white bread (in the next step).
In a large mixing bowl, add all of your diced greens and the Worcestershire sauce to the softened cream cheese, and get ready to flex those muscles. When the mixture is mostly combined, fold in pinches of salt and pepper to taste, adding a little water if necessary until the consistency is soft, creamy, and easily spreadable (but not too thin, otherwise it will soak through the bread).
In a single layer on a sheet pan, lay out slices of white bread and add a dollop of the filling mixture (about 3 tablespoons per slice) to each slice, then spread to the edges in a thin layer. Top each one with a second slice of white bread, then chill in the fridge until just before serving. Carefully slice off crusts with an extremely sharp knife, cut in thirds width-wise, and serve immediately on a tray or cake stand (like we did below) along with tea, lemonade, mint juleps, or a nice, dry rose wine.
It was a complete crowd-pleaser, save the one vegan and one gluten-free vegetarian in the crowd, but if you have friends with these dietary restrictions, you can easily swap in soy cream cheese and gluten-free bread for a few bucks more. Enjoy, Gumshoes!
Story: Copyright 2012, Shoestring LLC. Photos: AdamTowner.com