If you’re a film buff, it’s impossible not to love the 1934 movie “The Thin Man,” which stars Myrna Loy, playing the part of Nora Charles, wife to William Powell’s Nick. Based on Dashiell Hammett’s crime novel of the same name, the movie follows the glamorous life of the couple as they pursue murder clues and drink a lot of martinis. During a raucous Christmas party, Nora picks up the phone, calls room service and utters one of cinema’s most memorable lines: “Send me up a whole flock of sandwiches!”
O.K., maybe not the greatest line in cinematic history, but it resonates for me. Sandwiches fit the bill nicely when faced with the problem of feeding a room full of holiday revelers.
If you have been to holiday parties where the only refreshment offered is a picked over cheese board you can’t get to, a crudités platter that everyone ignores or a chip-dip situation past its prime, you know why it’s important to serve enormously satisfying food. Without it, you stagger out the door hungry and buzzed from one too many visits to the punch bowl.
The solution is an assortment of diminutive sandwiches, which can be prepared throughout the evening.
For our purposes, a sandwich is a slice of bread with something tasty on it, or two slices of bread with something tasty in between. And these days, there are countless bakeries making good bread — crisp baguettes, Pullman and rye loaves, nutty whole wheat or sourdough boules, elegant brioche or challah. A selection of simple sandwiches that are both colorful and droolworthy is what you want for your holiday gathering.
To make open-faced smoked salmon sandwiches, use a good quality Pullman loaf or a dense brown bread. Choose the best sweet butter you can find (think French) and don’t stint; the combination of buttered bread, smoked salmon and herbs is ethereal. Add thinly sliced cucumber and radish for crunch and color and a little salmon caviar for a festive pop.
Little steak sandwiches provide welcome sustenance for imbibing guests. They look pretty served on small whole wheat or brioche rolls. Jalapeño and peppery watercress supply a pleasant kick, along with the richness provided by sour cream laced with horseradish.
I like to make a zesty egg salad that has no mayonnaise (though a dab of homemade mayonnaise or aioli would be permissible). To your chopped 9-minute eggs, add green picholine olives (not the bland canned supermarket type), celery, parsley and a drizzle of olive oil. You could add a little anchovy and a few capers, too, if so inclined. They are gorgeous served open-faced, but there’s no reason not to use the filling for a conventional two-slice closed sandwich.
A riff on the classic date-nut bread smeared with cream cheese makes a lovely meatless option. For these sandwiches, look for soft, juicy dates. It’s also worth seeking out natural cream cheese rather than the gummy commercial kind, or substitute fresh ricotta. Crisp, salty herbed pecans pair very nicely with the slightly sweet spread.
It may seem like a funny party choice, but a classic French croque-monsieur, with the added tang of Dijon mustard is always a hit at my house. The quintessential warm ham and cheese sandwich, it makes a great snack with drinks, cut into bite-size pieces. Crucially, you can prepare these in advance and reheat them in a hot oven to serve.
Use these suggestions as a jumping off point. The possibilities are limitless when it comes to creating your own flock of holiday sandwiches.
Recipes: Smoked Salmon Sandwiches With Cucumber, Radish and Herbs | Spicy Steak and Watercress on a Roll | Egg Salad Sandwiches With Green Olive, Celery and Parsley | Cream Cheese Sandwiches With Dates, Pecans and Rosemary | Ham and Cheese Croque With Dijon