Reviving the art of making party sandwiches

Let us not forget a Victorian culinary art which today's life style deems prohibitive. So many things are done for us these days that making nice sandwiches can be personally rewarding and guests will always be impressed.

Set aside an evening, 21/2 to 3 hours, for this creative endeavor. Ask a friend or family member to join in on the project.

Planning is most important so that all the ingredients are on hand and ready to use. Order the bread in pullman-style loaves from a local bakery. When placing the order, ask to have it unsliced or sliced lengthwise.

Let the bread stand out for a day after it is bought, then freeze it until preparation time. This way the bread is not too fresh, and it slices best when partly thawed.

Many prepared cheese spreads are well flavored and easily spreadable at room temperature. Food coloring lends a custom look to fillings that can be color-cued to other party decorations.

Completed sandwiches can be wrapped and frozen for up to one month with no loss in quality. There will be some leftover crusts and trimmings. Don't consider this wasteful. They are great for making stuffing, dry bread crumbs, or bread pudding.

Equipment is simple, but space is important. Arrange plenty of clear, clean counter space or set up the whole operation on a large table. Use a cutting board and a good, sharp long-bladed bread knife to make this project a success.

In an early edition of her etiquette book Emily Post said, ''a 'party' sandwich is not the sort of sandwich to eat or order when hungry.'' Because they are small and light, plan on at least four or five sandwiches per guest. These miniature offerings of various shapes are often accompanied by small cakes or other pastries. Fruit punch is often the beverage.

Bite-size sandwiches will lend that extra touch to the menu for many occasions throughout the year. It may be for a friend or a holiday, a wedding or graduation reception, or even a teen-ager's dance. Whatever the event, take the time and the effort so party sandwich making will not become a forgotten art. Pinwheel Sandwiches 1 loaf white, pullman-style bread, unsliced 2 3-ounce packages cream cheese, softened 2 tablespoons milk 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 5-6 drops red or green food coloring, or other, if desired

Freeze bread before making sandwiches. Remove from freezer and thaw at room temperature until easy to cut with a sharp bread knife. Remove outer crust and set aside. Cut six to seven 1/2-inch slices from the loaf. To keep slices moist and workable, wrap in a wet tea towel while making cheese spread.

Using small bowl and electric mixer, beat cream cheese, milk, and Worcestershire sauce until mixture is smooth and creamy. Add food coloring and continue mixing until spread is all one color.

Spread cheese mixture evenly on one long slice at a time. Begin at short end and roll tightly but gently; secure end of roll with extra cheese to hold in place.

Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for about an hour before cutting each roll into five or six 1/4-inch pinwheels. Cut just before serving.

To freeze place pinwheel sandwiches on paper plates, cover with plastic wrap and put into a plastic bag. Secure tightly and freeze no longer than one month. Makes 35 to 40 sandwiches. Checkerboard Rounds 2 loaves white, pullman style bread, sliced lengthwise* 1 loaf whole wheat, pullman-style bread, sliced lengthwise 1 5-ounce jar bacon-cheese spread 1 5-ounce jar pimento cheese spread

Using a biscuit cutter (21/2-inch diameter), cut 60 bread circles. Spread 30 of the rounds with prepared spreads. Be sure to save 15 whole wheat and 15 white rounds to make segments for checkerboard design. Cut those 30 rounds into four equal quarter rounds.

To complete sandwich, alternate two white and two whole wheat segments onto the top of the cheese-covered rounds; this makes a checkerboard design. Press from the top firmly so they hold together.

Refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve. Place on a paper plate and cover with plastic wrap. For freezing, put into a plastic bag and secure tightly.

*There are usually five long slices in each loaf and four 21/2-inch circles of bread can be cut from one slice. Makes 30. Finger Sandwiches 1 loaf whole wheat, pullman-style bread, sliced lengthwise 3 21/4-ounce cans deviled ham 1 5-ounce jar pineapple-cheese spread 1 3-ounce jar stuffed green olives, sliced 1 2-ounce jar pimento slices

Spread 21/2 of the long bread slices with deviled ham. Top each of these with another long slice of bread and cover with pineapple-cheese spread. Using a sharp bread knife, trim off outside crusts of bread.

Cut whole two-layer sandwich into four equal parts and then each of those into three finger sandwiches.

Proceed the same with the half slice, but just cut in two and then into six more fingers. There will be 30 sandwiches. Decorate with slices of stuffed, green olives and small strips of pimento.

Place on paper plate and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve. For freezing, put into a plastic bag and seal tightly; remove from freezer and use within 1 month.

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