Monday, May 2, 2011

Hosting a Tea for the Wharton Salon

Last year I attended an afternoon garden party introducing guests to Catherine Taylor-Williams, director and producer of the Wharton Salon, produced at The Mount in August.  Catherine and her crew create a play every year from one of Wharton's short stories or novellas, and perform it at The Stables at The Mount.  The excellent cast is mostly local (my fave Diane Prusha stars in this year's production).  A certain firsson is created by seeing the play written in the author's home.  Especialy when that home is The Mount. 

I was so impressed with Catherine and the Wharton Salon that I offered to host an afternoon tea this year to introduce others to her and her mission.  As a lifelong reader and theatre fan, I wanted to know more about what was involved in translating a published story with much exposition into a staged performance.  And as I thought about all of the people I know in book groups, I realized there was a large audience for such an event.  Sure enough, about 35 people showed up yesterday, one of the first beautiful spring days (about time, too!) to meet Catherine and three of the actresses who will be in the play this summer--Diane Prusha, Rory Hammond, and Corinna May. 

There wasn't any question about what to serve at this tea held from 3-5 p.m.  Tea sandwiches.  Of course.  What could be more Whartonian on a Sunday afternoon?  Luckily I had a crew of good friends who helped make the sandwiches, which, unfortunately, can't really be made much ahead of time.  Annette Grant, Amy Rudnick, and Barbara Zheutlin came over an hour early to prep -- I even took pix but can't figure out how to load them onto this post.  (hazards of being so old)

We made five tea sandwiches and one open-faced sandwich with tapenade.  The five sandwiches were made with Pepperidge Farm white and whole wheat thin breads.  The tapenade went on standard small pumpernickel slices that come wrapped in cellophane and must last forever until they're opened.

When I say "butter," I'm referring to an excellent one, in this case Plugra. Butter plays a large role in the sandwiches, so it must be the best.  Here's the recipes. 

Smoked salmon tea sandwiches
Thinly sliced smoked salmon slices
Butter whipped with dill, parsley, chives, and Dijon mustard

Sliced egg sandwiches
 Hard-boiled eggs (best eggs for boiling are old, so buy good local ones a few weeks ahead)
Bibb lettuce leaves
Butter whipped with tarragon, parsley, and salt

Radish sandwiches 
Sliced radishes
Butter and salt

Cucumber and watercress tea sandwiches
Thinly sliced cucumbers
Butter whipped with parsley, chives, and salt

Mushroom tea sandwiches
Duxelles (recipe below)
Butter whipped with parsley and salt


Melt the butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until foaming. Stir in the mushrooms, a handful at a time, and cook each batch until the mushrooms wilt enough to show the bottom of the pan. Continue adding mushrooms until all are in the pan. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms seem to have given up all their liquid, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the types of mushrooms. (If in doubt, let the mushrooms stand off the heat for 5 minutes to see if they give up any more liquid.) Turn the heat to high. Stir the mushrooms until the liquid is evaporated and the mushrooms begin to sizzle, about 3 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms-to a plate and let cool to room temperature.

Place the mushrooms in a food processor and use quick, on/off pulses until the mushrooms are finely chopped. Store, covered, for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or freeze for up to 3 months. To freeze cubes, place 1 tablespoon of the duxelles into each compartment of an ice-cube tray. Tamp down the duxelles and freeze with a piece of plastic wrap applied directly to the surface. When solid, transfer the cubes to a sealable plastic container or freezer bag.

Variations: Parmesan Duxelles: Stir 2 tablespoons grated Parmagiano-Reggiano or other good-quality
Parmesan cheese into the duxelles after it has cooled to room temperature.

Creamy Duxelles: Stir 2 tablespoons heavy (or whipping) cream into the duxelles before removing from the heat.

Chunky Duxelles: Cool the sautéed mushrooms to room temperature. Transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop. Do not use the food processor.

Annette Grant's fabulous olive and fig tapenade

  • 1 cup black kalamata olive, pitted
  • ⅓ cup dried mission figs, stems removed
  • zest of one lemon or ½ orange, grated
  • 1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme or rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup fresh Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup toasted walnuts
1. Place the olives, figs, lemon zest and juice, garlic, capers, red pepper flakes, thyme, pepper, and parsley in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to blend, but do not puree. Add the oil and pulse a few more times to form a cohesive but still coarse paste. Add the walnuts and pulse until they are chopped but small pieces are still visible.
2. Make ahead: Tapenade can be made up to 1 week ahead and kept, covered, in the refrigerator.

So now you know what you missed if you didn't attend the tea party yesterday.  But now you can make your own.

1 comment:

  1. Yum! Wish I'd been there. Can't wait to hear all about it.