Gin Bathed Cucumber Sandwiches. i never imagined that i could enjoy shitty white bread so thoroughly. i mean, growing up in a somewhat granola household i inevitably harboured a childhood obsession with the verboten white(not to say Wonder)bread-with-processed-peanut-butter that was so carelessly enjoyed by my peers, but it happens that i grew out of it, along with any more than a passing occasional interest in things like Kraft Dinner and Corn Pops.
but lo, thanks to Ryan & David, i now have a reason to drop 1.05$ on the puffy, immaculate, hospital-hallway-white breads that remain at the discount painerie when all the 14-grain and grand blé has been snatched up by similarly health-conscious locals.
if “gin bathed” strikes you a little strangely, take heart, it is not the sandwich in its entirety that is so treated, only the cucumbers, and i myself couldn’t figure out quite what was so peculiar about the ring of bathed – it does seem a little ostentatious, no? – until it dawned on me that the alternative (“gin soaked cucumber sandwiches”) all too readily seems to confirm the associations which have been expressed by every single person to whom i have mentioned the snack, namely that it comes across as the sadly transparent invention of a none-too-imaginative alcoholic aunt. or worse, a satirical summer treat for the 1950s housewife just this side of cracking.
as it turns out, however, they’re very tasty, and very satisfying in the perverse way that only so rigidly dichromatic a food can be.
i played pretty fast and loose with the recipe, but i acknowledge the inspiration as fully cher à Entertaining With Booze (i think from the “Summer Whites Garden Party” menu). it goes something like
- as many thinly-sliced slices of cucumber (i think english or otherwise should suffice, although i’ve been going for the former) as necessary, marinated in the best gin you have around (i mean this), for a minimum of an hour. your best bet is to have enough to submerge the lot of the slices, but this can me a substantial gin outlay, so if you can only cover some, i say shake up the container now and then and let the fumes do the rest. keep these in the fridge, or they’ll go limp and dismal, of course.
- some amount of cream cheese mixed with let’s say a little less than an equal portion of mayonnaise. not, i admit, a “true” english teatime cucumber sandwich, but shut up already. you can tweak this obviously based on how much you hate mayonnaise, which i’ve noticed all sorts of know-nothings do. although i must grant that the physical act of mixing the two is a bit of a stomach-turning procedure.
- a dash of onion powder, which i find to be thoroughly vile stuff and always feel a little skin-crawly keeping it in my house, but it really does come in handy now and then.
- as many slices of white bread as necessary. i think the usual way to do this is make the sandwiches and then slice off the crusts, in the interest of the terrifying politeness of the uniform edge, but i prefer to decrust the bread beforehand, which allows you to save the crusts for crumbing or croutonizing (not being all marred with vegetable and oil and cheese). i also like the aesthetic tension of the clean bread edges and the unruly, gin-soaked cucumber slices, green at the gills, carousing around and threatening to slip, sprawling and sputtering a ribald tune onto the plate.
so anyway, you drain the cucumbers*, butter the bread and smear on some of the mayo/cheese, then put the whole thing together and slice those buggers into whatever prim and adorable shapes you desire.
it really just tastes like what you’d expect, with an interesting aromatic spicy complexity offered by the juniper, anise, and whatever haveyou of the gin you choose to use. Hendrick’s i have not tried, but would be a no-brainer, and i found Gordon’s worked just fine. lying just underneath the layers of creamy/tart and crisp/fresh of the other ingredients, it is a combination to reckon with. a finer marriage of mannered and debaucherous you won’t find this side of the Atlantic, but i’d be wary what kind of crowd you try to impress with this little trick.
i expect you could arrive at something similarly zhooshy and pleasing with the addition/substitution of goat cheese and fresh mint.
*and, behold the second prong, you can save this now cucumber-infused gin for the construction of what i am told are the finest of G&T’s, ie: those made with cucumber juice in the stead of lime. i haven’t had one this way as of yet, but the other day i did have a gin on the rocks with just a few slices of cucumber and a dash of salt, and that was well enough up my alley that i can’t fathom turning back now.