In my family there are two traditional party foods, items without which we cannot mark life’s great events: births, deaths, marriages, conditional releases, the Superbowl, what have you. Obviously I’m talking about deviled eggs and finger rolls. And although they have been disparagingly referred to as retch & puke, the evil twins, trough fodder, and Oh-Christ-not-that-shite-again by my nearest and dearest, I would like to point out that at any given family gathering (from wakes to commitment hearings), the trays are always empty long before the fighting starts.
I won’t lie, I love ‘em both. Partly it’s a nostalgia thing; the sight of a bridal gown or a bail bondsman just automatically triggers a yen for a ham salad roll. But there are also practical considerations, primarily that ingesting large quantities of protein, mayo and bread gives you an unshakable foundation for an extended drinking binge, and my people tend to be all-occasion tipplers.
In the 1960s (I have heard) finger sandwiches were the height of party chic, a glamorous staple of la dolce vita American style. Finger rolls, not to be confused with finger waves, lend themselves to a variety of fillings: crab, lobster, chicken, egg or ham salad are the usual suspects. Anything else is considered “ethnic food” by my folks, so we don’t serve liverwurst, cream cheese and olive or anything more exotic than protein and mayonnaise with the odd pinch of pepper. But if you like to walk on the wide side, you can slip a little pineapple in with the ham or a little tarragon with the chicken. Improvise ferchrissakes, as my Grandpa Harvey used to say (usually right before he said, “Who the hell ate all the crab rolls, ferchrissakes?”).
Now, before you turn up your foodie nose, let me assure you that a tray of deviled eggs at a party goes faster than tissues in Whitney Houston’s dressing room. I swear, people LOVE them. Of course recipes vary, but I tend to be a bit of a purist. Boil those bad boys up, slice ‘em in half, scoop out the yolk, chop up a couple of whites (you can leave this out, but I like it this way), mix in some mayo, mustard, salt and pepper and mound it up. I don’t hold with adding curry powder, onions or suchlike, but if you feel the need to tart them up with a little smoked salmon or even a shrimp, have at it. I do shake a little paprika over the tops just for color.
I’m having fun already!