For anyone who has visited Denmark, and specifically its cosmopolitan chic capital Copenhagen, the seemingly nonchalant and casual grace with which the Danes transact their daily lives can be quite compelling. This is a country where women head out to the theater dressed in the most upscale haute couture from the boutiques that line Strøget, Gucci scarves dancing gracefully in the wind, and with their transportation of choice being… the bicycle. One writer describes it on his appropriately titled blog, as bicycle chic. It is a culture at ease with itself. You might be too with over 1000 years of recorded civilization. It is after all a country that is a constitutional monarchy, practices free market capitalism, AND is a large welfare state – all without contradiction.
At first glance, it might seem anachronistic, but spend enough time there and you realize that it is just… functional. That, and the fact that the Danes are comfortable in their own skin. Nothing embodies this embrace of the functional as richly as the smørrebrød. Literally “bread and butter” in Danish, smørrebrød is oh so much more. In an attempt to distill this highly complex food form into more accessible imagery, this culinary delight is often referred to as an open-faced-sandwich. Alas language fails and that term falls woefully short in describing this dish. This blog is our attempt at paying homage to smorrebrod.
Traditional smørrebrød begins as a thin slice of a dense dark rye bread, which is topped with a thin layer of butter. The butter lends moisture to the bread, adds flavor and acts as a sealant preventing it from too quickly absorbing the juices of the toppings that are to come. This is where the “bread and butter” functionality ends and art begins. On top of this foundation structure is balanced many layers of fish, meat, herbs and vegetables, creating a masterpiece of culinary architecture. It is not unusual (and perhaps it is a requisite aspect of smorrebrod) that the toppings obscure the bread beneath.
From pickled herring with raw onions; batter fried fish fillet with a twist of lemon; roast beef and shredded horseradish; sliced potatoes, sea salt and dill; warm liver pate, bacon and sautéed mushrooms – brought together in natural and often surprising unions. Depending on the particular configuration, the flavors of the smørrebrød are intensified by the use of sauces and herbs such as remoulade, sweet pickles, fried onions, green onions, parsley, cheese – the list is endless. The final product is both functional and beautiful – a canvas of colors and flavors that its almost criminal to eat. However you quickly to lay caution to the wind, as with knife and fork, you introduce your mouth to that first perfect bite.
This blog will introduce the smørrebrød concept to a less Scandinavian palate. Necessity is the mother of invention and so, we have interpreted the elements of the smorrebrod and, where necessary, replaced them with more accessible ingredients. So smoked salmon, baked chicken, curry sauce, roasted garlic and pesto all find themselves employed in new ways. It will be a rediscovery of the sandwich. Cook along, enjoy and Velbekommen (May it become you well!)