Danish Cuisine — Smørrebrød: Open-Faced Sandwiches

In Denmark, the open-faced sandwiches known collectively as smørrebrød (serving suggestions follow) are a national source of pride and identity.  The Danish rye bread rugbrød is buttered liberally, then the rest is limited only by the imagination of the cook.

More Danish dishes on The World Cup of Food:

Smørrebrød consists of two parts: the rugbrød and the pålæg, or topping.  Pålæg comes in a variety of forms, such as boiled eggs, meats, fish, vegetables, or salads.  The topping is piled on, as smørrebrød are not meant to be eaten with the hands so the bread only nominally contains the rest of the contents.

In a departure from our typical presentation of a dish, for smørrebrød it makes the most sense to simply offer serving suggestions instead of a recipe.  Most of our ideas came from Dale Brown’s The Cooking of Scandinavia (Time-Life Foods of the World Series) unless noted.

With each of our smørrebrød, we started by buttering a thin slice of Danish pumpernickel bread, which we found at our local supermarket in the bakery section.  Our first pair of smørrebrød were topped with, from left, hard salami, raw onion rings, a drizzle of olive oil, and a parsley sprig; and sliced boiled potatoes, bacon, tomato wedges, and minced parsley:


Our next pair of smørrebrød featured, from left, a lettuce leaf topped with tomato slices, boiled egg slices, and minced parsley; and a lettuce leaf topped with salad shrimp marinated in lemon juice and pepper, garnished with a lemon slice:


Next we tried, clockwise from upper left, a slice of Danish blue cheese topped with an onion ring and a raw egg yolk; a lettuce leaf topped with our karrysalat and garnished with a cucumber slice; and (our own creation) hard salami, a tomato slice, Danish blue cheese crumbles, and a parsley sprig:


Finally (lest the reader think that pickled herring wasn’t going to make an appearance), pickled herring, onion, tomato, and minced parsley:


Danish blue cheese is pungent and rich, and the smørrebrød made with it were excellent, especially the one made even richer with the raw egg yolk.  The pickled herring and the karrysalat (which contains pickled herring) smørrebrød were the only ones we weren’t crazy about, owing to our distaste for store-bought pickled herring.  We thought the boiled potato and bacon smørrebrød would be unusual but it tasted like breakfast on pumpernickel bread, and the potatoes added some appreciated moisture to the fairly dry, dense bread.

If forced to choose, our favorite two were the tomato, salami, and Danish blue cheese and the boiled egg, tomato, and lettuce smørrebrød.  Each was crucially moistened with the tomato slice, leaving the dense bread much lighter and easier to chew.

We think that smørrebrød is a great idea for an interesting lunch buffet setup.  With a few options, guests could choose any topping that appeals to them and create their own appetizing combination.


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