I’m an American mutt: on my mother’s side, I’m Italian, and on my father’s side I’m Danish. Years ago, Sundays with Grandma and Grandpa would begin with about 3 hours of Lutheran church (I was jealous of my Catholic friends who got to go home after a 1/2 hour mass). Upon our return, we would all assist in assembling an immense table-full of the week’s leftovers, all rearranged and presented to perfection on thin-sliced heavy pumpernickel bread. In Denmark, this is known as Smørrebrød, meaning “buttered bread”. The bread is traditionally smeared with super thick delicious butter (think Lurpak) before toppings are added (the butter keeps the bread from getting soggy), and eaten with a knife and fork.
These little open-faced sandwiches can get very fancy. Indeed, there are restaurants all over Copenhagen (and a couple here in NYC – my next trip will be to Aamans Copenhagen in Tribeca) that specialize in these tasty morsels. In my family, we concentrated on every bite having a perfect blend of bread, dressing and topping. We didn’t worry too much about garnishing, as we were too busy stuffing our mouths. The adults (in my family, age 16) chased the food down with a Tuborg beer (no all but impossible to find) and a shot of Aquavit: Scandinavia’s potent “water of life” made with caraway.
As a fun idea, you should try throwing a Danish Smorrebrod party. Slice and lay out thin slices of heavy pumpernickel, wheat and baguette bread. Place assorted toppings on small plates or on one large platter in the middle of the table, and let your guests make their own sandwiches. Have plenty of Carlsberg and Aquavit on hand to wash down the morsels.
Check out DanishSandwich.com it’s a wealth of information and tons of traditional recipes for sandwiches, homemade pickled herring, cucumber salad and other must-haves. They are one of my favorite blogs.
MOMMY NOTE: If you have young children, the smoked herring may be too much to ask their little taste buds to gobble – stick with the roast beef and pork options!