When you go out to eat or when you cook, do you like to eat all kinds of foods like Tacos, Sushi, Chinese food, spaghetti, pizza, and hotdogs? Or sometimes when you get a little tired of the same dishes do you ask: what else is there?
Perhaps you are planning a celebration in the near future and wondering what you should serve? Or maybe you are going to a potluck and you are trying to figure out what to fix?
Well, let me enlighten you……try something new, have fun and make Smorrebrod!
If you do, I guarantee you success, applause and praise.
And so you say: What is Smorrebrod?Smorrebrod (or Smørrebrød) is a Danish National food that’s served at celebrations, special occasions or just about any time, any place. It is definitely the best food there is in Denmark….very pretty, a piece of art, really. And when you make Smorrebrod, you don’t have to go to a specialty store and buy special equipment like when you make sushi - or a wok for Chinese food, or a pizza pan, etc. You do have to do lots and lots of shopping, but all the ingredients may be purchased at an ordinary supermarket, Safeway, for instance. And you don’t have to be of Danish heritage (or a Viking) to eat and enjoy Smorrebrod. The Danish traditions can be enjoyed the same as when we eat Chinese food, Mexican, Italian no matter what nationality we are.
THINGS TO BUY
CANNED FOOD (1 can each of)
Do the shopping a couple of days ahead of making the sandwiches. All the items can be purchased in a supermarket except for maybe the snaps, which is the crowning glory of Smorrebrod. The snaps can usually be found in a well- stocked liquor store or Trader Joes or an upscale grocery store.
If making your own liverwurst, this can be made ahead also on the shopping day. An easy recipe is enclosed here. If you absolutely do not want to do this, try to find a nice imported liver pâté or go to a fancy delicatessen. Here you may also find all the cold cuts and the pickled herring. Also ahead of time you should boil a few eggs (hardboiled as well as making røregg (a form of scrambled egg).
ON THE DAY OF THE PARTY
The trick to making smorrebrod is to work fast once you get started. You have to have all the ingredients ready - So here goes:
Open all the cans of vegetables and drain. Keep each kind separated. Wash the lettuce and spin-dry. It is important that the lettuce is crisp, clean and dry. Slice the cucumbers in thin slices; also slice tomatoes, olives, lemons, oranges and onions. (Keep onions separate). Fry the bacon and drain. Fry some onions. Make Italiensk Salat (peas and carrots in mayonnaise) and Remulade.
Now on your kitchen table have everything ready to work with quickly. Rye bread, butter (at room temperature), cold cuts, and all the vegetables. If there is not enough room on the table, use the zinc and surrounding counters, just as long as everything is within reach.
Now you are ready to start: The trick is speed. Work fast.
Butter the rye bread, slice by slice and cut each in half. Calculate about 3 or 4 pieces for each person. 10 guests x 3 = 30 half slices = 15 whole slices (add a couple more slices to be on the safe side. Distribute these evenly on the platters. Allow plenty of room around them. You may mix in a few buttered slices of white bread also on the platters. Make sure you use lots of butter and cover the whole surface of the bread lavishly.
Now place a small piece of lettuce on the end of each slice of bread and top it with cold cuts – each slice with its own kind: ham, salami, beef, pork, etc. The liverwurst may be sliced in the form in which it was baked so it will not break. Use the white bread for the cheese and the smoked salmon, but wait with the scrimp till later. Some slices may be with tomatoes and eggs (tomatoes first, then eggs on top).
Now, the fun part: You are ready to do your artwork – the finishing touch. Use the chopped vegetables to decorate with – just like you would a cake. Anything goes – really – as long as it is pretty and the flavors don’t clash. The Danes have traditional ways of decorating their smorrebrod. Here are some suggestions:
Stir your peas and carrots with a little mayonnaise and place a heaping spoonful on top of the ham topped yet with a couple of slices of twisted orange. Place some red cabbage on the pork with perhaps some orange slices. The liverwurst should be decorated with fried crisp bacon, pickled beets or cucumbers and mushrooms. All this should be arranged in a decorative manner. The salami is good with sliced onions and some black olives on top. Place some twisted fresh cucumber slices on the egg and tomato. The smoked salmon looks and tastes good with scrambled egg (røregg) and add a little green here, either basil or parsley or other fresh herb. On the cheese place some sliced green and red pepper. The other cold cuts may be decorated with olives, beets, cabbage, fried or raw onions, etc. Keep the various slices mixed on the trays. The goal is to make things look decorative, inviting and appetizing. To add a final touch: place whole radishes in between the slices of smorrebrod to cover up any open spaces. Parsley and a large "starred” tomato with parsley may also be placed on each tray – all to make it pretty.
When all done, quickly cover the trays loosely with plastic wrap. Be careful not to destroy your artwork. Place the trays in the refrigerator until ready to serve your guests. You may safely store the smorrebrod a couple of hours before serving.
The scrimp should be done separately. Here is how: Butter white bread lavishly and cut in half. Place on a pretty tray. Now top with a nice whole leaf of lettuce, preferably one that will form a little “cup.” No bread may be seen. Now pile scrimp on top of the lettuce (a handful). Decorate with a tablespoon of mayonnaise and 2 slices of thin twisted lemon. A little parsley here and there will add beauty. Cover the tray and place in the refrigerator.
The pickled herring is also usually served separately. Either the herring can be placed in a little dish surrounded by buttered small slices of rye bread or the bread may be covered with the fish topped with onion slices and capers or beets.
That’s all. You are done. Undoubtedly you have a big old mess to clean up. But it is easy. Whatever you didn’t use, just throw it all together and store it for a salad the next day.
The most important thing to remember is that you must work quickly and keep everything fresh when making Smorrebrod. It is important to have done all the shopping ahead of time as well as have made the liverwurst, boiled eggs, røregg, etc. It is difficult to calculate exactly how much to buy of cold cuts, but any leftovers can always be used. Figure 2-3 slices of meat or cheese for each piece of smorrebrod (half a slice of bread). A pound of scrimp will cover about 4-5 pieces of Smorrebrod.
Smorrebrod can be taken to a potluck party in which case you may want to omit the herring. But do add a few scrimp pieces (may be mixed in on the same platter at a potluck) I guarantee it will be a success.
But the best would be to throw a Danish party. All you have to do now after making all the smorrebrod and placed the platters in the refrigerator is to have the table set – don’t forget the knives and forks and tiny glasses for the snaps - drinks cooled – snaps should be on ice and you are ready to go.
The Danes have fun rituals when eating their smorrebrod. They include always eating with knife and fork, not eating until the host (ess) has said welcome to the guests by lifting her glass and said skaal with the snaps. The first glass must be emptied at once (the glasses are small) and this sets the scene for the rest of the party. Each time one lifts one’s glass, one must say skaal to somebody either across the table, or left or right or or around the table to everybody. It is important to have eye contact, laugh and smile. After a few glasses of snaps and smorrebrod, everybody is happy. During the course of the party it is customary to hold speeches either to a guest of honor, to the hostess or just some philosophical words about life. Usually there is also music and singing. Guests often bring their own songs they have made up printed for everyone to sing. There is also a certain order in which the food is eaten. The herring is served first with the first glass of snaps. And usually the cheese is served last. The guests stay at the table and eat and drink for hours. Later – much later - a dessert may be served. Aeblekage is a most traditional dessert and goes well with smorrebrod. A recipe is included here. You may also prefer to serve potato salad with the smorrebrod, but it is not necessary.
A little history of the Smorrebrod:
The word Smorrebrod means buttered bread, but it is of course much more than just bread that is buttered. It is really a piece of art. The topping is the artwork. It is totally a Danish invention, but how it got invented is not known. It became popular among the Danish high society as early as the 18th century, but today everyone from the Queen of Denmark on down loves it and so I hope will you…. There are many variations of Smorrebrod, for instance at Oscar Davidson’s restaurant in Copenhagen the extravagant Smorrebrod (sandvich) menu is four feet long with 178 entries of different sort of Smorrebrod of which to choose. Experts who make Smorrebrod in restaurants are trained at least three years. But look: Here I am teaching you to make this charming and inspirational food in no time. So let’s enjoy….I hope you may have a good time celebrating just like the Danes do..….Skaal!