01 March 2011

The Bread

In between writing about The Good and The Ugly, there has not been as much of The Bread as I planned for, and I have been trying to figure out why because I love good food. Eating it, not cooking it that is. I can if I have to, but cooking for one gets old real fast, so it is mostly down to delicious finger food and lots of take out. Nothing post-worthy, I assure you. But during the big pre-spring clean up, I came across this fantastic old book from the vintage book market on how to make the traditional Danish smørrebrød, also know as "open faced sandwiches" (haha).

It could just be that I don't hang out at big traditional family dinners anymore, but I feel like smørrebrød is not so much a part of the picture as it once was. At any given café they are more likely to serve you a burger or a BLT than a festive slice of rye, and going through this book I am beginning to realize how this is a lost art. My grandparents had family dinners like this, with all kinds of different herring and what not, so you could stack your own piece of smørrebrød. They actually competed to have the biggest selection, and I am pretty sure that not even this book would have been able to teach my grandmother anything.

It's funny, but I have this feeling that smørrebrød is going to make a huge comeback in the next couple of years. Besides being cool, it comes with its own history (nothing sells like tradition) and as a concept it is open for new interpretations. Although I love the pictures below (or is it really detailed illustrations? I can't tell), they are a bit too raw meat/white bread/mayonnaisey for me. I'll take mine with sliced avocado, a squeeze of lemon and rosemary flavored salt on pitch dark rye, thank you. Mmmmm.

(note the adoring language of the chef, this is love)

How to bend your salami

The early stages of a salami dish; the salami itself is bend inwards on the bread.

Egg in a nest

The finished piece: in the center a nest of finely shaved pepper root and a raw egg yolk sprinkled with chopped chives. This is a delicious piece of smørrebrød.

Tartar on rye, a story in four parts:

Tartar on rye, step one

The beginning of a piece of tartar: the raw meat is chopped with the knife, shaped and ready to go on the  buttered bread.

Tartar on rye, step two

Here you see how the buttered bread is placed buttered side down on the raw meat, and you see how the meat is cut from the board and flipped.

Tartar on rye, step three

Now a small dent have been made in the meat, framed by a heavy, raw slice of onion with a raw egg yolk in the middle.

Tartar on rye, step four

The finished piece of tartar with a tomato fan, finely shaved pepper root, chopped raw onions, chopped chives and caper. (end of tartar lesson)

Vintage Danish smørrebrød

A plate of smørrebrød with real home made toppings. The pieces must not be placed too closely together. A serving like this is colorful, inviting and made with an absence of fancy effects.

Vintage homemade smørrebrød

Velbekomme / Enjoy / Bon appetit


  1. Honestly, it kind of reminds me of some sushi preparations. I really like food preparation as art :)

  2. Now that you mention it.. The entire book is full of little details, how to slice your lemon in decorative ways and such. This book is from a time when people didn't spend so much time behind a desk, but moved around and walked that mayo off.

  3. You also reminded me, I've been meaning to try making some gravlax... mmm.

    I know, I could stand to do a little bit more walking off the mayonnaise (though I do more than average, I suppose). Actually, probably more what's needed is just to eat a little bit less overall... but food is so good :)

    Also, you reminded me that I often wonder how mayonnaise became this white, creamy or even kind of pudding-like stuff, since it's just made from an egg yolk, a little bit of vinegar or lemon juice, and vegetable oil.

    I really like how caviar looks, but I'm less excited about how it tastes :) Not bad, just really salty.

  4. My other grandmother always made fresh mayonnaise at the kitchen table from scratch, so simple and so delicious. Why don't I ever get around to that I wonder? The "caviar" used in smørrebrød is this inexpensive replacement stuff you can buy at any supermarket to make it all look a little fancier, so funny.

  5. Ah, only if I had found this book. Smorrebrod was a daily staple of mine and I miss it dearly now.

  6. You know, the book market is on again right now, I am going in the nest couple of days, so I'll keep an eye out for a smørrebrøds book for you.

  7. I like the idea that smørrebrød is ripe for a resurgence - but perhaps more so outside of Denmark. Think really great bread, very fresh, local ingredients, small portions, lots of options and flexibility. Sounds a little bit like sushi or tapas. You just need the replacement for the iconic sushi chef in the apron and hat . . . help me out here, Sandra . . . .

  8. Yummie...I think smørrebrød could have a revival soon, too.
    My favourite which you can buy at the Smørrebrøds-shops is the roastbeef: On rye bread, slices of roastbeef, remoulade, fried onions, a salad leaf and of course, finely shaved pepper root :-D

    The fillet of fish (breaded, fried plaice fillet) is another classic always served at our christmas lunchions. Preferable served warm with remoulade, salt, pepper and a slice of lemon...! Makes your day!

    Lunch is calling - and as always I'm having ordinary open rye sandwiches ;-) Not as fancy as the ones in your pictures,though, Sandra.

  9. Hi Kelly, you could be right, I did not even think that far, but the rest of the world could easily get on board this one. The possibilities are endless, and it could be fun to see smørrebrød interpreted in different corners of the world.

    If I was to go into the food business that would be my niche for sure. I think I should take a small tour of the best smørrebrød's places in Copenhagen and list them in a post soon. Haha, I am making myself hungry just writing about it.

  10. Hi Drumstick,

    It's kind of funny how different smørrebrød can be. From the small places where the "working man" can drop by for four inexpensive squares, to the business version with heavy layers at the fancier places. I love them all :D (enjoy your lunch)

  11. Love the fish smørrebrød! That is the best!

  12. And warm fiskefrikadeller (fish balls? haha) with remoulade (relish). I feel like listing all the good kinds of ingredients. There is another post begging to be born :D

  13. Ah Sandra! When I was living in Copenhagen, the fiskefrikadeller was my absolute fave "post Tuborg" snack! Yum...

  14. Love the concept. It is too much meat/raw for me too although I love tartare. This is the kind of meal I prepare when I'm too lazy to cook but want something nice. Also, no veggies/fruits? Oh now I want to make my own version of it tonight... I have a friend coming over tomorrow from Paris, we'll indulge.

  15. Hi Celena, it is so funny now I feel like eating everything we have been talking about in the comments section. And drinking Tuborg. Words are such little teasers. :-)

    Carole, it is up to you if you want meat or fish, there are so many yummy things you can pile on, healthy ones too, all you really need is just the good rye bread base. This book was made in 1963, and we have changed our ways somewhat since then, but the concept is still the same, much like Lego (you know: stacking).

    Mayonnaise is still good, especially on vegetables. And you can grow you own watercress in the window, and always have that as a fresh topping. Mmm, I am so hungry now. Happy indulging with your Parisian friend!

  16. Like you, I don't like cooking but I love eating (probably too much) but as someone once said... dieting is nice but not when I'm eating.

    I love all kinds of food and we have been to a few very nice restaurants in Copenhagen but I would have loved to try smørrebrød.

    The problem with small tasty bites like these, is that I always tend to over eat because they are so delicious and the signal that I am full and should stop, always comes too late :-)


    p.s. if you happen to see the new Citroen C4 TV commercial, the bubbles in it are made by Sterling Johnson who is also in your pictures.

  17. Hello Frans, how I can relate to it all. I sort of took for granted that everybody knew about smørrebrød, but I see I may need to elaborate on the subject. Including testing a few local lunch-places to find the best, and make a list for the blog.

    Smørrebrød is mostly a lunch thing, you can make it around the clock of course, but if you want to catch it in the restaurants, it will have to be for lunch. Small tasty bites are the best, you just have to eat them at reduced speed. :D

    (I looked for the Citroen commercial but I couldn't find it, maybe it will air here later?)

  18. We just went to a restaurant in Portland this weekend that has æbleskiver (with lemon curd, lingonberry jam, or apple sauce) and smørrebrød! Unfortunately, we were there for breakfast, and they only served the smørrebrød for lunch, but we will go back sometime and try it :) I forget what types they had, but you get three different kinds, and I remember things like gravlax and boiled eggs and possibly pickled things being involved :)

    We had been to the restaurant before, but I never noticed the smørrebrød before :)

  19. Ah, now you start seeing smørrebrød, that's funny! Ever since this post I have been eating smørrebrød like there is no tomorrow, it is like I am seeing it with fresh eyes. It's like that old friend you suddenly realized you lost touch with, haha. :-)

  20. AnonymousMay 20, 2011

    I had the last photo made printed on a tote bag. It looks lovely.
    Thank you Føtex fotoservice and thank you Classic Copenhagen.
    Love from a girl in Århus :)


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