Smørrebrød is a Danish word that simply translates to buttered bread. What comes after the butter has been spread, however, is where plain bread is elevated to an absolute art form.
There is specific etiquette associated with composing and consuming these fabulous Danish open-faced sandwiches:
- It would not be prudent to lift the sandwich to the mouth and risk the precious toppings falling off. A knife and fork are required.
- Proteins are not mixed, each smørrebrød has a stand-alone special protein.
- Several types of smørrebrød sandwiches are to be eaten in a particular order: herring is always enjoyed first, then other fish, then on to meats and last, cheeses.
- The bread is always spread with a generous portion of butter, for taste, of course, but it also adds a protective layer to keep the other ingredients from turning the bread into a soggy mess.
- Dense dark rye bread is the bread used most often, and always paired with herring. But sometimes white bread is used and often paired with smoked salmon.
- The toppings always generously cover the entire piece of bread in an artful manner.
In planning to make a sardine smørrebrød, I chose ingredients that have a natural affinity for the fish: fennel, orange, lemon, dill, onion, garlic, chili. As always, color and texture enhance the taste, so I added peppery pink radish and some edible flowers too. It is the presentation that makes this open-faced sandwich so compelling.
Sustainable wild-caught sardines are a nutritional powerhouse. Ounce per ounce they boast more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach, more potassium than coconut water, and as much protein as steak.
Sardines are an excellent source of Omega 3s and low in mercury due to their petite size on the food chain. Canned sardines are readily available and have a long shelf-life. Lightly smoked canned sardines packed in extra virgin olive oil that are cleaned and scale-free are preferred.
Mimosas make the perfect sparkling orange accompaniment. Be sure to toast with friends between bites. Cheers and Skol!
Sardine Smørrebrød Recipe
- Lodge Bread Co. Seeded Country Loaf or your favorite dense dark rye bread
- European-style butter
- quick pickled radish
- high-quality sardines, cleaned and scale-free, packed in extra virgin olive oil
- white onion, very thinly sliced
- shaved fennel salad
- chopped dill
- edible flowers
Quick Pickled Radish:
- cider vinegar
Thinly slice radishes, place in a shallow bowl. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar and a half tablespoon of kosher salt. Cover with cider vinegar. Let sit until ready to compose.
Shaved Fennel Salad:
- fennel bulb
- lemon juice
- olive oil
- garlic, minced
- red chile flakes
In a medium bowl, whisk one part lemon juice with two parts olive oil. Add garlic, salt, and red chile flakes to taste. Slice fennel bulb very thin. Toss fennel in the lemon mixture.
Spread bread with butter, covering the entire piece of bread.
Drain pickled radish on paper towels, then arrange pickled radish over the butter.
Drain olive oil from sardines. Coarsely mash sardines with the back of a fork to spread the fish over the entire piece of bread.
Top sardines with paper-thin white onion and fennel salad. Sprinkle dill on top. Garnish with caperberries and edible flowers.
Hungry for more Scandinavian Open-Faced Sandwiches?
Try this one: