It's heating up here on the first day of July, and the humidity is rising with the temps. And though it's Canada Day today, and our American Independence Day coming up this weekend, I'm thinking about things Danish. I am thinking, specifically, of smørrebrød, those Danish open-face sandwiches that are so appealing this time of year.
To the Danes, smørrebrød is more than a food, it's a keystone of the culture. But I've also read that it's a fading one. While a 1986 New York Times article reported that 90 percent of Copenhagen's restaurants focused on smørrebrød, a Saveur magazine article of a couple years back was tolling its death knell. Younger people considered smørrebrød quant and old-fashioned, Saveur reported. Most of Copenhagen's smørrebrød restaurants were frequented by tourists.
My forays into smørrebrød may not be wholly authentic, but I'm happy to try to keep its spirit alive. Well, any meal based on bread is bound to find a tender spot in a baker's heart, and the wonderful variety of (usually) cold toppings makes this a perfect sort of food for a summer brunch or dinner on a warm evening.
My smørrebrød lunch today was simply an opportunistic omnivore's treat. I had the end of a loaf of caraway rye (I managed to save us a loaf from the market baking last week; I can't tell you how many times I've gotten home from the market, looked around the kitchen, and realized there wasn't a crust of bread to be found...). I had a little pickled ramp mayo in the fridge. Some of our home-smoked bacon just begging to be eaten up. And a jar of pickled turnips--nabo encurtido--from Peter and Carmen. The jar says these are "Peter's Pickles," but I'm guessing that Carmen knows a little more about Peruvian pickled turnips than Peter.... (Sorry blurry photo; the condensation on the jar messes up the camera.)
Smørrebrød frequently features pig and pickles. My use of the ramp mayo in place of butter is a variant, maybe a deviant--the base of good butter spread coast to coast on the rye is de rigeur in an authentic smørrebrød, but as I say, I'm honoring the spirit here.
So: the thin-sliced rye, liberally spread with pickled ramp mayo*, topped with the thin-sliced bacon gently rendered to not-quite-crisp, topped with a couple slices of Carmen's lovely sweet & sour turnip slices. A dab of dill** and a little sweet market onion is all it needs.
I poured a glass of Cuvée Bide-A-Wee 2009, our hard apple cider that is coming along wonderfully. Working at home does have certain advantages.
* To make pickled ramp mayo, make pickled ramps; make mayo, but use just a little lemon juice in preparing the basic mayo, a squeeze or two. When the mayo is finished, add two pickled ramps, chopped fine, and two tablespoons of the pickled ramp brine. Taste for seasoning, and add a little more lemon juice if needed, to balance the sweetness of the brine. You could substitute another sort of sweet-and-sour pickled onion.
** I threw the dill on there at the end just to give a little green contrast to the white turnip--I don't generally add superfluous cosmetic garnishes to my lunch. But you know, come to eat it, the dill really helped pull everything together, just that little bit. The previous few years my garden has been overtaken by a volunteer dill jungle. This year, there's hardly any out there. Weird, weird gardening year.
Text and photos copyright 2010 by Brett Laidlaw