Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Super Sandwich Supper

So the New York Times Magazine put  "Photos of your open-faced sandwich" on their "Meh List:  Not Hot, Not Not, Just Meh."  I don't care. I'm still excited to share our version of a Danish smorrebrod dinner, composed of slices from a beautiful rye, cracked wheat, and cider sourdough loaf topped with gorgeous things from the woods, the garden,  farmers market, local farms, and Superior's clean waters.  Maybe a tuna melt is meh; not this, no way.

What I loved about this meal--besides how beautiful it was, besides how wonderful it tasted--was the way it combined such an amazing diversity of local products in a plate that was beyond delicious:  It was deeply and deliciously meaningful.  It was the kind of thing that led me to compose the Trout Caviar Manifesto, way back when:  "Our stuff is as good as anybody's stuff, and part of the reason it's good is that it's ours."  I'm more convinced of that all the time, as if I should need convincing.

Let me just tell you what this was made of, and where it all came from.  Oh, the smorrebrod concept, that's a Danish institution that's making a comeback and making the rounds thanks to the boom in interest in Nordic foods, foraging, and down-home ingredients.  It's open-face sandwiches--knife & fork sandwiches--usually built on a thin slice of sturdy rye, well-buttered, topped with savory things.  That'll work here.  Hope Creamery butter, unsalted, is our daily spread.

Roast Beets and Shaved Fennel in Maple-Blackberry Vinaigrette, Hard-Cooked Farm Egg:  Beets and fennel from our garden; vinaigrette with our blackberry-infused apple cider vinegar, Connorsville maple syrup, Smude Minnesota cold-pressed sunflower oil, farmers market garlic, eggs from Tina's hens

Smoked Lake Trout in Yogurt-Basil Dressing, Quick-Pickled Snow Peas, Carrot, and Onion:  Everett's (Port Wing, WI) Lake Superior smoked trout; peas, carrots, jalapeno, and basil from our garden, onion from the farmers market, pickled in our cider vinegar, Connorsville honey, salt; home-cultured yogurt from Connorsville milk (and a bit of Hellmann's)

Roasted Chanterelles and Yellow Rose Finn Fingerlings with Sweet Onion and Bacon:  Foraged chanterelles, farmers market potatoes and onion, home-smoked bacon, Marieke aged gouda from Thorp, Wisconsin

Excuse me for going a little giddy.  It's the height of summer, everything is ripe, and I feel like I'm sitting at the hub of a great wheel of extraordinary food.  A slice of good bread and butter makes a splendid canvas for showing off the best of seasonal produce.  Set your imagination free from preconceived notions of sandwich toppings.  Now I'll let these very, very not-meh pictures tell the story, with just a little commentary, and formulas.

The chanterelles really got going last week.  I brought home a couple of pounds from the Wisconsin woods.  Almost as good are the yellow rose fingerling potatoes that we purchased at a Menomonie farmers market--lovely red skins and buttery pale yellow flesh.  This is the kind of spud that earns an AOC.  I used 7 or 8 medium chanterelles (about 2 inches across the cap), 5 potatoes, half a small sweet onion, and just a few slivers of bacon.  I placed all in a gratin dish, started it at 425 and immediately turned the oven down to 350. Roast for about 30 minutes, stirring often, until potatoes and chanterelles are brown and tender.  Let cool to room temperature, mound on buttered bread, top with thin slices of cheese, not too much.  Of course this could be a side dish as well as a smorrebrod topping.

Roast beets in a covered baking dish at 425 until tender--40 minutes to an hour or more, it's always hard to tell with beets.  I always make more beets than I need for a given dish--cooked beets are great to have in the fridge in summer for quick salads or garnish.  There's often a bit of juice in the dish after roasting, and I used some in my vinaigrette this time, about a tablespoon.  It can be bitter, so taste it straight up to decide if you want to use it.  A little bitter is okay.  It adds a spicy earthiness to the dressing.  We harvested our first bulb of fennel from the garden, and it was amazingly sweet and aromatic.  It was a small bulb, and I shaved half of it into the salad with the Benriner, used some greens, too.

2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon beet roasting juice
large clove garlic minced
1 tablespoon blackberry or raspberry vinegar (or red wine or cider vinegar, just fine)
chopped fennel greens, about 1 tablespoon
lots of freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
two good pinches salt

At the bottom of the page where Mary wrote recipe notes it says, "Outstanding."  We topped the beet sandwiches with sliced hard-cooked egg and a sprig of fennel green.

I have a problematic relationship with basil.  I love its summery scent, but I sort of ODed on it back in those distant days when America discovered pesto, so now I approach it warily.  However, a few leaves chopped into this yogurt-mayo dressing was wonderful, especially with the smokiness of the fish.

1/4 cup yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (I didn't make this, it was Hellmann's)
chopped basil and flat-leaf parsley to taste
couple pinches salt

Mix and add to a generous cup of flaked smoked lake trout or other smoked fish--herring, whitefish, etc.

For the quick-pickled vegetables, combine in a small saucepan:

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 a jalapeno seeded and slivered
1 teaspoon salt

Bring to a boil and add thinly sliced carrot (1 medium) and onion (1/2 small); simmer for 2 minutes.  Add a handful of snow peas and a few shelled peas, simmer 1 minute, remove from heat.  Let the vegetables cool in the brine.  Use to top the trout salad.

Text and photos copyright 2012 by Brett Laidlaw


el said...

Wow Brett that looks great. Wonder if you composed this before seeing the NYT story on galloping scandihoovianism in MN cuisine? One of my CSA people made open-faced sandwiches w/ smoked Lk MI salmon, my chevre, my ww sourdough, cukes & dill for the family dinner last night. I think I might have to repeat it for lunch today for myself.

3 cheers for knives, forks and sandwiches!

Tom said...

Nice smörgås! Glad you ignored the haters at the New York Times and shared these

Jennifer said...

Yep, those toppings look fantastic and mouth-watering.

But what I really want is your bread recipe. Pretty please?

Jen said...

Would love your bread recipe as well. A beautiful post that provided respite during my lunch break.

Trout Caviar said...

Hi El: I have not read the NYT piece, though I've seen mention of it. I must say, one or two restaurants does not a movement make--if that were so we'd be on the rising tide of a great South American restaurant boom, as I think there's as many or more of those as there are the Scando joints. Anyway, in spite of all the blond hair and blue eyes, it's not as if real Scandinavian food is the heritage here; we are rather far from an ocean, and tuna noodle hot dish is our Nordic cuisine, not gravlax.

Tom, I wouldn't say the Times is hating on sandwich art, they're just, you know, indifferent. Meh.

Jennifer and Jen, nice to hear from you both. Recipe? I ain't got no stinking recipe. The seven+ years I did the market baking I strived for a certain consistency; now I never make the same bread twice. I can sort of recreate how this one happened. You need a robust sourdough starter. Mine is semi-liquid, like thick pancake batter when it's ready to use. I start with about two cups of that, add about two cups of water, then, in this case some semi-hard/semi-sweet cider, about 3/4 cup, I'd guess. Then a generous 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt. For the flour, I put in around a cup and a half of whole wheat bread flour, two cups of rye flour, a generous cup of cracked wheat, and then the rest was unbleached white--I like Dakota Maid all-purpose. Don't overmix the dough at first. Add flour till it's pretty thick, let it rest to absorb the liquids. Come back to it and dump it out on your counter and knead for a few minutes, adding flour as necessary. You don't want it too sticky. When it's manageable and has a bit of a bounce, you're good. I had about 5 1/2 pounds of dough. Put it back in the bowl and let it proof a good while, at least 6 hours, I'd say. You can "cheat" and add a couple pinches of dry yeast at the start if you're not confident of your starter. Then you'll want to proof it in loaf form a good hour and a half. I baked it at 425 atop my baking stone, with ice cubes tossed in the oven to make steam. The big loaves in pans baked about 35 minutes, then rested in the turned-off oven for around five. I'll try to get better measurements when I make this again--I would like to be able to recreate it.

Cheers~ Brett

s said...

That is a beautiful loaf, and the sandwiches definitely do it justice.

John said...

Love that you don't use a bread recipe, Brett. True sign you know what you're doing. Hope all is well.


Trout Caviar said...

Hi Sara: Thanks, I was definitely pleased with that batch. I don't usually use a loaf pan, but I wanted the uniform shape for the smorrebrod.

John, thanks. I should do a post about our Real Bread enterprise, which ran from spring 2003 to summer of 2010. During that time we produced easily 10,000 loaves of bread in an ordinary home kitchen--two 30" ovens, no mixer, a whole bunch of 8-quart stainless mixing bowl from Target, a French bread paddle from E. Dehillerin, lots of elbow grease, sweat, and a few tears. I started this blog when we were in the midst of it, so I assumed most of my readers knew the story. It might make an amusing tale for those who don't know it.

All is well here, the heat has somewhat abated, or is about to. Hope you're enjoying east coast life.

Cheers~ Brett

Amy said...

Hey Brett, beautiful toasts! I love how this shows how you're literally drowning in bounty. Same story up here, helluva summer. Best to you--Amy

Anonymous said...

The roasted beet recipe looks great. Beets are the vegetable of the year in Duluth this year. http://www.facebook.com/pages/One-Vegetable-One-Community/146082078800153

and thanks for your book Trout Caviar. I just picked it up at the library. I was wondering what to do with the large quantity of chicken-of-the woods I found yesterday. I think I'll bake them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme as you recommend on page 76. I feel like we're friends after reading your cookbook. Stop by our gardens next time you're in Duluth.
Michael Gabler 218.464.8640

Trout Caviar said...

Thanks for checking in, Amy. After reading your latest, I feel like we're cruising along companionably in parallel universes.

Michael, thank you for your note. It's nice to learn I have friends I didn't even know about--certainly beats the inverse situation. Thanks also for the invitation. It has been too long since I've visited the North Shore.

Cheers~ Brett