Photo: Lynda Balslev for NPR
What image comes to mind when you hear the words "open-face sandwich"? A pile of slobbery slices of greasy meat like the ones you find at diners all across the United States?
Well, leave it to the Danes to elevate open-face sandwich to a yummy artform. Lynda Balslev explains the history of Smorrebrod, as well as a few recipes (at the end):
Smorrebrod, which translates as "butter bread," includes countless open-face sandwich combinations, from minimal to lavish. How they are assembled varies with the occasion. However, they share a specific preparation method and order in which they are eaten. They also share ingredients that reflect straightforward Scandinavian sensibilities, using simple, honest, local food attractively presented with little waste. This is as close to ceremony as you will find in the easygoing Danish culture.
The origin of the open-face sandwich is the European Middle Ages, when thick slices of stale bread, or trenchers, served as plates. The trenchers absorbed the juice and flavor of the toppings and then were discarded. Over time, the bread was incorporated into the meal because the food-soaked "plate" was often the tastiest component.