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Nordic Design

Scandinavian open-face sandwiches are tasty works of art.

Smorbord: Hearty bread sliced thin and spread with butter is piled high with apple slices, pickled herring, and cucumber, then garnished with a sprig of dill.
Smorbord: Hearty bread sliced thin and spread with butter is piled high with apple slices, pickled herring, and cucumber, then garnished with a sprig of dill. (Photo by Jim Scherer, styling by George Simons)

Small open-face sandwiches are big in Scandinavia. The Norwegians call them smorbrod, meaning "buttered bread." The Danish use a similar name - smorrebrod.To the Swedes, the sandwiches themselves are smorgas, while the more familiar term smorgasbord literally means "bread-and-butter table" and represents a selection of small hot and cold dishes - including sandwiches, of course - served buffet style.

Toppings are limited only by your tastes and imagination. On a trip to Norway this summer, I observed that pate seems to be a national favorite, but cold cuts, sliced leftover meat, cheese, and eggs are also common, as are all manner of anchovies, sardines, herring, salmon, shellfish, and fish roe.

Just a couple of rules apply to smorbrod. The bread must be hearty and dark (think rye, pumpernickel, and whole grain) and sliced thin, and the butter is always applied generously and to the very edges of the bread. As for toppings, pile them high and spread them out, but keep them neat. Though smorbrod are hearty knife-and-fork fare, they should always appear attractive and carefully crafted, reflecting the simple, modern design for which the Scandinavians are admired.

PATE SANDWICHES WITH ONION AND PICKLED BEETS
MAKES 6

Butter, softened for spreading
6 thin slices rye, pumpernickel, or whole-grain bread, preferably about 4 by 5 inches
12 ounces liver pate
1/4 medium red onion, chopped very fine
12 ounces pickled beets, sliced thin
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

Generously spread the butter on each slice of bread right to the edges. Spread about 2 ounces pate on each slice of buttered bread, then sprinkle each with a heaping tablespoon of chopped onion. Lay 2 to 3 slices of beet on each sandwich, sprinkle each with about 2 teaspoons chopped chives, and serve.

SCRAMBLED EGG AND SMOKED SALMON SANDWICHES
MAKES 6

Don't rush to serve these sandwiches while the scrambled eggs are still hot. Many Scandinavians prefer them at room temperature.

Butter, softened for spreading, plus extra for the pan
6 thin slices rye, pumpernickel, or whole-grain bread, preferably about 4 by 5 inches
5 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
12 ounces smoked salmon, lox, or gravlax, cut into 12 thin slices
1/2 small lemon, seeded and cut into 6 very thin slices
6 sprigs fresh dill

Generously spread the butter on each slice of bread right to the edges and set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, milk, and salt and pepper until uniformly yellow. In a medium nonstick skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Swirl pan to coat the bottom with melted butter. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and, using a heat-safe, nonstick-compatible spatula, push the eggs from side to side, carefully lifting and folding them until they form large, loose curds, about 1 minute. Immediately transfer the scrambled eggs to a medium bowl and set aside to cool.

When the eggs have cooled, divide them among the 6 slices of bread. Top each sandwich with 2 slices of smoked salmon. Add a thin slice of lemon and a sprig of dill, and serve.

EGG, TOMATO, AND ANCHOVY SANDWICHES
MAKES 6

If you can find Scandinavian anchovies, which are slightly sweet, subtly spiced, and less salty than Mediterranean varieties, use them. Otherwise, to eliminate some of the salt, soak anchovies in cold water for 5 minutes, rinse under running water, and pat dry.

Butter, softened for spreading
6 thin slices rye, pumpernickel, or whole-grain bread, preferably about 4 by 5 inches
6 large eggs
6 tender lettuce leaves, washed and dried well
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
2 medium tomatoes, cored and cut into a total of 12 slices
12 whole anchovy fillets
6 sprigs fresh parsley

Generously spread the butter on each slice of bread right to the edges and set aside.

Fill a large bowl with ice and water and set aside. In a large pot, cover the eggs with cool water by about 1 inch and bring to a boil. As soon as the water boils, remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let stand 9 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, immediately transfer the eggs to the ice water and let stand for 5 minutes. Remove the eggs from the water, tap all over on the work surface, then gently roll them to break the shells. Peel the eggs and cut each into thin slices, keeping each sliced egg separate.

Lay a lettuce leaf on each slice of bread. Top each leaf with 1 sliced egg, salt and pepper, then 2 slices of tomato. Lay 2 anchovy fillets in an X over the tomatoes, top with a sprig of parsley, and serve.

HERRING SANDWICHES WITH APPLE AND CUCUMBER
MAKES 6

Butter, softened for spreading
6 thin slices rye, pumpernickel, or whole-grain bread, preferably about 4 by 5 inches
1 large Granny Smith apple, cored and very thinly sliced
16 ounces herring in sour cream or wine sauce, drained if using the latter
Pepper, to taste
1/2 medium cucumber, sliced very thin
6 sprigs fresh dill

Generously spread the butter on each slice of bread right to the edges. Lay 2 or 3 apple slices on each slice of bread. Top the apple with a generous portion of herring (include some of the onion from the jar), about 1/3 cup per sandwich, and pepper. Lay 2 or 3 cucumber slices over the herring, top with a sprig of dill, and serve.

Send comments and suggestions to Adam Ried at cooking@globe.com.

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