Recipe 3: Smorrebrod (An Open-Faced Sandwich, But Better)

  • Christian Piencka
  • July 01, 2024

Hey gang!

Just in time for the change of the season, this edition of “Cooking with Christian,” I’m leaning into my Scandinavian heritage (and DockATot’s Scandinavian roots) to present a flexible meal option: Smorrebrod. Translated literally it’s “butter bread”. It is, however, so much more than bread and butter and really up to your taste buds or perhaps just what you’ve got in your refrigerator and pantry.

There are many variations to Smorrebrod, and they often vary based on where you’re from. In my family, we often served a variety of these open-faced sandwiches as part of welcoming guests and typically as a mid-day kind of meal. They came to mind this month because as a kid in Norway and we’d celebrate the summer solstice with a meal together (often smorrebrod) and then walk to the ocean where we enjoyed bonfires (known as Sankthansbålet) with our neighbors and local community alongside singing, dancing and tons of other activities for the kids.

There are a couple of core components and then the rest is up to your creativity. You must absolutely have a good, dense rye bread, and a REAL butter spread. I suppose you could substitute the butter for other spreads, but making “butter bread” without butter seems controversial at best ;)

I encourage you to look up different variations, but will share some of the most common concoctions from our family:

Roast Beef:

We’ll start with a thin slice of the densest rye bread you can find and slather a generous layer of butter as your base. Add a leafy green layer – whether you choose a standard lettuce or something more flavorful like an arugula depends on your preference. After you add on a layer of thinly sliced roast beef, it’s time to kick up the flavor by adding some creamy remoulade and crispy fried onions. My favourite remoulade comes together easily with the following ingredients mixed in a small bowl:

·      ¼ cup mayonnaise

·      1 tablespoon of chopped cornichons or finely chopped pickles

·      1 teaspoon of capers (I like to smash them a bit so you don’t get whole pieces)

·      1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh parsley

·      1 teaspoon of a sharp Dijon mustard

·      ½ tsp salt

·      A few cracks of pepper to taste

·      Optional: just a tip of a teaspoon of horseradish


Egg & Veggie

This simple vegetarian version can easily be modified based on what you have available, but starting with the same bread and butter base, add a layer of green (for this instance, I prefer something less flavorful like a butter lettuce), thinly sliced hard-boiled egg, thinly sliced tomato, and thinly sliced cucumber. I like to add a some thinly sliced radish as garnish, too. I have seen lots of people level-up this base sandwich with shrimp, caviar, or even lump crab.


Liver Pate

While not as common in the US, liver pate is a common sandwich spread in Scandic households. To dress it up for smorrebrod there are various combinations, but our house would typically spread a thick layer of the leverpostei, add thinly sliced pickled red beets, crumbled/diced bacon and sometimes slices of sky (which is a gelatinized take on au jus).



While I’m personally not a huge fan of Salmon (smoked or in any form), I would be remiss if I didn’t include a salmon smorrebrod in my line-up. Using our same base (or swapping the butter for cream cheese), layer up some smoked salmon, thinly sliced cucumber, and then top with lemon zest, finely chopped chives and fresh dill. It’s very common to garnish with a thin slice of lemon as well.

I hope you’re able to try some of these out and get creative with you own variations. Just keep in mind, that since these sandwiches are often crafted with several toppings, I suggest you considering using a fork and knife to enjoy them.

Happy Summer!


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