The art of the Scandinavian smørrebrød reflects something of abundance. Not gluttony, but rather a sense of appreciating the fullness of life’s blessings no matter the times, circumstances, or resources.
I’ve been thinking for several months about how the food of Scandinavia has long demonstrated elegance and hospitality even in tough times. Interviewing a cookbook author recently for an article confirmed that when she mentioned the food that Scandinavians would eat in time of poverty. The lesson I’m learning to distill from this: Cook simply, with creativity, quality ingredients, and love, and you’ll produce something elegant and you’ll be proud to bring to the table. And speaking of that table, dressing it with your finest linens and dishes can also elevate the experience.
This all brings me back to smørrebrød, or the open sandwiches that are popular in the Scandinavian countries. The word smørrebrød is so lively, conjuring up images of smearing soft, rich butter generously and evenly over a slice of bread. From there any number of toppings can be added, with shrimp, smoked salmon, and roast beef being some of the most well-known.
Though the smørrebrød pictured here appear simple–merely buttered bread topped with vivid green lettuce, a pile of shrimp, creme fraiche, cucumber, and lemon–the results are satisfying in a way that an ordinary sandwich, hastily thrown together and squished flat for transport to be eaten at work or on the go, isn’t. There’s an art to building smørrebrød, with rules for how they must be assembled, the care in presentation, and which type of bread must accompany a certain type of topping. Eaten with a fork and knife rather than held between one’s hands, the sandwich takes on a civilized air and encourages the diner to slow down and enjoy the meal, to be in the moment with one’s company and to savor the food.
Going back to the idea of abundance for a moment, take a look at these sandwiches. Piled high with generous amounts of shrimp, they need only one slice of bread. Paired with a couple other varieties, they make a full, satisfying meal. And to think that they often require no cooking–just creativity, quality ingredients, and love.
Shrimp Smørrebrød with Lemon and Cucumber This recipe is adapted from an NPR story, which itself is worth a read.
Smear the butter evenly over the bread, taking care to thinly and evenly cover the surface all the way to the ends. Cover fully with lettuce, then divide the shrimp between the two sandwiches, arranging them in neat piles in the center of the lettuce. Top each with a dollop of creme fraiche, and arrange a slice of lemon and cucumber on top. Garnish with dill.
UPDATE: Find even more seafood recipes in my book!