I'm done with work until the end of August, and heavily into preparations for my first journey, to spend a month in Lisbon. While there I will be staying with and seeing old friends. Of course, I would like to share my new culture with my old friends. And by culture, I mean food. I will therefore spend my first nights in Lisbon preparing that most portable of Danish foods, smørrebrød.
So, I have had my first experience as a smørrebrødsjomfru - literally, a spread (smørre) bread (brød) maiden (jomfru), which is the title given to the young ladies who make the smørrebrød in restaurants and cafés. Thor was my instructor; for each type of smørrebrød, he made a model, and then I made one following his example.
Smørrebrød is basically open-faced sandwiches, but much, much more. It's not complicated to make, but it's an art, all about the order of eating (first the fish, then the meat, then sometimes the cheese, though we skipped the cheese this time), which condiments go with which pålæg (toppings)...and presentation is everything.
It always starts with the bread, a Danish rye bread (rugbrød), covered with a not-skimpy layer of butter. The pålæg is put on top of this, and then this is pyntede (decorated) with the appropriate condiments. It is important that the bread be covered by the toppings: the bread is merely a carrier for the other stuff.
We made the following four classic smørrebrød varieties (presented in the order of preparation and also the order of eating):
1) Pålæg: a strip or two of white pickled herring (hvidsild). This is a very sweet herring. It is garnished with capers, diced onions, and dill.
2) Pålæg: a strip or two of red spiced pickled herring (krydderisild). This is a stronger herring. It is garnished with capers and onions, but no dill.
3) Dyrelægens Natmad: literally translated as 'the veterinarian's midnight snack', one of the most famous varieties. The first topping is leverpostej, a roughly ground liver paté. Then comes a big slice of sky (pronounced sort of like 'skoo'...but not quite). Sky is 'aspic' in English, a sort of gelatinized boullion. On top of that is a slice of 'saltkød' (literally, 'saltmeat'), which I've seen translated as corned beef, but it isn't. There is often a ring or two of raw onion as well, but I decided there was enough raw onion with the herring.
4) Pålæg: roast beef. This is covered with a line of remoulade, a section of grated dried onions, and a sprinkling of grated horseradish (in Danish, peberrod, or 'pepper root') to give it a bit of a kick.
Several of these ingredients are sort of acquired tastes...like the herring and the Danish bread. So, let's cross our fingers that my friends like it! If they don't, they'll at least get to wash it all down with Akvavit and Danish beer. Akvavit, (or snaps can be served instead), is specifically to accompany the fish, though people tend to keep drinking it with the other courses. Beer is, of course, meant to accompany pretty much anything in the Danish kitchen.