For challenge number 2 of Project Food Blog, we were asked to delve into our uncomfortable zones and create a classic dish from another culture. Oh how I went around and around, but ultimately my culinary, globe-trotting finger landed on the chilly country of Denmark.
That's Grandma Helen with her orange Slug-bug, my Dad and my Aunt (holding me).
I have only a handful of memories of my Danish Grandma Helen. Through the years, what I heard most about my grandma was her ability to create delicious pies, breads, cookies, roasts, gravies...you name it she could make it. I never got to cook with her, but I do have fond memories of her teaching me to knit. I can still hear the metal needles scraping together as we looped baby pink yarn over and over again. I loved the feeling of being tucked in next to her in her big arm chair.
So for the reasons of sentimentality and curiosity, I chose a Danish food art form: Smørrebrød. What's that? Well, it's an open-faced sandwich, hailed by the Danes as an absolute must for their regular diets.
Delightfully tangy Icelandic butter.
Qualifications for the smørrebrød are as follows:
Must be made on rye bread
Must have a layer of Danish butter, as a moisture barrier, from edge to edge- no scrimping!
Must always be open-faced
Must be eaten with a knife and fork
The extent of my experience with Danish food has been whatever IKEA was offering for the day. I think I actually ate a smørrebrød before, but I had no clue that it was an iconic food of Denmark. So I'm walking into this challenge with the culinary equivalent of being legally blind.
The liver in all it's wobbly glory.
I was definitely uncomfortable with my choice and purposely made sure I was. I found myself calling the meat counter at Whole Foods and inquiring about pork liver (which they didn’t have, but they did have beef liver) and if they could grind pork fat for me (which they could). I then perused the baking/bulk aisle desperately seeking, no not Susan, but rye flour. And guess what? They just discontinued it! Fabulous. But what’s more fabulous was that one of their employees, Carlos, called two different stores for me, then went and personally picked it up and brought it to my neighborhood store for me so I could pick it up there! Can you believe the service? I love Whole Foods.
Here’s the menu:
3 Classic Varieties of Smørrebrød
Curry Herring – Karrysild with hard boiled egg and fresh dill
Liver Paste – Leverpostej topped with pickled cucumbers, red onion and red leaf lettuce
Smoked Salmon and Baby Shrimp topped with thinly sliced red onion, lemon dill mayonnaise and hard boiled egg
Now, the smoked herring is for the curry herring, which is sinfully creamy. It's sort of a Danish version of tuna fish salad. I thought curry was a surprising element, as I don’t really think of curry when I think of the Danes, but it gives the salad a lovely color as well as taste.
Cradling my "liver baby". Well, maybe not 'cradling', more like tolerating.
The beef liver is obviously for the liver paste. This was, by far, the most daunting of all the components for me to make and try. I’ve never had liver. I’ve never pulverized it into a gelatinous paste before. I’ve never smelled its smell- it smelled very intensely beefy with a bouquet of vitamins. Not quite my cup of tea, but I forged through like any good Viking would- minus the head on a stake.
And then the quickest to make of the trio, was the smoked salmon and shrimp sandwich. All I had to do was boil the shrimp and make the lemon dill sauce. The sauce was something born out of my need for moisture on this particular smørrebrød. I mean, dill and lemon on salmon and shrimp? Lush.
The two-ton bread wad.
Then there was the bread. It certainly ran a close second to the liver paste, as far as anxiety goes. I let the bread “rise” for the recommended 2 hours and then some. Because of the monstrous amount of flour and yeast, I was expecting to walk into the kitchen and see that the giant dough ball had taken over the kitchen. I lifted the towel and it was as if it burped a giant, "wah, wah". Not much had happened, if anything.
I lugged it into its new home, the loaf pan. I said a Danish rye bread dough prayer and threw it in the oven.
I baked it, cooled it and then commenced the slicing. I felt as though I needed a chainsaw to get through the densely formed rectangular loaf, but instead I quietly emitted four-lettered words as I wielded my dull serrated knife. The slices fell like trees in the fjords of my motherland.
The best part of all the cooking and planning was the composition of the sandwiches. Layering the textures and colors was like making a culinary collage. What I enjoyed most was knowing that I was making something that connected me to my family- family I didn't get to have that much time with. I'm pretty sure grandma would have enjoyed one of these after our cozy knitting session.
All of these recipes were adapted from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Denmark, Embassy of Denmark, Brasilia http://www.ambbrasilia.um.dk/en/menu/InfoDenmark/DanishRecipes/SmoerrebroedOpenfacedSandwiches/
I was told to enjoy a beer with the sandwiches. Trust me, I enjoyed it.
Curry Herring - Karrysild
4 marinated whole herrings (I used smoked herring)
2 hard-boiled eggs
1 chopped onion
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablebsp. cream
2 teasp. curry powder
salt and pepper
hard-boiled eggs and parsley for garnish
Cut herrings into small pieces. Slice eggs. Layer herring and eggs in bowl. Put chopped onion on top. Mix mayonnaise with cream and curry powder. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Pour dressing over herring and decorate with sliced hard-boiled eggs and chopped parsley. This can be artfully arranged in a clear glass bowl to show the layers. (I didn't do the arty part. I just mixed it all up together.)
A darling duo.
Liver Paste - Leverpostej
1 lb. pork liver ( I used beef liver)
3/4 lb. pork fat (the butcher ground it for me)
2 tablesp. butter
2 tablesp. flour
2 cups milk
1 chopped onion
3/4 teasp. pepper
1 tablesp. salt
½ teasp. allspice
Put liver and fat through meat grinder (I used the food processor) about 5 times. Melt butter. Add flour, stirring to blend. Add milk and cook until smooth. Add this cream sauce to liver mixture. Add eggs, chopped onion and spices. Beat well. Bake in a loaf pan set in a pan of shallow water for 1¼ hours at 350oF. Serve cool as a sandwich spread decorated with pickles or pickled beets.
Cucumber salad - Agurkesalat
3 teasp. salt
2 tablesp. vinegar
2 tablesp. water
1 tablesp. sugar
Pinch of pepper
Wash and slice the cucumber finely. Sprinkle with salt. Place in a marinade previously prepared by boiling the vinegar, water, sugar and pepper together and allowing to cool. Leave in a cold place for about two hours before serving.
If, instead of vinegar, lemon juice is preferred, do not boil the marinade but stir in the sugar until dissolved.
These are what I put on top of the liver paste sandwich.
She's a brick...houzzzzze. Or just a brick, really.
Rye-bread - rugbrød
3 ½ oz (100 g) yeast
1 pint (5 dl) buttermilk
3-4 tablesp. (1 dl) water
About 1 3/4 lb (850 g) rye flour (I would say ¾ of my flour ended up being whole wheat flour)
1 teasp. salt
All the ingredients should be at room temperature before baking.
Heat the buttermilk and water until lukewarm (35° C), stir in the yeast and gradually add the salt and flour. Knead until smooth and shiny, adding a little more water if necessary. Cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise in a warm place for 2 hours with no draft.
When risen, knead lightly, transfer to a greased form and set aside for 1 hour to rise again, covering with a damp cloth. Brush with water and bake at 400° F (200o C) for about 1 1/4 hr, brushing now and again with water during the baking.
Lemon Dill Sauce
¼ cup mayo
¼ cup sour cream
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. fresh dill
salt and pepper
Blend it all up into a smooth creamy sauce. Drizzle it over the smoked salmon and tiny shrimp and top with hard boiled egg and thinly sliced red onion.
The Hubs devouring the post-photographed Danish delights.
Love ya, Foodies!