Smørrebrød is a really hard word to say and equally hard to spell. Is it something easy to
understand? I think so. I had the extreme pleasure of traveling to Denmark and Sweden with my amazing wife Whitney for my 50th birthday, and what an amazing trip it was. We were lucky enough to dine in a couple classic Danish and Swedish Smørrebrød and Smörgås (Swedish word) restaurants. Both terms refer to the most basic definitional level of Smørrebrød as buttered bread. But there is a lot more to Smørrebrød than butter and bread.
As we prepared to open our Slo Food Market, every place we went and traveled became part of the research to bring a world market with amazing flavors, coupled with a local sourcing ethos, together in downtown Sheboygan. Copenhagen and the Danish food scene in general were amazing to me. While there are a myriad of amazing Michelin starred restaurants in Copenhagen, the real star of the food scene and the real favorite among locals, dating back centuries, is the simple yet elegant and exotic Smørrebrød. This was something working class factory workers took to work as industrialization saw the end of lunches at home. Smørrebrød usually consists of a slice of buttered rye bread, topped with pickled or cured fish, fermented vegetables, as well as smoked and cured meats. Often finished off with some fish roe, creme fraiche or horseradish, or herbal adornment, these things can be real works of art.
There are even a few rules around the eating of Smørrebrød. The base is almost always a slice of amazing, low glycemic, rye bread. Ours is the amazing Slo Food Dinkelbrot, a spelt and rye bread I wanted to bake ever since studying European Business law in Germany during my college years. We learned this recipe at Zingermans in Ann Arbor Michigan during a staff training trip almost five years ago. I begged the owners Frank and Amy the for the recipe, and they were gracious enough to share it with us. So buttered bread is the base, then maybe some smoked trout mousse, then a little cured salmon, finished off with a little trout roe and a fennel frond. That’s on one sandwich! Or how about some horseradish and creme fraiche mixed together with some roast beef on top and radish. Another good one is shingles of hard boiled egg with tiny shrimp and mayo with creme fraiche and dill. In the case of shrimp, the bread should be white, so as not to mask the delicate flavor of the seafood. The order of eating should always be seafood or fish first, followed by meat, and finally cheese. And there is never a top piece of bread. That’s what I really love. Not only is the bread a low gluten, low glycemic rye and spelt bread, there is no top slice. Why? Because the bread is so substantial and healthful that you don’t need two. And with a top slice, the artistic over-the-top look of these masterpieces is lost. It’s another example of less being more. Less bread, but better bread. Fewer ingredients but amazing local fresh ones. Like our local organic rye and spelt in our Dinkelbrot. Or the 100% grass fed and finished local roast beef we use. Or how about the tens of thousands of dollars we spend annually on local produce and herbs with which we garnish the top! Or the sustainably caught and abundant herring we serve during the winter. In a sense, this reminds me of my first love, Italian cuisine. Simple recognizable ingredients, impeccably sourced, put together simply as an act of product and producer respect.
In closing, I like to also think about Smørrebrød figuratively, in the sense that at Slo Food market, we would like to be the ones to butter your bread; to be the plate upon which you or
we create a beautiful meal. I like to think that Slo Food market is a real Smörgåsbord for the
customer. A place where amazingly talented butchers, bakers and chefs and other passionate people, can help you take carefully sourced products with a local story, and create beautiful whole food based meals. We smoke the local turkey, roast the local beef, cure and smoke the ham, cure the salmon, bake the breads with local organic flour. You get the point. At Slo Food market, we do the best possible job of getting out of the way between you and the amazing producers and products we source from our back yard as well as around the world. So come in and enjoy a Smørrebrød, a taste of another countries food history, using local products, right here in downtown Sheboygan!