Pronounced smuhr-broht, this is an open-faced sandwich built on a thin layer of dense sourdough rye bread enjoyed mostly in Denmark. But those who have had one consider it the best sandwich in existence.
The name of the sandwich itself comes from the words for butter (smør) and bread (brød). However, you’ll rarely find one that limits itself to those two ingredients. According to Danish food expert Trine Hahnemann, smørrebrød became the default option for an inexpensive, satisfying lunch in the late 19th century when factory workers began eating their midday meal away from home.
These days, on a slice of bread no bigger than a deck of cards, and include rivers of caper-spiked mayonnaise to pyramids of meatballs. Marcus Schioler, the blogger behind Danish Sandwich, explains that smørrebrød ought to be “arranged in such a way that it looks nice, with more detailed texture and contrast than an ordinary sandwich.” And it’s these details and contrasts that make smørrebrød the best sandwich you’re not eating.
Try a classic roast beef with pickles, onions, and horseradish, which celebrate the rich and tender beef with the watery crunch of thinly cut pickles and brittle bite of red onion. To round out a smørrebrød meal, try pairing a blue cheese with thin slices of mellow pear for a sweet contrast to the thick, funky dairy. When the toppings are arranged so that they cover the bread without overlapping, there’s enough flavor to keep you satisfied, while letting you want one more bite.
Whether you opt for five different types of fish or a single slice of exquisite cheese, carefully selected toppings set smørrebrød apart from their less inspired brethren. The classic pickled herring smørrebrød contrasts tangy rugbrød with briny fish, while the crunchy onion complements the dense, earthy-sweet bread. Butter neutralizes the assertive sourdough flavor and cuts the bite of pickled herring. When properly combined, the topping should blend harmoniously with the bread, butter, and garnishes, rather than compete for attention.