I am very glad to be back, after not posting for almost two weeks. I was knocked out by a very debilitating virus from which I am still recovering. Also, I was without a camera, but now am the proud new owner of a Canon T4i. I am still learning how to use it to best advantage, so you’ll have to cut me some slack on the photos for a while. So, dear friends, let’s get to the recipe at hand.
Recently I was invited to a potluck to which we were asked to bring a dish representing our ethnic heritage. I am French, German, Norwegian and Danish, so I had many dishes I could make, but I wanted to bring something different that the other potluckers may not have tried before. I was sorting through the memories of my childhood and what really stood out were the Norwegian and Danish dishes my Mom and Grandma used to make, some of which were complicated and time consuming. One item that appeared frequently was the pickled herring that came in a jar and required no effort beyond a twist of the wrist. We always ate the sweet wine-marinated little fish fillets on soda crackers topped with some of the sliced onions that came in the jar.
In order to get the full Danish experience I decided to do the whole thing, with authentic Danish rye bread, which is dark, dense and full of sunflower seeds. There is a wonderful blog called Danish Open Sandwiches which is entirely devoted to Smørrebrød, one of, if not the national dish of Denmark. After watching a video on how to make the rye bread, I decided it would be too much to find the rye berries and grind them to the right size. Instead, I opted to make the bread from a mix that is sold at Ikea. The ingredients match exactly those in the video, so I felt it would be very close to the real thing.
The Ikea rye bread has a unique way of mixing. You open the carton and pour the water right in, then shake the carton for a minute before pouring it into your greased bread pan. No dirty dishes. Here you can see the unbaked dough after it has risen in the oven for an hour with the oven light on. It has doubled in size. I have never made this type of bread before, so I was having a lot of fun watching how the whole process played out.
This bread is like a heavy brick. I tried slicing it when it first came out of the oven and was still warm. Big mistake. The serrated knife just tore it in a jagged slice and the inside was really moist, almost like not cooked enough. I had read in my research not to try to cut when warm, but I am one of those people who never listen. So I then did what I was instructed to do, which was wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate over night. The next day, the interior of the bread was solid and I chose my other serrated knife with large scallops to slice it. They turned out perfect and I was able to make really thin slices that did not break apart. Good old yeast and her friend gluten. This bread is not sweet, but has a tang to it from sourdough starter.
I was very happy to find a recipe for Skagen Sild on Danish Open Sandwiches that featured pickled herring and had the added interest of crunchy sweet diced apple. The diced herring and apple are mixed with sour cream, mayo and a little Dijon, plus minced shallots and dill or tarragon. I made mine with tarragon, but dill would be more authentic. The mixture is sweet from the apples and the wine marinade. I believe if you have never tried pickled herring, and think it might be yuck, this is a good positive introduction. If you are interested in Smørrebrød, go to Danish Open Sandwiches for a myriad of recipes and totally humerous writing about the food and lore of Denmark. By the way, Smørrebrød means buttered bread in Danish, the butter being slathered on quite liberally. Skagen (pronounced skay-en) is a beach town on the most northern tip of Denmark and Sild is the Danish word for herring. Oh, and the beaches in Skagen are topless. Ok, that’s another story.
Smørrebrød ~ Skagen Sild
Adapted from www.danishsandwich.com
9-10 pickled herring fillets, cut in ½-inch pieces
3 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 shallot, finely minced
½ apple, ¼-inch dice
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped dill or tarragon
Buttered sliced Danish rye bread
Chopped chives, for garnish
Dill fronds or sprouts, for garnish
1. Mix herring salad ingredients together in a medium bowl.
2. Liberally butter bread slices and top with herring salad. Garnish with chopped chives and a dill frond or sprouts.
Note: Skagen (pronounced skay-en) is a beach town on the most northern tip of Denmark. Sild is the Danish word for herring. Smørrebrød means buttered bread.