Embrace the smørrebrød
Before artisanal toasts came charging onto the scene, in my mind, the open-faced sandwich genre was owned by English muffin tuna melts and Danish smørrebrød. While the tuna melts were always the same (muffin, tuna, white cheddar—and always so good), the smørrebrød had wider possibilities. Not that smørrebrød doesn’t have rules of sort; since the word technically means butter (smørre) and bread (brød). Rule number 1: There must always be bread—dark sourdough rye known as rugbrød preferred. Rule number 2: That bread should be slathered with a fat, like butter, mayonnaise, or creamy cheese, before adding toppings.
Classic smørrebrød is make with cured fish or meat. For a traditional fish smørrebrød, spread ½ teaspoon butter on a slice of rugbrød. Lay a few pieces of jarred pickled herring or lox over the butter, then cover the fish with thinly sliced red onions. Finish the smørrebrød with a sprinkling of fresh dill.
For a traditional meat smørrebrød, start with the spread: mix 1 teaspoon jarred horseradish, 1 teaspoon minced fresh dill, a pinch of salt, and some freshly cracked black pepper into 2 tablespoons sour cream. Smear the spread on a slice of rugbrød. Next, lay a few slices of rare roast beef over the cream, followed by 2 thinly sliced cornichons. Top the sandwich with more fresh dill.
For those interested in more nutrient-rich open-faced sandwiches, allow me to present the Health Smørrebrød: Smear a slice of rugbrød with ¼ of an avocado, then cover the avocado with a layer of thinly sliced cucumbers that have been tossed in lemon juice. Next, thinly slice one hard-boiled egg and lay that over the cucumbers. Sprinkle the bread with flaky sea salt and a light shower of red pepper flakes
Finally, please let me introduce you to the Dirtbag Smørrebrød, because why not? Mix together 2 tablespoons mayonnaise or sour cream with 1 tablespoon hot sauce and 1 teaspoon pickle juice. If you don’t want to make a sauce, consider pimento cheese or queso dip. Smear whichever sauce you choose on a slice of rugbrød, then add a layer of ham or bacon. Finish the sandwich off with a handful of crushed dill pickle or jalapeno-flavored potato chips.