Swedish open-faced sandwiches

6th June, 2011 - Posted by admin - Comments Off

Räksmörgås: Swedish open-faced sandwich

If you are ever in the mood for simple, flavorful food that also looks beautiful, check out Sweden. They have elevated the basic sandwich to an art form and made it its own culinary group – which is the least you would expect from the people who gave us Ikea and Abba.

The weather has also been unusually Nordic, so this works as a bridge between cold weather fare and lighter, summer dishes.

These sandwiches are meant to be eaten with a knife and fork, you can attempt to do it with your hand, but prepare to be mocked. Way back in the culinary dark ages, meals were often served on a large piece of stale bread, that was then consumed. Today we use fresh toasted bread, but the concept remains the same.

These can be served whole as a light lunch, with a bowl of soup for supper or cut into quarters and used as appetizers. Also, because sandwiches are more art than science, feel free to play around with the ingredients – use parsley instead of dill, salmon instead of shrimp, make a curry mayo, include tomato – it’s your sandwich.

To construct a really good Räksmörgås (shrimp sandwich) prepare to track down really good ingredients. There aren’t a lot of places for sub-par food to hide here, so get the best you can find. Fortunately, we’re coming into a time of year where the produce is worth showing off.

The bottom layer should be a dense bread. Rye or pumpernickel are classic, but wheat bread will work as well. Soft white bread isn’t robust enough for this dish, so save it for something else. The bread should be lightly toasted either in a skillet or in a toaster.

Next comes the mayonnaise. If you feel like making your own, this would be a good place to make a nice lemony mayo with some fresh herbs. If it’s more important to get to the eating part of the day, just use a good quality store-bought mayo.

On top of the mayonnaise, goes a layer of thinly sliced hard boiled egg. On top of that, is a pile of boiled shrimp. In Sweden, small are generally used. I used a mixture of whole jumbo shrimp and chopped shrimp because it’s what I had on hand. If you are buying frozen shrimp – which is perfectly fine – do not get shrimp that have been cooked and frozen. They end up thawing out into balls of shrimp-flavored mush. Look for shrimp that has been frozen raw. They can be boiled while still frozen, the quality is much better and it takes five minutes instead of 3. When the shrimp are bright pink, skim them out of the pot and run under cold water.

Somewhere in the midst of all this, there will be thinly sliced cucumber and fresh dill. If you’ve only ever had dill flavor with pickles or potato chips, then you are in for a treat. Dill is one of my favorite herbs, it perks up all kinds of dishes and has a bright distinctive flavor that’s not overwhelming. It does very well in cold foods like chopped salads. Do not substitute dry dill, it will be very disappointing for everyone.

Top the sandwich with a squeeze of fresh lemon and serve with a lemon slice either as a garnish or in quarters on the side.  These can be served immediately or assembled, covered and held in the refrigerator for an hour or two. Let come to room temperature before serving.

Skoal!

Räksmörgås (shrimp sandwich)
Serves 2

2 slices good quality, hearty bread – whole wheat, rye or Pumpernickel.
2 hard boiled eggs, cut into thin slices
4 tablespoons good quality mayonnaise
1/2 pound boiled shrimp (51-60 or 61-70), cooked, shelled, de-veined and chilled
1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced or cut into wedges
Fresh dill or fennel fronds, for garnish

1. In a dry skillet or toaster, lightly toast your bread slices. Spread 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise on one side of each piece and plate face up.

2. Place  a layer of hard-boiled egg slices – roughly one egg per person. Divide the shrimp in half and place one portion on each piece of bread. Top with the thinly cucumbers.

3. If you’ve sliced the lemon thinly into rounds, drape or twist on top. Top with dill. Serve immediately with more lemons wedges on the side.

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Posted on: June 6, 2011

Filed under: Dinner

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