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Add a large glass of cold Danish beer and ice cold aquavit and you have a very traditional Danish lunch.
Hanne Lewis of Sorrento, a native of Copenhagen and former high school language teacher in Orono, Eastport, Machias and Harrington, is an expert on the smørrebrød.
The key elements, she said, are the proper bread, buttered with salted or unsalted butter, and topped completely by whatever is available and then assembled artfully.
“During the war everything was rationed, so it was important to use things up,” she said. “You are only limited by your own good taste.”
Hanne said her grandmother was a master of the smørrebrød and fed lots of grandchildren at her summer home in Denmark. She could take one prized meatball, slice it thinly and, with added toppings, feed several children, Hanne said.
Mothers made the open-faced sandwich for children to take to school in a red-and-white tin box.
Hanne said the best bread is the Danish rye, which is less sweet and more sour than Scandanavian and German ryes, but a close approximation can be found at Rooster Brother and the food section at Renys, both in Ellsworth.
Then “you butter the bread to all the edges, which adds to the taste and prevents food, such as tomatoes, from making the bread soggy,” Hanne said.
A “cold table” of toppings she prepared for a recent visitor included chopped red onion, radishes, cucumber, tomato, hard boiled eggs, bacon, beets, potato, mushroom and capers.
The meat and other toppings included pork, corned beef, salami, Parisian pate, coarse pate and aspic.
“Liver pate is to the Danish sandwich what bologna is to the American sandwich,” Hanne said.
The options are limitless.
One well-known eatery in Copenhagen, Oskar Davidson’s Restaurant, has 178 different smørrebrøds on the menu.
No. 48 — “Hans Christian Andersen’s Favorite”— includes crisp bacon, tomato, liver pate with truffles, meat aspic and horse radish.
No. 160 is a vegetarian version with tomato, raw egg yolk, capers, horseradish and raw onion.
Among Hanne’s favorites are Parisian pate with salami or Italian salad with corned beef and a little aspic.
The Italian salad is comprised of mayonnaise, cooked peas, carrots, elbow macaroni, cooked asparagus added at the last moment and lemon juice.
The idea of the open-faced sandwich, she said, is to present the careful arrangement of appetizing elements.
“The Danish believe you eat with your eyes,” she said. “Why hide it by slapping another piece of break on top of it?”
Pate De Foi Tante Liss
½ lb. fat back
1 lb. chicken liver
1 medium onion
1 Tbsp. butter
1 small glass Madeira
3-4 slices good quality white bread, crusts removed, cut into pieces
1 cup milk
½ tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 tsps. salt and a pinch each of allspice and nutmeg
Pass fat back and liver six times through a meat grinder. Sautee onion in the butter without browning and deglaze with Madeira. Soak bread in the milk. Lightly beat the egg. Mix all ingredients and add seasonings. Pour into a greased, ovenproof dish. Place in shallow pan and pour boiling water around it halfway up the sides of the baking dish. Bake 45 minutes at 375 degrees F.
Note: Food processor will tear the meat. Blender is equally bad.
Jacqueline Weaver covers the eastern Hancock County towns of Lamoine through Gouldsboro as well as Steuben in Washington County. A New Hampshire native, she has vacationed in Maine for 25 years and has been with The American for three.Website: ellsworthamerican.com