The art of the open-faced sandwich

The art of the open-faced sandwich

By Liv Buli

The art of the open-faced sandwich

Warning - this blog post contains strong and unwavering opinions. 

It all started when we lived in Oslo expecting the arrival of our youngest daughter. For some time, I had been hiding my passion for the open-faced sandwich (and accompanying breakfast spread) from my husband, I couldn’t quite bring myself to shatter his naive love of the “classic” breakfast sandwich - bacon, egg, and cheese on what doesn’t even qualify as a roll, so much as a chewy sponge. 

But I was pregnant, and hankering for a real breakfast (also we don’t make two-slice breakfast sandwiches in Norway that’s just ridiculous), so one morning I went ham on the full spread. You may already be familiar with the “smørgasbord” – known in Norway as “koldtbord” – a meal that consists of a variety of dishes both hot and cold laid out for your dining pleasure. Guests are free to compose their own masterpiece meal from the table. 

Eggs, bacon, shrimp salad, some weird thing called Italian salad that couldn’t have less do with Italy, smoked salmon or trout, sennepsaus, caviar (not the fancy kind), smoked ham, cured ham (the fancy kind), salami, roast beef, Jarlsberg cheese, brown cheese, liver paté, raspberry jam, fresh fruit... the list goes on and on.

(Note that Norwegians aren’t foolish enough to restrict this to a breakfast meal, it is completely appropriate to serve and eat at any time throughout the day. In fact, this is what my whole family enjoyed for New Year’s dinner. It’s that good, people.) 

(Also note that I left out the pickled herring. Some things are best glossed over.) 

Sure there are some staples on there – some must-haves. But really you are free to compose your own smørgåsbord. Since that fateful day some years ago, this has become our preferred weekend breakfast (I honestly would make it every morning if I had the time), and I have tailored my spread to what I can find at my local grocery store in New York. 

Here are the basics you need to make your own simple version of this Scandinavian feast:

  • Eggs (boiled or scrambled depending on your mood)
  • Smoked Ham (Virginia or Black Forest will do, but if you can get your hands on a nice, smoked rosemary ham or something similar, all the better!) 
  • Salami 
  • Jarlsberg cheese (you can cheat and get it sliced at the deli, but a true Scandi has a trusty cheese slicer and buys this by the block.) 
  • Geitost 
  • Smoked Salmon
  • Cream Cheese (preferably Snøfrisk)
  • Cucumber
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberry Jam (Again. Jam. Not jelly. I don’t even know what jelly is and neither should you.) 
  • Butter

Seriously, I could write a whole other blog post on my trials and tribulations with bread in this country. If you have a Whole Foods nearby you’re golden. Otherwise? Step away from the plastic-wrapped wonderbread. You’re looking for a nice crust on your fresh loaf, and preferably some actual grain. 

Prep isn’t exactly rocket science - you make the eggs, softly scrambled or a 7.5-minute boil for a nice soft yoke, and then you just kind of put the rest on the table, perhaps arranging it nicely on a wooden board and serving platters. The remainder is up to the individual to mix and match. The only rule here is - open-faced sandwich only! Take a single slice of bread and add your toppings. 

Some acceptable combinations include:

  • Smoked ham + cheese (don’t forget salt + pepper)
  • Cream cheese and Salami with slices of cucumber 
  • Brown Goat Cheese + Raspberry Jam (trust.)

Buttered bread with thin slices of boiled egg (You may think to yourself, how on earth would I be able to evenly slice my slippery little boiled egg? Of course we have a tool for that too.) 

And if you’re planning to take your sandwich to go? No problem. Just simply lay a small sheet of parchment paper between your stacked pieces of bread. Save the cucumber slices for later though, there’s nothing worse than soggy smørbrød. 

The open-faced sandwich and smørgåsbord spread is, as we all now know, the superior way to eat - but like most things Scandinavian it is simple at heart. No fuss, and mostly about time spent together. It brings me great joy to sit around the table, watching my kids (and husband) put their favorite combinations on their plate, eating open-faced sandwiches – just as it should be.



  • Good food inspo for my next book club – thank you!

    Brooke on

  • I believe fresh strawberries with a smidge of sugar should also be included for that summer smørgåsbord… accompanied by an ice-cold glass of milk ;)

    Jon Inge Buli on

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