An appetizer fit for a king
Blue Cheese and Pear Smørbrød
Taste of Norway Editor
The Norwegian American
Many of you already know me as a regular contributor to the Taste of Norway section, but as this is my first issue as the Taste of Norway editor, allow me to take a moment to properly introduce myself. My name is Kristi Bissell. In addition to serving as Food editor for The Norwegian American, I am the creator behind True North Kitchen, a blog devoted to simple, seasonal Nordic-inspired recipes tailored especially for the American home cook.
My goal is to help my readers explore Scandinavian cooking and baking on an everyday basis in a fresh, modern way, and I hope to bring that same objective to the pages of The Norwegian American. I am so excited to be stepping into this new role, and I hope to bring you many delicious recipes and fascinating stories pertaining to Norwegian food in the issues to come.
As this is the Royals Issue, let’s begin with an appetizer that is indeed fit for a king. This Blue Cheese and Pear Smørbrød is an easy and elegant appetizer with an unforgettable combination of blue cheese, spiced pear compote, and toasted hazelnuts. It is incredibly simple and yet pleasantly complex in flavor. All you need is a refreshing cocktail (or a steaming cup of gløgg come winter) to go with these tasty little Nordic open-faced sandwiches and you have set the stage for a memorable evening.
Smørbrød is usually served on thin slices of dense rye bread, and that is an excellent choice for the base of these sandwiches. But thin, toasted baguette rounds or even crispbread or crackers will do if you don’t have access to good rye. If you want to go all in on the Scandinavian vibes here, consider choosing a Danish blue cheese. Personally, I like the triple cream brie-style blue cheese, Cambozola, which is not Danish but German. Rich and buttery, Cambozola is a perfect match with the spicy pears and toasted hazelnuts. If you find blue cheese to be a bit too pungent, feel free to substitute cream cheese or a soft goat cheese for a more subtle but no less delicious combination.
The Roasted Pear Compote is really the star of this deceptively simple smørbrød. This one simple ingredient (which can be made up to a week ahead of time) brings a subtle sweetness and just a hint of cardamom, vanilla, and ginger. It adds complexity and makes this Nordic open-faced sandwich something special.
Give these regal Blue Cheese and Pear Smørbrød a try at your next gathering! Your guests will be surprised and delighted.
Blue Cheese and Pear Smørbrød with Toasted Hazelnuts
Makes 32 small open-faced sandwiches
For the Smørbrød:
8 thin slices rye bread (thin baguette rounds or crispbread also works well)
Creamy, soft blue cheese for spreading
Roasted Pear Compote, recipe follows
½ cup hazelnuts
For the Roasted Pear Compote:
5-6 small to medium-sized Bartlett pears, peeled and cut into ¾-inch cubes
2 tbsps. honey
½ tsp. ground cardamom
4-5 thin slices of fresh ginger (no need to peel)
Pinch of coarse salt
½ vanilla bean (or ½ tsp. vanilla extract)
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Make the Roasted Pear Compote: Preheat the oven to 350°. Combine all ingredients except vanilla bean and lemon juice in an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish.
2. With a small sharp knife, split vanilla bean down one side of the pod. Open the pod and lay it flat on your cutting board. Using the back of your knife, remove the black seeds from the interior of the pod by scraping from one end of the open pod to the other. Place seeds and empty pod in the baking dish along with the other ingredients.
3. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring halfway through, or until the pears have softened considerably.
4. Remove the pan from the oven. Using a spoon, remove and discard the vanilla bean pod and ginger slices. Mash pears with a potato masher or the back of a fork until they create a chunky, rustic mash. Add lemon juice. Taste the mixture and season with additional lemon juice, salt, or honey to taste. Set aside to cool. (The compote can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.)
5. Toast the hazelnuts. Place nuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes or until fragrant and golden brown. Transfer nuts to a clean kitchen towel and wrap them inside, allowing them to steam for a minute or so. Rub the nuts between the kitchen towel to remove the brown papery skins. Chop the nuts coarsely.
6. To assemble the smørbrød: Toast the bread if desired. Transfer the slices of bread to a clean work surface. Cut each slice into 4 triangles. Top with blue cheese, a dollop of the Roasted Pear Compote, and a sprinkling of toasted hazelnuts. Serve.
This article originally appeared in the April 15, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.