This elegant and easy Swedish appetizer is just the thing to have in your back pocket as the holidays approach and entertaining season begins to pick up steam. Pair these delectable little shrimp toasts with a bubbly cocktail and you've got the beginnings of a memorable evening.
What is Toast Skagen?
One might assume that with a name like Toast Skagen, this classic Scandinavian dish originated in Denmark. But in fact, this elegant appetizer of buttery toast topped with creamy shellfish salad and a dollop of golden caviar hails from Sweden. Originally created in the 1950s by Swedish chef Tore Wretman, Toast Skagen has a colorful backstory which explains why this iconic Swedish dish is named after a fishing port in northern Denmark.
As the story goes, Wretman was not only a celebrated Swedish chef, but also an accomplished sailor. In the late 1950s, he and his crew raced his sailboat, the Salta Marina, in an amatuer regatta just off the coast of Skagen in northern Denmark. Wretman had chosen a different route than the other competitors, and his boat had a commanding lead that seemed unbeatable. Spirits were high aboard the sailboat, and victory seemed all but certain. But suddenly the wind died down and Wretman and his crew saw their lead begin to slip away. The mood aboard the ship went from celebratory to dismal as their defeat became imminent. Wretman decided to cheer his crew by doing what he did best….preparing a fabulous meal. Using what was on hand in the sailboat’s galley, Tore whipped up the now classic combination of buttery toast topped with a creamy shellfish salad and a dollop of golden whitefish roe. He proclaimed the dish Toast Skagen and within a couple of weeks it found its way onto the menu of his restaurant in Stockholm, Restaurant Riche. Toast Skagen has endured the test of time and remains a popular dish today, not only in Sweden, but throughout the Nordic region.
The creamy seafood salad that is the main component of Toast Skagen is known as Skagenröra. It can contain a variety of different shellfish but is usually made with small shrimp. Some recipes are entirely mayonnaise-based, and some contain a combination of mayonnaise and creme fraiche or sour cream. The former produces a much creamier salad, whereas the latter creates something a little lighter. Skagenröra usually contains chopped fresh dill and sometimes includes lemon juice, grated horseradish, Tobasco sauce or brandy for added flavor.
A Refined Base
Toast Skagen is meant to be elegant and refined. While many of the open sandwiches in Scandinavian cuisine are served on dense rye bread, this one calls for a soft white bread, something that will create a thin, crisp crust and a soft interior when buttered and griddled in a hot pan.
How to Make Toast Skagen at Home
While it looks and sounds impressive, Toast Skagen couldn’t be simpler to make at home. My recipe calls for just a short list of easy to find ingredients and it comes together in a snap:
- Frozen precooked small shrimp (if you can't find these you can always cut larger shrimp into smaller pieces)
- Creme fraiche
- Dijon mustard
- Minced shallot
- Fresh dill
- Lemon wedges
- Supermarket white bread
Instead of caviar, I’ve added a briny caper relish for the top which cuts the richness of the salad and provides that salty flavor that might otherwise come from a dollop of fish roe. There are just a few ingredients here as well:
- Lemon zest
- Extra-virgin olive oil
If you want something more traditional and happen to have some lovely golden caviar on hand, feel free to skip the caper relish and top the seafood mixture with a dollop of the fish roe.
Toast Skagen is so elegant, simple and delicious. It's sure to get any festive evening off on the right foot. If you give this recipe a try, please let me know in the comments below! I always love hearing from you. Looking for more appetizer recipes with Nordic vibes? Check these out:
- Roasted Beet Hummus
- Curried Split Pea Hummus
- Potato and Pickled Herring Bites with Remoulade
- Blue Cheese and Pear Compote Smørrebrød
Toast Skagen with Caper Relish
For the Skagenröra and Toasts:
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons creme fraiche
- 1 small shallot minced
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill plus more dill sprigs for garnish
- ½ pound small frozen precooked shrimp thawed and drained (I use the 91-100 count size)
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- 5 slices white sandwich bread crusts removed and each slice cut into 2 triangles
- Butter for spreading
- Lemon wedges and Caper Relish recipe follows, for serving
For Caper Relish:
- 2 tablespoons capers rinsed and drained
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Make the Caper Relish: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Make the Skagenröra and toasts: Whisk mayonnaise, creme fraiche, shallot, dijon and dill together in a small bowl. Gently fold in shrimp. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Butter both sides of each triangle of bread. Heat skillet over medium heat. Add bread and fry on both sides until golden brown and crispy.
- Transfer bread triangles to a clean work surface. Top each toast with shrimp mixture and a small dollop of caper relish. Garnish with dill sprigs. Serve with lemon wedges