Contemporary Nordic Dishes Inspired by Tradition
In From the North, Katrín Björk celebrates the flavors of her childhood with fresh ingredients and unique twists. Her modern techniques make traditional Nordic cooking simple and approachable, no matter how far south your kitchen.
This versatile collection can be used for unique lunches, casual dinners or elegant holiday meals. The Rack of Lamb with Seaweed and Almond Crust combines the cozy comfort of Katrín’s familial kitchen with the standout taste of the Nordic Seas. Culinary adventurers won’t need a parka to experience Danish Crackling Pork with a side of Sugar- Glazed Potatoes. Try stunning fish and shellfish dishes like Pan-Fried Haddock, updated with tangy grilled rhubarb and rosemary, or Blue Mussels simmered in a Nordic white ale and brightened with fresh fennel. Celebrate the summer months with Icelandic Skyr Cake, made with traditional thick yogurt and scattered with fresh berries; and there’s nothing better than Whole Roasted Goose with Prunes, Apples and Cinnamon to bring a feeling of hygge to your holiday table.
With helpful tips on how to select the freshest fish, preserve ingredients safely and bake the rustic bread essential to any Nordic meal, it’s easy to make these dishes your own. Though Katrín isn’t afraid to break a few rules in the name of convenience and flavor, her recipes remain rooted in the connection to nature and family that is at the heart of Nordic life.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
FROM THE SEA
FISH & SHELLFISH
After moving away from Iceland, I realized that not everybody grew up eating fresh fish multiple times a week and that, in general, people don't eat a lot of seafood at home. When I ask friends why they don't cook more fish, the most common answer is a shoulder shrug followed by a story about an unsuccessful fish dish cooked in the past.
As with most things, fish is best when fresh, wild and in season. It should always have a mild, fresh scent and never smell fishy. The color should be vibrant with no discoloration or brown edges. The flesh should be firm and moist with no separations, gaps or blood. If you are cooking a whole fish, the eyes should be bright and bulging, the flesh firm and shiny and the gills should be bright pink or red.
If you are new to cooking fish, start with my grandma's Icelandic Fishcakes with Cauliflower and the Grilled Salmon Steaks with Pickled Lovage, and when your confidence starts to grow, go for the Whole Grilled Snapper. You will not regret it and it is much easier than you might think.
ARCTIC CHAR TARTARE
Arctic char is a cold-water fish in the salmon family with a flavor profile somewhere in between salmon and lake trout.
It is easy to crisp the skin of an arctic char, so if you get a piece with skin on, don't toss it, use it as garnish for the tartare or any other delicious fish dish you might be cooking.
YIELD: 4 SERVINGS AS AN APPETIZER OR 2 AS A MAIN COURSE
10 oz (285 g) arctic char
Remove the skin, then clean and devein the fish. Place the fish in the freezer for about 20 minutes so it is easier to slice. Then cut the chilled fish into ?-inch (3-mm) cubes.
Deseed and dice the cucumber and place in a bowl with the char, mint and chives.
Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, a little lemon zest and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, then pour the dressing over the tartare and toss to combine.
Finely slice the fennel. Fry half of it in hot oil for about 10 minutes or until golden. Sprinkle the fried fennel with salt and drizzle the fresh half with a few drops of lemon juice.
Place a spoonful of tartare on a pretty plate, top with both the fresh and fried fennel and decorate with a few sprigs of dill.
This is an elegant appetizer that takes no time to prepare but has both delicate flavor and beautiful texture. If you can get scallops in the shell I would definitely go for those, both for flavor and freshness but also because the shell makes a beautiful plate.
YIELD: 4 SERVINGS
8 large scallops
Remove the scallops from the shell and slice them thinly. If you are using frozen scallops it is a good idea to slice them before they thaw completely, as it is much easier to cut half-frozen than thawed fish!
Squeeze the limes and add ½ teaspoon of salt to the juice. Place the sliced scallops in the juice and let marinate for 20 to 30 minutes, or until firm but not rubbery. Take the scallop slices out of the juice but do not dry them, just let them drip off, letting a few drops of juice fall on the serving plate. Divide the scallops between four shells (or plates) and arrange along with cucumber slices, dill and mint. Pour 1 teaspoon of elderflower cordial over each plate and crack a little bit of black pepper over as well.
GRILLED WILD COLDWATER SHRIMP
WITH HAZELNUT MAYONNAISE
This easy peasy summery crowd pleaser is great as an appetizer or as part of a seafood feast.
You can peel the shrimp after grilling but they are also delicious to eat whole — the shells are crispy and flavorful. If you peel them, keep the shells and use them to make stock. I like to use coldwater shrimp for this recipe. Wild coldwater shrimp, or northern shrimp, are caught in the cold, clean North Atlantic Ocean. They are small and pink with firm flesh and lightly salted flavor and a sweet aftertaste. If your local seafood store doesn't have this type of shrimp, ask the fishmonger to order them for you!
YIELD: 2 SERVINGS
1 lb (450 g) coldwater shrimp in shell Olive oil Salt and pepper Slices of sourdough loaf
1 handful hazelnuts
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Toss the shrimp with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill on high heat for a few minutes or until starting to char. Drizzle the bread with some olive oil and throw it on the grill and let toast.
Place the hazelnuts on the parchment-lined baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until fragrant and darkened. Rub the hot hazelnuts together between your hands or in a kitchen towel to remove their skins. Chop them into a coarse meal, by hand or with a food processor.
To make the mayonnaise, it is easiest to use an immersion blender, but you can also whisk by hand if you do not have one. Crack the egg into a tall container and add the oil. Place the immersion blender in all the way to the bottom. Blend on high until you see the mayonnaise forming, then slowly move the blender upward (while blending) and the mayonnaise will come together. Add the chopped hazelnuts, salt, pepper and lemon juice and blend until homogeneous.
Serve the shrimp with grilled sourdough slices, hazelnut mayo, lemon wedges and tons of napkins — this is an eat-with-your-hands kind of dish! You can dip the shrimp in the mayo, or spread the mayo on the bread — it's up to you!
WITH BLUEBERRY MIGNONETTE
Few things are as elegant as a bed of fresh oysters served as an appetizer or as an afternoon delight with a glass of champagne on a sunny summer day. Opening oysters is a practice-makes-perfect kind of thing, but it isn't as hard as they say. Just wear a glove, be confident and the oyster will obey.
YIELD: 6 SERVINGS, AS AN APPETIZER
¼ cup (60 ml) sherry vinegar
Make the vinaigrette first. Stir the vinegars and shallots together in a bowl. Purée the blueberries and parsley in a food processor and add to the vinegar. Add cracked black pepper to taste.
When you shuck your oysters wear gloves to prevent cutting yourself. Place an oyster in one gloved hand with the cup-shaped side down and the hinge (the pointy end with the muscle that connects the top and bottom shell) toward you. Scrub any grit off the oyster with a brush, then insert a thick bladed oyster knife 45 degrees downward into the hinge if you can, or go in from the side. Twist the knife slightly until you feel the hinge pop and then run the blade around to the other side. Be careful not to tip the oyster or you will lose all the lovely juices on the inside. Separate the oyster meat from the bottom shell so they will be ready to slurp. Arrange open oysters on a bed of ice and keep chilled until ready to serve. Open oysters will keep for a few days, on ice and in a very cold refrigerator.
Spoon vinaigrette over the oysters and then slurp. They are best with a glass of bubbly!
NOTE: When buying oysters, make sure they are alive. All the shells should be closed but if they are not, try lightly tapping an open shell on the counter. If it immediately shuts, the oyster is still alive and fine to eat, if it doesn't it is dead and inedible. Fresh oysters should smell like the crisp air by the sea — if they smell fishy they are not fresh. They should also feel heavy when laying in your palm — if not, the seawater has dried up and the oyster is no longer fresh.
If you have ever visited Sweden in August, you have probably been to a crayfish party: A festive gathering of family and friends where party hats, bibs and stacks of napkins are all equally necessary. It is also a party where heavy drinking and singing are the norm. Fun times for sure!
Crayfish or crawfish live in freshwater and are closely related to lobster, sometimes even called freshwater lobster. There is delicious sweet meat in the tails and they are best eaten with your hands. If you ask a person from Louisiana, they will tell you to serve 4 pounds (2 kg) per person for a full meal, but since in Sweden we serve bread, cheese and mayonnaise on the side, 1½ to 2 pounds (700 to 900 g) is more than plenty.
YIELD: 2 SERVINGS
4 quarts (4 L) water
2 large egg yolks
6 lemons, halved
Bring the water, salt, sugar, dill and dill blossoms to a boil and let boil for 5 minutes. Remove the dill and blossoms and set aside. Make sure the water is at a rolling boil before you add the live crayfish. Add one crayfish at a time, one right after the other. Make sure you keep the water at a rolling boil so the crayfish die instantly when hitting the water. Work in batches (10 crayfish at a time) and let boil for 4 minutes before removing from the water.
After you have boiled all the crayfish, remove the pot from the heat and place the crayfish back in the water along with the dill and dill blossoms. Let steep for 3 to 4 hours or even overnight.
Whisking by hand, or using a blender or a food processor, combine the egg yolks, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard and salt. Start adding the oil, one or two drops at a time, then slowly ease into pouring more freely, keeping the stream thin and steady. When you have added all the oil and the mayonnaise is thick and glossy, add some more salt and pepper to taste and fold in the dill.
Swedish crayfish are served cold with mayonnaise, lemons, some more dill, nice bread, flavorful cheese and plenty of beer or snaps on the side.
NOTE: Snaps is a type of Scandinavian alcohol (for example akvavit or aquavit) usually brewed with caraway seeds, dill or other natural flavor. It is served in a shot glass at gatherings of family and friends during lunch or dinner. It is very popular during Christmas and other holidays.
WITH FENNEL SLAW
Lobster rolls are for sure an American phenomenon and they are not at all known in Scandinavia. But they should be! So, I came up with a Scandi version of the classic and I have to say, I really, really like it!
I like to serve my lobster roll with a hot bun and hot lobster, like I would a hot dog, but it is of course just as delicious when served cold.
YIELD: 8 SERVINGS
2 tbsp (25 g) sugar
2 tbsp water
½ small fennel bulb
½ cup (125 g) skyr
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Grease a baking sheet.
Dissolve the sugar in the warm water, then add the yeast and let it sit for 10 minutes. Stir together the flour and salt in a large bowl, then add the yeast mixture and stir well. Whisk two eggs together, then add half to the dough and stir well. Add the other half and stir again. Then crumble in the butter and knead the dough for 10 minutes or until you have elastic and shiny dough. The dough will be super sticky but don't give up and don't get tempted to add more flour — it will come together, I promise.
Let the dough rest in the bowl, covered with plastic wrap, for 60 minutes.
Form the dough into 8 hotdog buns and place 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart on a greased baking sheet and let them rise under a damp kitchen towel for 1 hour.
Whisk the last egg in a small bowl, then brush onto the buns. Bake the buns for 15 to 18 minutes.
Remove the raw lobster from the shell and keep chilled.
Bring 2 tablespoons of water to a boil in a saucepan over medium-low heat, then add 1 tablespoon of butter, whisking constantly. When melted, add another tablespoon of butter and when that one has melted add the garlic. Keep adding butter a little at a time, while whisking, until you have added it all and you have a thick sauce. Make sure that the butter never boils; if it does, it will separate. If you have a thermometer, I highly recommend you use it to help you keep the beurre monté somewhere between 160 and 185°F (70 and 85°C).
Working in batches (2 to 3 tails at a time, depending on the size of your pot) poach the lobster tails for 6 to 7 minutes, or until they have reached 140 to 145°F (60 to 63°C). Cut each tail into 2 to 3 pieces.
Thinly slice or shred the fennel and apple, add the dill and toss to combine.
Peel the sunchokes and slice into paper-thin slices, using a mandoline or food processor. Heat the peanut oil to 375°F (190°C) and fry the sunchokes for a few minutes, or until crisp. Season with salt to taste.
Stir the skyr, chili, lemon juice and liquid smoke together, adding salt and pepper to taste.
Assemble the lobster rolls by putting the dressing on the buns, then adding lobster (a few drops of butter won't hurt), fresh slaw and crispy sunchokes on top.
NOTE: If you have my Smoked Skyr (see here) on hand, use that in the pressing and skip the liquid smoke.
WITH SWEET ONIONS ON DANISH RYE
This is my modern version of a Danish classic, simply called fish fillet. Traditionally, it is served with a bright yellow remoulade dressing but here you have a more deconstructed version that still gives you crispy fish, along with something sweet and something tangy.
YIELD: 2 SERVINGS
1 yellow onion
Finely slice the onion and add it to a pan with 1 tablespoon of butter and a pinch of salt. Let cook over low-medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle the sugar over the onion and let it caramelize for 10 more minutes before deglazing the pan with the vinegar. Let simmer until the vinegar has evaporated.
While the onion is cooking, generously salt and pepper the flounder fillets. Lightly whisk the egg in a shallow bowl then dip the fish first in egg, then coat with almond flour. Fry in 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat for a few minutes on each side, or until golden.
"Butter" the bread with a thin layer of Dijon mustard, place the fish on top and garnish with onions, radishes, capers and fennel fronds. Serve with a lemon wedge on the side and ice cold beer.
FRIED COD CHEEKS
WITH BAKED ROOT VEGETABLE CRISPS
In small pockets right below the eye, you find the most tender and sweet part of the fish. Most cheeks, cod included, are the ideal size for frying and you do not have to cut or prep anything, they are perfect just the way they are.
In Iceland, you can always find cheeks at the fishmonger's but because they are not common everywhere in the world you might want to call ahead and put in an order.
YIELD: 2 SERVINGS CHEEKS
2 cups (500 ml) peanut oil
14 oz (400 g) rutabaga
¾ cup (185 g) skyr
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). In a deep fryer or deep skillet, heat the peanut oil to 350 to 375°F (175 to 190°C).
Rinse the cod cheeks under cold water and pat them dry, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Stir the flour, smoked paprika, and a little bit of salt and pepper together, then slowly whisk in the beer. Dip one cheek at a time into the batter, let the batter drip off, then transfer directly to the oil and let them fry until golden, 3 to 4 minutes.
Thinly slice the rutabaga and beets, arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, flipping the slices over midway through the baking time.
Whisk together the skyr, lemon juice and zest and finely chopped dill. Season with salt and pepper to taste.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "From The North"
Copyright © 2018 Katrín Björk.
Excerpted by permission of Page Street Publishing Co..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
From the Sea,
Fish & Shellfish,
Arctic Char Tartare,
Grilled Wild Coldwater Shrimp,
Fried Cod Cheeks,
Night Salted Cod,
Grilled Whole Snapper,
Grilled Salmon Steaks,
Icelandic Langoustine Bisque,
From the Heath,
Meat, Game & Fowl,
Broth of Lamb,
Leg of Lamb,
Rack of Lamb,
Danish Crackling Pork,
Stuffed Pork Tenderloin,
Whole Roasted Goose,
From the Garden,
Salads & Sides,
Fried Chive Blossoms,
Fresh Potato Salad,
Spicy Kohlrabi and Beets,
Red Cabbage and Apple Slaw,
Charred Green Cabbage,
From the Past,
Cured & Smoked Delicacies,
Graflax (Cured Salmon),
Cured Egg Yolks,
Cured Goose Breast,
Smoked Red Currants,
From the Pantry,
Pickles, Preserves & Patés,
From the Oven,
Sourdough & Loaves,
Danish Rye Bread,
From the Heart,
Sweet Treats & Desserts,
Icelandic Skyr Cake,
Liquorice Ice Cream,
Chocolate and Caramel Tart,
The Grown-Up Cake,
Koldskål and Kammerjunker,
Danish Strawberry Tart,
About the Author,