A mouthwatering taste of the North

New cookbook celebrates Nordic cooking with an approachable yet modern touch

Katrín Björk

Cover: From the North by Katrín Björk

Daytona Strong

In recent years, there has been no shortage of Nordic cookbooks. From broad overviews of traditional cooking to narrow focuses such as open sandwiches or Swedish baking, these books are giving the world a fresh look at Nordic food. One of the latest is particularly inspiring. From the North: A Simple and Modern Approach to Authentic Nordic Cooking by Katrín Björk (Page Street Publishing, April 2018) is gorgeous and innovative, while retaining authenticity.

Björk—founder of the blog Modern Wifestyle (modernwifestyle.com)—lives in New York but is originally from Iceland and lived in Copenhagen for 14 years. Her book is full of the flavors she grew up enjoying, and the subtitle says it all: simple, modern, authentic.

The title—From the North—carries through to the chapter level, which are organized by “From the Sea,” “From the Garden,” and so on, with plenty of recipes for fish, meat and game, vegetables, pickles and preserves, breads, and desserts.

Some of the highlights—in addition to the recipes reprinted here—include crayfish for a kräftskiva (Swedish crayfish party), fried cod cheeks with root vegetable crisps, crackling pork with sugar-glazed potatoes, stuffed pork tenderloin, grilled asparagus with wild egg and sea truffle, and Danish strawberry tart with marzipan and chocolate.

As a photographer, Björk has the ability to make each recipe mouthwateringly beautiful. For recipes that might otherwise be unfamiliar, the photos beautifully illustrate the nature and flavors of the food.
Whether you’re looking for culinary inspiration or simply want to add a modern touch to the Nordic food you’re already cooking, From the North won’t disappoint.

Rømmegrøt with Lavender and Smoked Currants

Katrín Björk - rømmegrøt

Rømmegrøt is a classic Norwegian pudding, but I tend to make things my own way, and this recipe is no exception. I infused the pudding with lavender and added both sugar and smoked currants to this traditionally savory pudding. It might not be the real thing, but it is definitely inspired by and related to the original, so I’m calling it Norwegian either way.

pudding:
1 ½ cups whole milk
10 lavender blossoms
3 tbsps. sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup natural sour cream (no stabilizer added & preferably not ultra-pasteurized)
1⁄3 cup flour
pinch of salt

toppings:
1 tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ stick butter, melted

smoked red currants:
birch and maple wood shavings
red currants
sugar

Warm the milk to the boiling point along with the lavender and sugar, then lower the heat to medium-low and let simmer until the sugar has dissolved, a few minutes. Remove from the heat, put a lid on the pan, and let steep until the mixture comes to room temperature, approximately 2 hours. Strain, discard the lavender, and stir in the vanilla.

Heat the sour cream over medium heat and while whisking constantly sprinkle the flour over, a little at a time. If the sour cream separates, skim off the solids and set aside. Continue stirring, adding flour and whisking until you have a thick dough-like substance. Add the infused milk, stirring constantly, until completely mixed. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Cook until the mixture is glossy and smooth, 5 to 7 minutes. Salt to taste.

Stir the sugar and cinnamon together for sprinkling. Melt the butter, or if you skimmed butter off the sour cream use that.

Divide the pudding into four bowls, drizzle with melted butter, place smoked berries on top, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. The pudding can be served hot or cold.

smoked red currants:
Sprinkle wood shavings over the bottom of a Dutch oven. Place an aluminum foil–covered rack on top of the shavings. Spread the berries in a single layer on the foil. Cover with the lid but leave the lid open a crack so the smoke can circulate.

Put the Dutch oven on a stove burner and turn the stove to medium heat. When you can smell the smoke, after 5 minutes or so, turn the heat down to low and let the berries smoke for 7 minutes. Lift the lid and sprinkle a little bit of sugar over the berries. Put the lid back on and let smoke for 3 more minutes.

Remove the berries carefully, because the sugar and heat will have softened them a little. Let them rest and cool down on a plate before using them.

Note: You can substitute unsmoked berries of any kind for the smoked red currants.

Grilled Wild Coldwater Shrimp with Hazelnut Mayonnaise

Katrín Björk - grilled shrimp

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!

shrimp:
1 lb. coldwater shrimp in shell
olive oil
salt & pepper
slices of sourdough loaf

mayonnaise:
1 handful hazelnuts
1 egg
½ cup neutral-tasting oil, such as sunflower or avocado
salt & pepper
1 tsp. lemon juice
4-6 lemon wedges

Preheat the oven to 375°F. 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!

Liver Paté

Katrín Björk - liver pate

Liver paté is a big part of the Nordic food culture, and everyone I know got sent to school with a paté sandwich in their lunch box multiple times a week.

You can use any kind of liver, but in Iceland, pork and lamb are the most common, whereas in Denmark, pork and veal are the most popular choices. In Iceland, paté is always eaten cold, but in Denmark, it is a delicacy to serve it hot; I recommend you try both and see which you like best.

This is an easy version of a classic; I’ve jumped over a few steps to simplify it and, quite frankly, I can’t taste a difference. This recipe makes a lot (5 cups), so if you are not sure about your love for paté or if you are not expecting guests, cut it in half.

½ cup whole milk
1 bay leaf
½ tsp. thyme
2 cloves
1 large yellow onion
2 tsps. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
1 lb. pork liver, ground
½ lb. pork fat, ground (unrendered)
1 egg
3 tbsps. flour
2 tbsps. port
several slices bacon

Start by infusing the milk by bringing it to a boil along with the bay leaf, thyme, and cloves. As soon as it starts to bubble, turn off the heat and let steep with a lid on until it reaches room temperature. (I usually let it steep overnight.)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Pulse the onion along with salt and pepper in a food processor until very finely chopped, then add the liver and fat and pulse a few times. Add the infused milk, egg, flour, and port and let the processor run until well mixed.

Divide the paté between ovenproof ramekins, small loaf pans, or foil pans, and place a piece of bacon or a bay leaf on top of each one. Then place the containers in a water bath (the water should cover half the pan) and bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until the central temperature has reached 165°F and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

I like to give my paté 2 minutes under the broiler before removing it from the oven; this gives it a nice caramelized and crusty surface.

Serve on Danish Rye Bread with Pickled Beets (both recipes in book).

Note: You can easily freeze paté. Place it in a ramekin, cover with plastic wrap, and store it unbaked in the freezer for up to 2 months. Bake it directly from the freezer, just add 15 minutes to the baking time.

Daytona Strong is The Norwegian American’s Taste of Norway Editor. She writes about her family’s Norwegian heritage through the lens of food at her Scandinavian food blog, www.outside-oslo.com. Find her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/OutsideOslo), Twitter (@daytonastrong), Pinterest (@daytonastrong), and Instagram (@daytonastrong).

This article originally appeared in the June 1, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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