Gunnar Karl Gíslason, chef of Restaurant Dill in Reykjavík, and Jody Eddy celebrate the cuisine of Iceland in North.
Gunnar is an ardent meat and fish smoker, but he also enjoys smoking more unexpected items, such as cheese. He infuses it ever so lightly with smokiness by using a smoke gun to pipe wood smoke into it. It’s a simple technique that works well with virtually anything you want to permeate with smoke, such as vegetables, sauces, or even ice creams, since the smoke carries very little heat. You can also play around with the smoking material used. For example, dried tree leaves of nearly any species or hay are good choices.
Don’t be intimidated by the idea of making cheese at home. It’s not as daunting as it sounds, and once you are comfortable with the technique, it’s fun to mention to your guests that you made the cheese yourself. Plus, the process results in whey, which is also used here. The smoked cheese caramelizes nicely during the smoking process, which also makes it a fun and unexpected topping for ice cream. Like many Nordic chefs, Gunnar frequently cures his own fish, which, when paired with the fresh salad and the light texture of the cheese, makes for a lovely dish on a warm summer’s day.
- To make the smoked cheese, put the milk and vinegar in a small saucepan, stir to mix, and place over low heat. Heat to 189°F (87°C) and maintain the mixture at this temperature for about 5 minutes. The milk will separate completely into clumps of white curds and watery whey. Line a fine-mesh sieve with cheesecloth and place over a bowl. Pour the contents of the pan into the sieve and refrigerate for 12 hours.
- Reserve the solids in the sieve and transfer the whey to a small, heavy saucepan. Place the pan over low heat and leave undisturbed for about 30 minutes, until the liquid begins to caramelize. Remove from the heat, pour into a heatproof bowl, and let cool to room temperature. As the liquid cools, it will stiffen to the texture of chocolate. Break it apart and reserve to use as a garnish.
- Transfer the solids from the sieve to a hotel pan or deep baking pan and seal tightly with plastic wrap. Fill a smoke gun with wood chips and ignite the gun with a match. Make a small hole in the plastic wrap covering the pan, insert the nozzle of the gun through the hole, and smoke the cheese for 10 minutes. Alternatively, smoke the cheese in a wood chip–fueled homemade (see page 191) or store-bought kitchen smoker. Season the cheese with salt and drizzle with oil and vinegar to taste, then crumble to the consistency of dry ricotta.
- To make the artic char, remove any skin and fat from the fish. Combine the sugar, rock salt, and greens in a bowl. Evenly distribute half of the sugar mixture in a shallow metal container just large enough to accommodate the char. Place the fish on top and cover it with the remaining curing mixture. Let stand at room temperature for 22 minutes. Remove the fish from the curing mixture and discard the mixture.
- Preheat an immersion circulator to 127°F (53°C). Cut the char into 4 equal pieces, place the pieces and the oil in a vacuum bag, and seal on the medium setting. Cook in the circu- lator for 10 minutes. Remove the bag from the circulator, remove the fish from the bag, and keep warm. Alternatively, preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the char into 4 equal portions, rub (or spray) the bottom of each por- tion with rapeseed oil, and arrange on the prepared pan. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until medium-rare.
- To make the potatoes, boil the potates in salted water to cover for 18 to 20 minutes, until just tender. Drain the potatoes, let cool just until they can be handled, and cut into disks 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick. Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat, add the potatoes, and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, until golden brown on both sides. Season with sea salt.
- To make the mixed salad, toss together the lettuce and herbs with just enough oil to make them glisten. Season with salt and vinegar.
- To serve, arrange the artic char, potatoes, and salad on a plate and garnish with the roe, the smoked cheese, the caramelized whey, and the oil.
Reprinted with permission from North, by Gunnar Karl Gislason and Jody Eddy, copyright 2014, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.