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Chef Gunnar Karl Gíslason opened Restaurant Dill in Reykjavík’s historic Nordic House in 2009. His contemporary cooking, which celebrates Iceland’s pristine ingredients and artisanal producers, has garnered international acclaim and media. Dill has been nominated for the Nordic Prize and has earned numerous accolades, including Iceland’s restaurant of the year every year since it opened. In his spare time, Gíslason can be found foraging with his children for ingredients to stock his restaurant’s pantry, or salmon fishing in one of Iceland’s glacial rivers.

Jody Eddy is the author of Come In, We’re Closed, which profiled the staff meals of 25 of the world’s best restaurants. A graduate of The Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan, she is the former editor of Art Culinaire. She first visited Dill in 2009 and has been a devoted disciple of Gíslason’s cooking philosophy ever since.

An unprecedented look into the food and culture of Iceland, from the island’s premier chef and the owner of Reykjavík’s Restaurant Dill.

NORTH is a celebration of the utterly unique, starkly beautiful foodways and landscapes of Iceland. Recipes and essays showcase the rare, indigenous food products and artisanal food producers of this island nation, which is one of the most pristine and unspoiled places on earth. New York Times photographer Evan Sung provides a mix of lush landscape photography and styled food, making this a gorgeous and definitive culinary guide to Iceland as a burgeoning travel destinations.

Hay Smoked Duck Breasts, Carrot Puree, and Herb Emulsion

Serves: 4

hay smoked duck breasts

Gunnar originally  created this  dish with  lamb in mind,  but he had extra duck breasts on hand and substituted them for the lamb. The result, when served with  a silky carrot puree and  a vibrant herb emulsion, was a pleasing spring  or summer  dish with  a whisper of the farm delivered by the hay smoking.  If you do not use duck fat regularly, now is the time to add it to your list of essential pantry items. Here, it is toasted with  semidried  herbs to coax out its virtues.

Duck Breasts and Toasted Duck Fat
4 duck breasts
Unsalted butter, for sautéing
Rapeseed oil, for sautéing
1/2 teaspoon dried angelica leaves

Carrot Puree
7 ounces (220 g) carrots, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup (60ml) water
2 tablespoons rapeseed oil, plus more if needed
Beer Vinegar (Recipe below)

Unsalted butter, for sautéing 
Rapeseed oil, for sautéing 
8 small carrots with stems intact, unpeeled, tops trimmed

Herb Emulsion
2 1/2 teaspoons stone-ground mustard
2 teaspoons Beer Vinegar (Recipe below), plus more for seasoning
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped shallot
1/2 cup (30 g) chopped fresh dill
1/3 cup (20 g) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup (60 ml) water, plus more as needed
1 cup (240 ml) rapeseed oil

4 handfuls hay, for smoking and garnish 

To make the duck breasts, score the fat on the breasts and season the breasts on both sides with salt. Line a large  plate with  paper towels.  Melt  enough butter with  oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat to coat the pan bottom  lightly. Turn down the heat to medium-low, add the breasts, skin  side down, and sauté, turning once, for  7 to 8 minutes. Turn over, raise the heat to high  and cook until medium-rare, about 2 min- utes. Transfer the breasts  to the paper towel–lined plate and let rest, flipping them once at the midway point to distribute  the internal  juices evenly, for 7 minutes.  Season with more salt if needed.

To make the toasted duck fat, return the pan with  the duck fat to medium  heat. Add the angelica and thyme  and heat for  about 2 minutes, until aromatic. Reserve for serving.

To make the carrot puree, put the carrots and water in a pressure cooker, lock the lid in place, bring to medium pressure, and cook for 15 minutes, until  golden brown. Let the pressure release naturally. Remove the lid, drain the carrots, and transfer them  to a blender. Add the oil  and process with  on high  speed until smooth,  adding more oil, if necessary, to form a smooth  puree. Season with  salt and vinegar.

To make the carrots, melt enough butter with  oil  in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat to coat the pan bottom  lightly. Add the carrots and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown.  Season with salt.

To make the herb emulsion, combine the mustard,  vinegar, garlic, shallot,  dill, parsley, and water in a blender and process  on high  speed to a puree, adding more water as necessary to form a smooth consistency. Add the oil in a slow,  steady stream and continue to process until smooth.  Season with  salt and more vinegar, if desired.

To smoke the duck breasts, fill a deep hotel  pan or similar vessel with  hay. Arrange the duck breasts  on a perforated  hotel  pan and place over high  heat. Ignite the hay with  a kitchen  torch and let burn  for about 5 minutes, until almost completely incinerated. Place the perforated pan on top and cover securely  with aluminum foil (or a lid). Allow the smoke to smolder  out completely, about 10 minutes, before removing the foil or lid. Remove the duck breasts. Crumble the residual ashes  to use as a garnish.

To serve, slice the duck breasts and arrange the slices on plates. Arrange the carrots and carrot puree alongside. Dot duck and carrots with the herb emulsion and garnish  with  the ashes.


Beer Vinegar

Makes about 21/2 cups (600 ml)

Beer vinegar is used to enliven a number of dishes in this book with a subtle pucker, and it’s easy to make. It does take time, however, so if you cannot wait the necessary three or four weeks, any heady vinegar, such as malt vinegar, can be substituted.

A mother vinegar, which is the somewhat gummy, sometimes slimy, often wispy layer that settles on top of the container in which vinegar is fermented, is what keeps the original flavor of a vinegar alive and kicking in subsequent batches. You won’t have a mother to use when you make your first batch of vinegar, but if you like the taste of that first vinegar, be sure to reserve the mother from it to make the next batch, and then continue to save a mother from every subsequent batch. That way you will sustain your vinegar’s legacy.

Gunnar is the co-owner of a bistro-type restaurant that focuses on beer and has several different labels on tap. The place is called Kex, which means “biscuit” in Icelandic, and it is located in a funky former biscuit factory that also doubles as a hostel for the thousands of hipsters who converge on Reykjavík every summer. Each day, the bartenders collect the beer that overflows from the taps or glasses when they are serving customers, capturing it in a container. They introduce a mother vinegar to the beer they have collected and then let it ferment for three to four weeks, depending on the type of beer. It’s a nice way to reduce waste and produce something tasty at the same time.

2 1/2 cups (600 ml) dark beer, such as a porter or a stout
Vinegar mother, if available

Pour the beer into a clean, sterilized glass jar (see note). If you have a previous batch of vinegar and want to use the mother, decant the vinegar into a new container, being careful not to disturb the mother resting on the bottom of the jar.

Add the mother to the fresh beer, top the jar with a piece of cheesecloth, and tie the cheesecloth securely to the jar rim with butcher’s twine.

Keep the vinegar in a cool, dry place for 3 to 4 weeks. Check the taste of your vinegar after 1 week to see how it is doing. It should just be beginning to get tart. Also, skim off any white film growing on the surface and replace the cheesecloth with a new piece. Once the vinegar is tart and tangy enough for your liking, seal the jar with a sterilized lid. It will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator and will soon produce a mother of its own.

Note: To sterilize the jar, put it in a pot, cover it with water, bring the water to a boil, and boil for 10 minutes. Allow the jar to air-dry before using. You can sterilize the lid the same way.


These recipes may be reproduced with the following credit:

Recipes from North: The New Nordic Cuisine of Iceland by Gunnar Karl Gíslason and Jody Eddy. (Ten Speed Press; September 2014; $40.00/Hardcover; ISBN-13; 978-1607744986). http://crownpublishing.com/imprint/ten-speed-press/

Contact: Kristin Casemore
(510) 285-2944