There are many things we can thank chef Rene Redzepi for, including his Copenhagen restaurant Noma, which has often been named the best restaurant in the world. Through Redzepi's kitchen, and in the adjacent Nordic Food Lab that Redzepi founded with Claus Meyer (who also co-founded Noma), an endless stream of young chefs on pilgrimage learn to forage, preserve and cook in the manner of what Redzepi calls New Nordic cuisine.
There have been others, of course, who helped popularize both traditional and new Scandinavian cooking, including chef Marcus Samuelsson, who published his "Aquavit" cookbook in 2003, the same year that Noma opened; Andreas Viestad, the Norwegian food writer who started hosting the TV show "New Scandinavian Cooking" in 2003 (a good year for Nordic cuisine); and Magnus Nilsson, the Swedish chef behind Fäviken, who is one of the six chefs featured in the Netflix doc "Chef's Table."
Thanks largely to these chefs, and chefs they've mentored like Christian Puglisi of Copenhagen's Relae and Blaine Wetzel of Willows Inn in Washington state, New Nordic cuisine and even regular old Nordic cooking have had an influence far beyond the sparsely populated northern countries where it originated. While you can pilgrimage to Copenhagen yourself, three new excellent cookbooks are bringing the food of the north to your home kitchen. And while it might be fun to hop a flight to Stavanger, making gravlax or ash-roasted celeriac in your own kitchen is pretty fun too — and a lot cheaper and easier.
"Fire + Ice" by Darra Goldstein (10 Speed Press, $40)
Goldstein, an American who founded the James Beard Award-winning journal Gastronomica and is a professor of Russian at Williams College, is a deeply engaging writer — as you might expect. Her cookbook, which has gorgeous photography by Stefan Wettainen, is chattier than you might expect from a scholar (although of a piece with her wonderful cookbook "The Georgian Feast"), more homey than academic, and woven together with anecdotes and personal history. There's a passage that explains the concept of "hygge," which is a particularly Nordic kind of warmth and content, and others explaining the importance of cod and foraging, marzipan and embers. The book is divided in a logical way — salads and soups, regions of Scandinavia — and the recipes are easy to read and fun to make, ranging from the very classic to those that exemplify newer techniques or more healthful versions of old dishes.
"Scandinavian Baking" by Trine Hahnemann (Quadrille, $35)
This book, focusing on the baking and desserts of the region, comes from a Danish baker who has written cookbooks in both English and Danish and who founded the Rye Bread Project in New York. With very pretty photos by Columbus Leth, Hahnemann's book provides both classic recipes like kransekage and kringle and modern versions of old dishes, such as spelt crispbread, beet and bacon muffins and Nordic pizza. There are helpful sections about using whole grains and making sourdough, and useful recipes for things like vegetable soup with spelt baguettes and rye crispbread with buttermilk butter.
"The Nordic Cookbook" by Magnus Nilsson (Phaidon, $49.95)
This is a glorious encyclopedia of a book, Nilsson's follow-up to his Fäviken cookbook. In the introduction, he acknowledges that "to write a book on Nordic home cooking in general is about as stupid as to write one on European cooking," yet he cheerfully goes on, figuring that if the publishers were going to publish such a thing, it might as well be him doing it. "The Nordic Cookbook" is oddly academic for a chef-written book: a giant compendium of regional dishes with a glossary and crisp black and white illustrations to go along with many of his own photos. (If you want to have an idea of what it might look like to forage for fulmar eggs on the Faroes, plate the notorious rotten shark of Iceland or bake flatbread with Nilsson's mother and aunt, you've got the right book.) There are recipes for sugared cloudberries, for ground offal stew and for Faroese blood sausage — but also for taco quiche and chili creamed chicken and banana casserole. It is thick but very fun read, and you probably won't be much surprised that Nilsson recently made news for opening a hot dog stand at a ski resort not far from his renowned restaurant in northern Sweden.