Friday, May 23, 2014

Skillet Fiddlehead Ferns and Mushrooms

Fiddlehead ferns
Springtime, when shoots and flower buds are picked and eaten in their most tender moments. Fiddleheads have their moment in late May, the same time as asparagus in New England. Left to grow on the plant, each fiddlehead would unfurl into a single frond. At which point they turn tough and inedible.
A pile of fiddlehead ferns
If you find them at a good grocery store the cut edge often has turned a little brown, like cut flowers. Fresh fiddleheads should be tightly wound and feel firm not limp. Once you get them home, first wash them to dislodge the papery brown fern casing which sticks to them in places. And slice off any brown on the cut edges.

Shallot and fiddleheads
I see fiddleheads when I take walks in the Spring, but I have never picked them myself. Next year perhaps I will do some reading on how to identify the Ostrich fern which produces the edible dinner worthy sprouts. For now, I rely on others to pick them.

Cooked on high heat fiddleheads require about seven to ten minutes of cooking time. First they sear and then soften a little bit. They are best when crisp-tender. The flavor is vegetal and very mild. 

Mushrooms are a natural woodland pairing. If you have invited dancing nymphs and satyrs to dinner I would serve this. If you had morels that would be decadent. They pair nicely with onions, ramps, cream sauces, eggs and lemon. Anything which would go with asparagus is usually at home with a fiddlehead. It was beautiful with salmon and a bottle of rosé.

I made a nice side dish with ubiquitous lazy pre-sliced baby bella mushrooms, lots of olive oil and a large shallot. 

Skillet mushrooms
Skillet Fiddlehead Ferns and Mushrooms 
(about 3 servings)

2 cups sliced baby bella mushrooms
2 cups fiddlehead ferns
1 large shallot, diced
olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat a cast iron skillet on high heat. Sear the mushrooms with some olive oil and a pinch of salt, leaving them to brown before stirring them around much. 

Rinse the fiddleheads clean. Cut off any browned ends. 

When the mushrooms have some color and begin to release their juice and soften, add the fiddleheads into the pan. 


Saute the mixture, the mushrooms will finish their cooking and the fiddleheads will soften up along with them. Add a pinch of salt and a drizzle more olive oil.

When the fiddle heads are bright and halfway to tender add the shallot into the mix. Added before there is risk of burning the shallot on the high heat. Added now it will have enough time to cook while the other ingredients finish up. Stir in and saute, stirring often until the fiddleheads are crisp tender.

Serve while hot. The fiddleheads retain their curl when cooked and make for a really cool looking dinner. Happy spring!

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