The much too short fiddlehead season is upon us. If you picked up this local delicacy at the farmers' market or grocery store and need some cooking inspiration, Always in Season author Elise Richer provides some fantastic ideas from the book:
Some culinary types feel that fiddleheads get too much attention, given their unremarkable flavor. And there is a bit of intrigue about how to cook the ferns. Although no toxin has been found in the plants, people have reported stomach ailments after eating raw or lightly cooked fiddleheads. Thus, many recipes recommend a long cooking time––say, 20 minutes of boiling. That leaves you with a mushy green, which is sad, because the best part of the young ferns is their texture. When steamed for 10 minutes or so, they are somehow chewy, firm, and tender all at the same time.
There aren't too many ways to cook fiddleheads. Steaming them for 10 minutes is really the best way; then you can decide what to do with them next. Some ideas are listed below (to call them "recipes" would be stretching it.) Just don't pair them with anything too strongly flavored, since their own flavor is subtle. And you never want to cook them for too long.
- Dress with butter or olive oil after cooking and serve as a side dish.
- Add vinegar or lemon juice and a handful of chives and serve as a salad.
- Put them, hot, over spinach for a wilted salad, or let them cool and toss them into a green salad.
- Substitute for asparagus in pasta or risotto dishes.
- Sauté with mushrooms and eat with toast.
- Make a soup by cooking the ferns in broth with sautéed onions and adding some cream at the end.
For more inspired recipes, find your copy of Always in Season here.