At Gothamist we love the concept of eating wild, foraged vegetables almost as much as the burstingly fresh flavors they often provide. As with most credos or rules to live by, there is always space for an exception. For us that exception has long been fiddlehead ferns, a young Ostrich Fern that is has become a darling on the fresh, local food circuit. Given our meager hit and miss results, the annoying preparation routine sealed the fiddleheads place ridding the bench on our team the last few Spring seasons. Other cooks and eaters really love their asparagus-y flavor and goofy spiral shape. Below are some tips to try and ensure you end up in the latter camp by avoiding the banana peel consistency that plagued our results.
The ferns, literally the new growth poking out of the ground, quickly begin to grow enough strength to unfurl from their spirals and reach straight up for the sky – moving from tender to firm as they progress.
Tip #1 – Get them small.
When you buy them they seem to have bits of brown flakes that need to washed off before cooking. Don’t be too anal as you will have to wash them again after blanching in lots of water, which will remove some flakes as well. You will also need to trim the tail off.
Tip #2 – Blanch in an abundance of salted water, changing water once at the beginning.
Cook 3 minutes the first round and then between 2-5 minutes, using a medium boil both times. Check for tenderness regularly and then shock in ice water.
Recently we had them out at a restaurant and a chef told us that he really liked to cook them hard and get a good char on them. Since they were the first ones we really enjoyed in quite some time we will make that the next tip.
Tip #3 – Cook the drained fiddleheads in a very hot pan with oil, butter or a mix
Once you get a solid char, we have it on good authority that you will be happy if you mix in any of the following flavor components.
- Finely chopped young red or green shallots
- Coarsely chopped braised morels, use cream for extra decadence
- Julienne of rendered slab bacon or pancetta
- Minced thyme, marjoram, parsley, chives