3 Fiddlehead Recipes

You know it must be spring when ferns start to poke their heads through the soil. A fleeting delicacy, fiddleheads are the tightly furled fronds of the Ostrich fern, which are harvested in our region for only a short time, starting in late April to May.
By / Photography By Tara Simpson | July 01, 2016

Preparation

Fiddleheads should be blanched first to eliminate the natural toxin which is known to cause mild food poisoning. After removing the husks, blanch the fiddleheads by dropping them into a pot of boiling, salted water and cook for 4-6 minutes. Remove and place directly into ice-cold water to stop the cooking processing. Once cold, remove and place on a cloth or paper towel to remove the excess water. Proceed with recipes.

Szechuan Fiddleheads Serves 4-6

1 pound fiddleheads, blanched
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons chilli paste
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
½ teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns
2 teaspoons dried shrimp*, chopped
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced

In a large frying pan or wok, warm 1 tablespoon sesame oil over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger to pan and cook until soft and fragrant. Add soy sauce, brown sugar, chilli paste, rice wine vinegar, Szechuan peppercorns and shrimp. Bring sauce up to a simmer then add fiddleheads. Cook until the sauce has thickened and coated the fiddleheads. Remove from heat and add the sliced scallions and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil. Serve warm.

*dried shrimp may be omitted if you prefer. To make a heartier dish, a ½ pound minced (and cooked) pork or tofu may be added.

Mushroom Broth with Fiddleheads Serves 4

3 cups cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 teaspoons ginger, chopped
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 cups stock, chicken or vegetable
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 cup fiddleheads, blanched
2 cups noodles, rice, udon or your favourite
½ lb Chinese BBQ pork, sliced
2 scallions, thinly sliced

In a pot over medium-high heat, add canola oil and heat until thin wisps of smoke are seen. Add mushrooms and let sit undisturbed until they start to brown. Add garlic and ginger. Stir lightly and cook for another minute until the garlic and ginger have softened. Add stock and turn heat down to a low. Simmer for 12-15 minutes. Add soy sauce. Remove from heat and pour through a strainer or sieve. Reserve mushrooms for later. Return stock to low heat.

While the mushroom stock is simmering, cook rice or udon noodles as per instructions. Reserve.

To serve, separate cooked noodles, BBQ pork and fiddleheads evenly into bowls. Add warm mushroom broth to cover ingredients. Add some of the previously cooked mushrooms to the bowl and sprinkle with scallions. You can add chilli paste or soy sauce to taste.

Spring Fiddlehead Salad with Poached Egg Serves 4

2 cups fiddleheads, blanched
4 radishes, thinly sliced
4 eggs, poached
pea shoots or your favourite sprouts or microgreens
salt and pepper to taste

Beurre Blanc

1 tablespoon shallots, finely diced
¼ cup white wine
1 tablespoon vinegar, white wine or apple cider
½ cup cold butter, cut into small cubes

In a small pot over medium-low heat, bring shallots, wine and vinegar to a simmer. Reduce liquid to approximately a tablespoon. Remove pot from heat. Slowly whisk pieces of butter into the pot until all butter is added and emulsified. Set aside.

Poached Eggs

Bring a large pot of water to a low simmer, with vinegar added (1 tablespoon of vinegar for every 4 cups of water). First crack each egg individually into a bowl. Pour the egg slowly into water and repeat for the others. Cook for 3-5 minutes, depending how well cooked you like your yolks. Remove the eggs using slotted spoon. Place on clean towel to remove excess water.

Assembly

Place ½ cup fiddleheads in a pile in the centre of each plate. Scatter thinly sliced radishes over top of fiddleheads. Season with salt and pepper. Place one warm poached egg over each pile of vegetables. Drizzle a spoonful or two of beurre blanc over the egg and around the plate (it’s rich, so go easy). Finish the plate with a few sprigs of pea shoots.

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