Sous Chef Reports: Using the Blasted Fiddleheads

15 04 2010

Last spring, the Chef became obsessed with fiddleheads. I can’t recall whether it was just that they were new and exciting, or he’d heard about them before and wanted to try them, or had fond childhood memories, or what the deal was. Fiddleheads are pretty cool, in theory – they look neat, and HEY, you’re eating FERNS! They taste pretty good too – reminiscent of asparagus, excellent with bacon!

My enthusiasm for fiddleheads wanes when it’s time to prep them for cooking. They come with lots of “feathers” you have to clean off, and it’s not easy. You really need running water to do it effectively, and since using hot water would partially cook them, you have to use COLD water – and your fingers freeze off. Also, it’s hard to fit more than one person in front of the sink at a time, so one person has to do it solo and it takes FOREVER. I think, in general, they aren’t necessarily worth the trouble – for me, anyway.

But, it was not too much effort for the Chef, and in his excitement, he blanched a batch of these bad boys toward the end of fiddlehead season and we put them in the freezer to enjoy over the winter.

Two or three weeks ago, fresh fiddleheads returned to the farmer’s market. And the frozen ones were still in my freezer. The Chef, to his credit, hasn’t tried to buy any fresh ones yet, but I would have refused to let him – not until the ones in the freezer are used up.

Awhile ago, he suggested a fiddlehead quiche, and I latched onto this brilliant idea, and waited til the time was right. Last night, I made it happen.

CHOMP.

Over at Parsnips Aplenty, the blog where I found this post’s recipe, fiddleheads are referred to as a “recently yuppified foraging treat”. At our farmer’s market, we have one vendor that deals in foraged goods – a rotating cast of mushrooms, fiddleheads, stinging nettles, knotweed, miner’s lettuce, etc. Foraged goods just cost more in general. They are, however, mostly delicious. Parsnips Aplenty doesn’t care how yuppified or expensive they are – Parsnips Aplenty buys them anyway. (And so do we.)

This recipe is adapted from the other blog, which is funny because that recipe is also adapted from somewhere else. Sometimes cooking from internet recipes feels like a game of telephone.

One reason a quiche was a perfect idea is that it meant using the fiddleheads in something, rather than serving them alone: they didn’t survive well in the freezer after a whole year (and I wouldn’t expect them to). They were freezer burned and, after thawed, pretty mushy. NOT TO WORRY! First, we chopped them roughly and sauteed them in a pan with approximately 2tbsp of chopped leeks, then we put them in a tasty egg mixture and cooked them up in a fancy egg pie. No need for crunchy!

As far as the game of telephone goes: we used soy milk instead of half and half, replaced the cheddar cheese with goat cheese, didn’t bother buying parsley and completely forgot to put in the parmesan. And as much as I’d have loved to make it in my tart pan, I had no designs on making my own crust – thus it was baked in a store-bought pie crust.  I also added what turned out to be quite a bit of green garlic from the farmer’s market.

It was at this point that I realized I completely forgot the tomatillo I wanted to put in.

I’m a fan of the finished product. It’s deliciously garlicky and goat-cheesey. Honestly, I can’t taste the fiddleheads – they don’t really have a strong flavor to begin with, and when you start adding strong ingredients like garlic and goat cheese, combined with the fact that the fiddleheads were WAY past their prime – that’s to be expected, I think. But as a green veggie filler they were excellent. Otherwise the quiche would probably just have broccoli in it. BORING!

Additionally: I’m not sure I’d actually choose this recipe/preparation for fresh fiddleheads. They are so much damn work that if I am going to make them, I want to be able to TASTE them, rather than bury them. Although it’s entirely possible that, when fresh, they’d be able to hold their own against the garlic and goat cheese.

The chicken potholder really enhances the baking experience

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