Wednesday, June 5, 2013


One of the foods I associate most with spring is the fiddlehead, the edible shoot of the ostrich fern that's available in May-June. With a flavour that's reminiscent of asparagus, though more delicate, not much is required to enhance it. My favourite preparation is sautéed briefly in garlic infused olive oil with a little salt and pepper.

sautéed fiddleheads
But before we get to that stage, the fiddleheads must first be thoroughly cleaned and cooked. The bits of brown, papery husk which have a bitter taste, and particles of dirt must be removed (I do this by gently rubbing each fiddlehead between my fingers and rinsing well under cold running water) and the stems trimmed. 
cleaned fiddleheads
cleaned and trimmed
steamed fiddleheads
steamed 10 minutes
Delicious though they are, they've been known to cause illness if undercooked and should absolutely never be eaten raw. 10-12 minutes of steaming - my preference - or boiling for 15 minutes is recommended*. Once cooked, they can be eaten immediately with a little salt and pepper or used as you would blanched asparagus....the possibilities are endless.

*Check here for more information. 

                                  Sautéed Fiddleheads
                                           serves 4
                                  500g fiddleheads, cleaned, rinsed and trimmed
                                  2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
                                  2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
                                  Salt and pepper to taste
                                  Have ready 1 large bowl ice water


1.* In a large skillet with a tight fitting lid, bring 3cm water to a rolling boil. Arrange the fiddleheads in a metal steamer and place the steamer inside the skillet. Cover and reduce heat to low. Steam 10 minutes.  Once the fiddleheads are cooked, remove them from the steamer and plunge them into the ice water to stop further cooking. Drain and pat dry.

2. Meanwhile, add the oil and sliced garlic to a large skillet. Cook the garlic over low heat for 10 minutes. Remove the slices from the pan.

3. Raise the heat under the pan of garlic-infused oil to medium-high.  Add the steamed fiddleheads and sautée 3-5 minutes until heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

*This step can be done in advance; refrigerate the cooked fiddleheads until ready to sautée and serve.

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