Fiddleheads for the Season
If you were asked to make a dish with fiddleheads would you know where to start? Some of us would and most of us wouldn’t. As the spring season gets into gear for delicious tasting ingredients the talk of fiddleheads is usually the first one people will hear about.
As the warmer weather sets in and water along river banks start to rise so does the fast growing fiddlehead. Many foragers look for the young spiral shaped ostrich fern, which gets its name from the end of a fiddle because of its shape, in hopes to taste the flavour of what can be described as a cross between asparagus and broccoli.
I was lucky enough to be part of an amazing judging panel which included the likes of James Chatto, Chef John Higgins, Marion Kane, Monda Rosenberg and Chef Jason Parsons just to name a few. It was for Norcliff Farms “So You Think You Can Cook 2011” culinary competition where 3 young chefs from Ontario competed by incorporating fiddleheads in as much of their dishes as they could. All 3 chefs were able to succeed and use this unique vegetable in ways that most home cooks would not even think of.
Fiddleheads, I also found out have a long list of reasons to enjoy it. It is truly good for you! Eat for your health and with fiddleheads having twice as much antioxidant as blueberries it has many people interested. And they are also rich is iron, fibre, Vitamin C and A. Not to mention I was happily surprised to find out that is was a source of non-marine source of Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids.
This unique and somewhat odd looking green vegetable is still hand-picked and has a short almost 6 week season, so there are many foragers out picking and cutting as many as they can to take home and enjoy fresh or to cook them up and them store them in the freezer for a later date.
You can purchase fiddleheads fresh or frozen, but experts agree that fresh is best. Nick Secord, owner of Norcliff farms, in Port Colborne really enjoys them simply. “I prefer to boil them for about 8 to 10 minutes then drain them and saute them in some olive oil and garlic, plain and simple”. Unlike asparagus that can be blanched for a few minutes Secord recommends the longer blanch to remove some of the bitter taste many associate with it.
You can enjoy fiddleheads so many ways once they are blanched. You can saute them and then create a salad or a side dish or serve them in soup, stews, risottos, omelettes or in noodles dishes. And the chefs in this competition really let creativity take over along with their culinary talents.
Chef Eric Henry Anderson, is sous chef at Inn on the Twenty in Jordan, Niagara created a pasta pillow of local ricotta cheese and fiddlehead with a super smooth fiddlehead Riesling puree and added a sweet element of candied fiddlehead coins which was a great contrast to the slight bitterness of the fiddleheads.
Chef Kyle Christofferson, executive chef from Luxe Bistro in Ottawa prepared a triple header of fiddlehead flavour which featured pearl barley risotto with fiddleheads served with a fiddlehead beurre blanc and an ahi tuna tuna tartare with fiddleheads and a unique concoction of a fiddlehead smoothie that incorporated fruit juices to balance out the flavours.
Chef Brian Scott Pingle, executive chef of Gossip Restaurant in Toronto created a uniquely Japan inspired fiddlehead presentation with included bison carpaccio and fiddlehead maki with crisp fiddleheads served up with a wild garlic mayo.
These 3 chefs took an ingredient that is craved by many chefs around this time of year and gave it their all. Chef Kyle Cristofferson from Ottawa came out on top that night but I think the enjoyment of celebration of the fiddlehead is what really won. It is one thing to see what can be done with such a humble ingredient in the kitchens of restaurants but to know that it is accessible to us all is a great nod to local foods and flavours.
If the warmer weather decides to stick around, we will surely see fiddleheads by the end of the week or next week for sure. So perhaps for our Easter celebrations we can enjoy a handful of fresh fiddleheads in our brunch omelettes with family and friends. Or we can run out and use up some frozen ones to experience their unique qualities and then compare the fresh.
Parmesan Garlic Fiddleheads
Here is a simple recipe to get you started from Norcliff Farms website www.norcliff.com
1 lb (500 g) fresh fiddleheads, washed or 1 pkg frozen fiddleheads
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup (50 mL) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp (25 mL) butter
Salt and pepper
In large pot of water, boil fiddleheads for 8 to 10 minutes. (Water will be very dark) Drain well and rinse.
In large nonstick skillet heat butter and garlic over medium heat and add fiddleheads. Stir to coat evenly. Cook for about 2 minutes or until tender crisp and well coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Scrape onto platter and sprinkle with parmesan to serve.
Makes 4 servings.
Winning Fiddlehead Recipes:
Chef Kyle Christofferson
1500g Unsalted butter, clarified
Water as needed
-Bring a large pot of seasoned water to a boil
-Fill a large container with ice, and cover with water as needed
-Heat clarified butter to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, and hold at this temperature
-Plunge Lobster in boiling water for 90 seconds
-Immediately Plunge Lobster into the ice bath and allow sufficient time to cool
-Remove the carcass from the flesh of the Lobster, note that the flesh is still raw and should be handled quickly and refrigerated immediately or poached immediately.
-Place the lobster tail and claws in the clarified butter and poach for ten to fifteen minutes as needed, until the lobster reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
-Serve and Enjoy!
Fiddlehead Beurre Blanc
100g Shallots (roughly chopped)
1 T Vegetable Oil
250ml White Wine
150ml White Wine Vinegar
1 Bay Leaf
1 t Black Peppercorns
454 g Butter (cubed)
250ml Cream 35%
1 T Lemon Juice (freshly squeezed)
¼ t Salt
In a medium sized saucepot, sweat the shallots in vegetable oil.
Deglaze the pot with white wine and white wine vinegar.
Add the black peppercorns and bay leaf.
Reduce the liquid by 80%
Reduce heat to low.
Whisk in butter, one cube at a time.
Once the butter has been fully incorporated, add the cream.
Cook on low for 5 minutes.
Add Lemon juice, salt and fiddleheads.
Blend with a hand-held emersion blender, or a bar blender.
Strain through a fine sieve and discard solids.
Hold sauce at 80 degrees Fahrenheit for service
Pearl Barley Risotto with Fiddleheads, Squash and Walnuts
50g Fiddleheads, trimmed and blanched
50g Roasted Butternut Squash, ¼” dice
50g Pearl Barley (cooked to “el dente”)
15g Roasted Walnuts, (roughly chopped)
1 T Butter
2 T Mascarpone cheeses
2 T Parmesan Cheese
1 t Chives, (finely sliced)
2 T Vegetable Stocks
¼ t Salt
Combine all ingredients in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat.
12 Fiddleheads (blanched)
3 Baby Carrots (blanched and cut in half lengthwise)
2 Patty Pans (blanched and cut in half lengthwise)
3 Young bell peppers (grilled and cut in half lengthwise)
1 T Vegetable Oil
¼ t Salt
¼ t Cracked pepper
½ t Thyme, chopped
½ t garlic, minced
Heat all vegetables in a pan over high heat, and add seasonings just before service.
Ahi Tuna Tar tare
120 g Ahi tuna, (cut into ¼” dice)
1 T Chive, finely sliced
1 t Shallots, minced
1 t Cilantro, minced
½ t Siracha Hot Sauce
1t Limejuice, freshly squeezed
1 t extra virgin olive oil
1 t Wasabi Tobiko
30g Fiddleheads, trimmed and finely chopped
1 t Kikkoman soy sauce
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, and lightly toss until an even distribution on ingredients is obtained
Micro beet shoots
Micro mustard shoots
Fiddlehead Riding Hood
Eric Henry Andersen
Pasta Dough(300 gr A/P flour, 200 gr semolina, 5 whole eggs, salt and pepper, olive oil)
250 ml Upper Canada Ricotta (Hung Overnight)
100 ml fiddleheads, lightly blanched(in chicken stock), drained and roughly chopped
Nutmeg(freshly Grated) to taste
1 egg yolk
100 ml grated Grana Padano Cheese
5 gr Chopped Thyme
5 gr Chopped Parsley(Flat leaf)
5 gr Fine Dice Chives
200 ml Fiddleheads, drained and dried
100 ml Shallots
150 ml Riesling
100 ml Chicken Stock
200 ml Cream
Lemon Juice-to taste
Fiddleheads (3 per plate, 12 total)(Blanched in stock, shocked, drained, dried, seasoned)
Isomalt Rounds - 24
100 ml Coronation Gastrique
1 litre Tender Seedling Salad(Peppercress, Arugula Cress etc)
Lava Salt-pinch x 4
50 ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
For the Raviolo:
Combine Ricotta, fiddleheads, egg yolk, Padano and ¾ of the fresh herbs in a stainless steel mixing bowl. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Form into ½ oz “balls” on sheet pan. Refrigerate
Roll out pasta dough on lightly floured surface. Take the dough down to a #1 on a commercial sheeter or the second last setting on a hand crank pasta roller.
Divide your sheet in half. Space cheese”balls” 1 inch apart and evenly on one sheet.
Lightly spritz with water, lay second sheet on top of bottom sheet evenly, seal and form. Cut with a fluted ring mold cutter and place on floured sheet pan. Refrigerate until use.
For the Puree:
Sweat your shallots with a little oil and/or butter. When translucent add half the fiddleheads and cook for 1 minute. Add wine and reduce. Add Stock and reduce by 75% Add cream, reduce by 25% Add remaining fiddleheads and cook for an additional 4 minutes. Season and buzz with a Vita-Prep or hand blender. Pass through a triple mesh strainer(chinois), check seasoning and reserve.
For the Isomalt Coins:
Boil .5 kg of Isomalt(beet sugar derivative) with .5 cups water.
When temperature reaches 320 F or 165 C, place bottom of pot in water bath to slow down process.
On Silpat or parchment paper, carefully ladle ½ oz rounds of Isomalt liquid. Allow to cool Be very careful with this procedure, can be dangerous. Extremely hot.
Place drained, blanched, shocked and seasoned fiddlehead in center of each round. Place another round on top and place in 300 F over until top layer begins to “droop”. Pull from oven, seal carefully and allow to set.
For Plating and the Finishing Touches:
Bring 3 litres of salted water to a rolling boil. Warm your puree up gently. Drizzle gastrique in a “Picasso” style on your 4 warmed plates. Drop ravioli’s in water and cook for 2 minutes. Warm a pan with a pat of butter and add ravioli’s when cooked al dente. Season pasta and add remaining herbs. Dress cress with extra virgin oil, a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper. ”Ball” salad gently and place on plate. Spoon puree on plate. Place Ravioli on plate a little off center.
Lay 3 “coins”, resting on each other near front of plate. Drizzle with Extra virgin olive oil. Drop a small “hill” of lava salt where desired.
Gossip Fiddlehead Maki
Chef Brian Scott Pingle
1lb Bison Tenderloin fully butchered
2 Bunches Garlic Ramps
1 Cup Arborio Rice
1 Cup Rice Flour
1 Cup of Ontario Riesling
1 ½ Cup Grape Seed Oil
½ Stick Butter
Season Bison Tenderloin with salt & pepper, per heat skillet to medium/high add oil to coat. Sear tenderloin length wise on all sides until golden brown (Keep Rare). Put to side until cool. Wrap tightly in saran wrap, place in freezer until semi frozen.
Wash Garlic Ramps, cut in half, reserve top halves, rough chop bottoms & place in pot with 1 cup Grape Seed Oil. Place on medium heat till ramps are tender, place to the side until ramps are at room temperature.
Wash and clean Fiddleheads. Bring large pot of salted water to a boil add fiddleheads for one minute, strain and place in large bucket of ice water to cool, strain and divide into two portions, one portion for puree to paste and the other place on paper towel to dry.
In one pot add 1 ½ tblsp salt, 1 cup Riesling and 1 cup water, bring to a boil. In another pot melt butter on medium heat & add Arborio Rice stir with wooden spoon until rice is translucent, with a ladle add Riesling / water mixture slowly while stirring rice. Bring rice to a creamy soft texture and remove from heat, stir in pureed fiddleheads, spread on a tray and let cool.
Take top of Garlic Ramps slice thin like chives separate into two bowls
In a food processor add egg yolks, rice vinegar, strained lemon juice, pinch of salt and honey, put processor on puree, transfer roasted ramps and grape seed oil to a pourable container, slowly add to processor until emulsified.
Take sushi matt cover in saran wrap. Take Bison slice thin layer onto sushi matt with slight overlap all the way length wise, three slices high. Layer risotto ¼ inch high and three quarters to top of the meat, roll matt and chill for 5 min, cut in 1 inch sections and plate.
Take dried whole Fiddleheads toss in rice flour, 1 tlbsp salt and deep fry at 350 degrees till golden brown, and strain. Garnish with chopped ramps, fried Fiddleheads and side of Mayo.
Taste is “Earthy Crisp”. Bison gives a soft pepper flavour. Garlic Ramps add a semi sweet. Rice gives texture
The Mayo brings the silkiness. Fiddleheads bring the Earthy Crisp flavours together