kitchen first: fiddlehead ferns with linguine, bacon and mushrooms
Every year around this time I notice grocery stores starting to stock fiddlehead ferns, and I have always wondered about them– besides looking awesome, are they special enough to warrant their hefty pricetag? After getting a tip-off that they were in stock at a local store, I had to go and check some of these curly little guys out.
Sure enough, my first impression at the store was that they look pretty cool but arrrrghhh they were going for $17 a pound! Definitely wasn’t going to be going home with a giant bag of them. I was however able to grab a nice little handful of them for about $2.50, so I trotted back home with perhaps my fanciest ingredient yet set aside for a kitchen first.
The next question was, what to do with an eighth of a pound of fiddleheads? I decided right off the bat to do them with pasta, because I wanted to give them a starring vegetable role but not try to make such a small quantity of them stand alone. So there was a start. A little internetting provided the rest– I learned that the fiddleheads need to be blanched for a few minutes before you do anything else with them, and I noticed that most of the recipes for them involved things like garlic, butter, and onion. I found another that suggested fiddleheads with bacon and white wine, and the rest is history (and improvisation).
This pasta was seriously tasty, but Stephen and I agreed that that didn’t really have a whole lot to do with the fiddleheads. Don’t get me wrong, they tasted quite good– fresh, crisp yet tender, vegetabley, and not at all like a dirty forest floor which was sort of my concern– but they kinda just tasted like any other green vegetable. Their appearance certainly adds interest to the dish, and it was fun to try, but in the future I will probably make this pasta with a different vegetable and save myself $14 dollars a pound (I think broccolini or asparagus would both be really good, but you could probably put just about any vegetable with pasta, bacon, mushrooms, shallots, garlic, white wine and parmesan and have it come out delicious). The nice thing about this recipe (scaled for 2) is that is doesn’t require a whole lot of anything, so it’s a really easy way to turn out a delicious meal using up what’s left in your fridge and pantry. And if you can get your hands on some fiddleheads, it’s a great way to get in the spring spirit!
Linguine with Fiddleheads, Bacon and Mushrooms
1/2 package of linguine (or fettucine, or angel hair, or whatever you have)
1/8 lb (a generous handful) fiddleheads, or as much as you can afford (alternately, you can substitute more like a half pound of broccolini, asparagus, or other veg)
2 strips bacon, chopped (feel free to omit this and just use some olive oil to cook the veg)
1 small shallot, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
about 4 mushrooms, sliced
2 T white wine (I used sauvignon)
2 T butter
small handful of parmesan
salt and pepper
Set a large pot of water to boil. Wash your fiddleheads well and trim the dirty ends. Blanche fiddleheads for 3-5 minutes or until just tender, then refresh in cold water. Set aside until you’re ready. If your boiling water still looks relatively clean when you’re done blanching the fiddleheads, you can cook the pasta right in that water, but for me the water was green and woodsy looking so I chucked it and reboiled some new water while I did my chopping of everything else (mince garlic, slice shallots and mushrooms, chop bacon). Watch your pasta while you’re working and drain when it’s al dente.
Place your chopped bacon in a saute pan and turn the heat up to medium. Allow to cook until almost brown, and then toss in shallots and garlic (if your bacon doesn’t render much fat, you can supplement with a little butter or olive oil). Allow to cook until fragrant and starting to soften, just a couple minutes, and then toss in your mushrooms and fiddleheads (again, add just a touch of oil or butter if your pan is too dry). Saute for another couple of minutes, then add in 2 T white wine and allow to bubble and simmer until it has mostly evaporated. Season with salt and pepper (I didn’t do much of this because our bacon was salty and peppery already).
Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the pan, then dump in your drained linguine and toss it all to combine. Add a small handful of parmesan, toss again, and serve immediately!