Fiddleheads and Poached Eggs
New England Fiddleheads and Poached Eggs
A truly luscious New England classic, with fiddlehead ferns (or simply “fiddleheads”) foraged from our Northern woods. I often get my first stock of them from a fisherman friend of mine who likes to forage fiddleheads, wild leeks, and the many mushrooms from our northern woods as they come in season! My sister-in-law also has a nice little secret patch. Now these are friendships to cultivate! If you can find wild ramps at this time, prepare them with the fiddleheads all together and there is nothing better. When I was growing up, my Uncle Leonard did the foraging in the family, and I learned lots from him, including how to cook these fancy little gems. He also made the world’s best doughnuts, but, alas, I do not have his recipe. Perhaps I can persuade his son….
- 1 lb. fresh fiddlehead ferns, tightly closed
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 cup sliced local spring mushrooms or shitake mushrooms
- 1/2 lb. fresh, new asparagus
- Salt and pepper and a few grates of nutmeg to taste
- A nice squeeze of lemon juice
When we find the fiddleheads, we know that spring is here! If you are also lucky enough to find some local mushrooms at your farm stand or co-op, and some new shoots of asparagus, even better!
But they can be a little tricky. Fiddlehead ferns need to be scrubbed of their brown papery coating, soaked and rinsed well, soaked again, and blanched before cooking or they will be bitter. Once prepared, melt the butter and add the olive oil and, tasting often, do a quick saute for best results. After a few minutes, add the mushrooms and continue cooking, throwing in the tender asparagus at the last.
Once they are to your liking, sprinkle with salt and pepper and nutmeg and drizzle with the lemon juice to taste. You can doll them up with Hollandaise if you like, but these are a native delicacy and I think best served so that their great flavor shines through. Note: If you over cook them, they will lose a lot of flavor, so crisp/tender is the word.
Serve with poached eggs and enjoy this seasonal classic.
So, What exactly ARE these strange-looking fiddleheads?
Fiddleheads are the early tightly coiled sprout of the ostrich fern, and resemble asparagus in taste and texture, only we think they are better!
Fiddleheads or Fiddlehead greens are the furled fronds of a young ostrich fern cut close to the ground in early spring. If left on the plant, each fiddlehead would unroll into a new fern frond. They are not cultivated, but are gathered in the wild in the Northern areas of the country.
They are called fiddleheads because they resemble the curled ornamentation on the end of a fiddle or other stringed instrument.
Fiddleheads are a nutritional powerhouse as they have good antioxidant content and are a source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and are high in iron and fiber.