Thursday, May 20, 2010

Simple Sauteed Fiddleheads and Leeks

This is less a recipe than a recommendation, because it's so ridiculously simple, but fiddleheads have a special place in my heart. When I was a kid, my dad and my favorite uncle always got excited during the brief season of these delicate, local ferns. And there was none of this "going to the market and paying $8 a pound" nonsense, because my uncle would go out in the woods and pick 'em his own damn self. (I'm reminded of the scene in "Get Your YaYas Out" where David Sedaris' Greek grandmother harvests dandelion greens from the neighbors' lawns - the sort of escapade that provoke his mother to remark, "That kind of thing might fly on Mt. Olympus, but here in America...")

Anyway, my uncle would show up with a bag full of green, curly things that looked like the tiny fists of the Jolly Green Giant's babies, which would be immediately plunged into a sink full of cold water to soak. It was a fiddly business to remove all the shreddy, papery bits to get them ready to cook, but their brief season made it worthwhile. Fiddleheads have a delicate, subtle flavor, and are best prepared simply; my father invariably sauteed them in olive oil with garlic, salt & pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice (which was pretty much how he cooked all greens). I cooked up this most recent batch with chopped leeks, which was perfect alongside the tofu "scallops" in my last post. While a sprinkle of parsley or dill wouldn't do any harm, I'd advise giving these weird little guys a go on their own before painting the lily - or, fern - any further. I feel pretty sure that's the approach they take on Mt. Olympus!

Simple Sauteed Fiddleheads and Leeks
~ 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
~ 1 large leek, thoroughly cleaned and chopped
~ ¼ cup dry white wine
~ 1 lb. fiddlehead ferns, cleaned and trimmed
~ 1 tsp. kosher salt
~ Fresh black pepper
~ 2 cloves garlic, minced
~ Juice of 1 large lemon

~ Boil a large pot of water, and cook the fiddleheads for 1-2 minutes. Drain and rinse immediately with cold water.
~ In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and saute the leeks over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes, until softened.
~ Deglaze the pan with a splash (up to 1/4 cup) of white wine, then add the drained fiddleheads, salt, a few grinds of pepper, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly so they don't stick.
~ Add the garlic and cook another minute or two.
~ Remove from heat, stir in the lemon juice, and serve.

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