Foraged all the fiddleheads you could ever eat? Now try these five recipes

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Fiddlehead-foraging season is winding down in Chittenden County. Maybe you’ve foraged all of the tasty, wild, asparagus-like ostrich-fern tips you can eat, and then some. Now what do you do with them?

With staying at home rather than going out to eat still the prevailing modus operandi in our COVID-19 world, you’re probably spending more time in your kitchen. So why not try some new fiddlehead recipes to add a very Vermont-y zing to your next meal?

The Burlington Free Press reached out to a few local chefs and (ahem) foraged through Vermont cookbooks to find flavors that just might float your fiddlehead boat this spring.

Fritto misto

From Will Durst and Ashley Wolf, La Petite Forest food truck, based in Waterbury

This recipe calls for some of the very first spring vegetables we come across in Vermont. The youthful flavors are a much needed remedy from the long winters of the Northeast.

½ cup fiddleheads

½ cup morels

10 stalks asparagus

10 ramps, leaves removed

1 quart canola oil for frying

Tempura batter:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup rice flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 and ¼ cup cold seltzer

Tarragon aioli: 

1 egg

1 small clove garlic

2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or lemon juice

½ cup chopped tarragon

¾ cup canola oil

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it like pasta water, have a bowl with ice water at the ready. Blanch the fiddleheads in the boiling water for 45 seconds and then immediately shock in ice water. Once cool, arrange on paper towels to dry thoroughly.

For aioli, add egg, garlic and salt to a blender, food processor or use an immersion blender, and blend. Slowly drizzle in the oil until a thick mayonnaise-like sauce develops. Mix in chopped tarragon and vinegar/lemon juice and taste. Add more salt if needed. Place in the refrigerator, this sauce is great on everything!

Pour oil into a heavy bottomed Dutch oven and attach a candy thermometer. 

Mix the tempura-batter dry ingredients in a large bowl, add in seltzer and whisk till you get a smooth, pancake-like batter.

Turn the pot with the oil on medium/high heat and monitor closely until the oil reaches 350 F. Working in batches, lower the vegetables into the batter using tongs to submerge. Once coated, shake off extra batter and fry for 2 minutes; do not overcrowd the oil. Keep the oil between 325 F and 350 F. When ready, carefully pull out of oil and place on a wire rack on top of a cookie sheet, sprinkle with salt. Continue with the remaining veggies. 

Troubleshooting: If batter is falling off veggies in the frying oil, add one tablespoon all-purpose flour at a time until it sticks. It is important to make sure veggies are dry and the oil is up to the correct temperature. It is helpful to watch a YouTube video on making an aioli; if it is your first time, it is straightforward, but requires subtle technique. If fry oil is full of crispy bits, use a strainer or slotted spoon to clean it out. 

Forager’s flatbread

From “The Little Local Vermont Cookbook” by Melissa Pasanen, due May 26 via Countryman Press

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 to 6 ramps or green garlic, bulbs and leaves thinly sliced

2 teaspoons kosher salt

6 ounces fiddleheads or asparagus tips plus tender stalks (about 1 cup), cut in ½-inch lengths

1 pound mixed foraged or farmed mushrooms, sliced or torn into bite-sized pieces

1 pound pizza dough

All-purpose flour for rolling

1 ½ cups wild greens pesto (recipe follows)

1 8-ounce ball smoked mozzarella, shredded

Place a pizza stone or sturdy baking sheet on the center rack of the oven and heat to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large saute pan over medium heat, warm 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the ramps and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until ramps soften, about 3 minutes.

Add the fiddleheads to the pan, cover, and cook until the fiddleheads are just tender but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Transfer the ramp mixture to a bowl and set aside.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil to the pan and return to medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the mushrooms and the remaining 1 ½ teaspoons salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have given up their liquid, have turned golden, and make a squeaking noise against the pan, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Divide the pizza dough in half. On two well-floured pieces of parchment paper or nonstick baking liners, roll out both halves into rough circles about ½-inch thick.

Spread each dough circle with half the wild greens pesto and then scatter half the ramp mixture and half the mushrooms over each. Top each half with the mozzarella.

Use the parchment paper or baking liner to carefully transfer one of the flatbreads to the preheated baking stone or baking sheet. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and repeat with the second flatbread.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Note: Fresh mozzarella is easier to shred if you pop it in the freezer for about 30 minutes before shredding.

Wild greens pesto

4 cups greens (wild nettles or dandelion greens; cultivated sorrel; arugula; or tender radish greens), tightly packed

1 ramp or 2 garlic cloves, chopped

3 tablespoons raw nuts or seeds, such as blanched almonds or sunflower seeds

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste

¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

⅓ cup olive oil, plus more to taste

In the bowl of a food processor or the jar of a blender, combine all ingredients except the olive oil. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the processor as needed.

With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil through the feed tube in a steady stream to emulsify. Taste and adjust the levels of the lemon juice, salt, and olive oil as needed to balance the bitterness or tartness of various greens.

Note: Many experts recommend that nettles should be blanched before eating, but I find that when unblanched leaves are finely minced (as they are in this recipe by the food processor), they also lose their sting. If you’re concerned, feel free to blanch them first. Squeeze them as dry as possible before proceeding with the recipe.

Pickled fiddleheads

Chef Elizabeth Chadwick, Sterling College, Craftsbury Common

1 pound fiddleheads

3 tablespoons salt

2 quarts water

10 garlic cloves, smashed

For brine:

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup water

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dill seeds

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon juniper berries

2-3 bay leaves

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper or chili flakes

½ teaspoon peppercorns (black, white or pink)

Wash fiddleheads in cold water, careful to remove any dirt from the heads and their v-shaped stems and remove any brown husks. Trim the cut ends where harvested as these will brown and soften over time. Bring 2 quarts of water and 3 tablespoons salt to a boil, add in fiddleheads and boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain and rinse under cold water. Let cool.

In a clean, sanitized jar, add garlic cloves and cooled fiddleheads. Set aside and prepare the brine: Bring vinegar, water and salt to a boil. Add spices to the brine, stir, and remove from heat. Pour brine over garlic and fiddleheads, making sure to cover completely. 

Use a boiling water bath or pressure canner to seal the jar(s) of fiddleheads and store unopened for up to one year in the pantry. If not canning, store unsealed jars in refrigerator for up to one month. Allow pickled fiddleheads to age for at least 5 days before eating. Serve with runny cheese and smoked meats.

Pickled fiddleheads are impressive on cheese boards, good on sandwiches, and when well-drained, are especially tasty fried in beer batter.

Beer-battered fiddleheads

From “The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook” by Tracey Medeiros, Countryman Press, May 2013

For safety standards, many sources recommend boiling or steaming your fiddleheads before using. Serve these fiddleheads with orange-basil dipping sauce (see below). Serves 4 to 6.

8 cups canola oil

8 ounces fiddleheads, trimmed

¾ cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon salt

⅛ teaspoon dry mustard

¾ cup IPA beer, such as Fiddlehead

1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons club soda

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat to 350 degrees. (The oil should measure about 3 inches deep.)

Wash the fiddleheads under cold running water and dry thoroughly with paper towels. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, garlic powder, pepper, salt and dry mustard. Add the beer, egg and club soda and stir until just combined.

Quickly dip each fiddlehead into the batter, soaking about 5 seconds. Drop small batches into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, turning occasionally to brown on all sides, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the fiddleheads and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately.

Orange-basil dipping sauce

This versatile dipping sauce is bright and lively with strong citrus flavors and a nice (but not overpowering) zip from the sriracha hot chili sauce. It’s perfect with beer-battered fiddleheads. For a spicier dipping sauce, increase the amount of hot chili sauce to suit your personal taste. Makes 1 cup.

1 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons plain yogurt

Finely grated zest and juice from 1 orange

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

½ teaspoon sriracha or other hot chili sauce

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, yogurt, orange zest and juice, basil and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

The best of early spring for two

From Les Hook and Nova Kim, Wild Gourmet Food, Randolph

12 ostrich fern fiddleheads

6 wild leeks/ramps, bulbs and greens 

2 to 4 eggs for poaching

2 quarts water

Salt to taste

Once water is brought to boil, add fiddleheads and leeks/ramps.  

Cook for approximately 10 minutes.

Gently add eggs and simmer until whites are set. 

Add salt as desired. 

Contact Brent Hallenbeck at (802) 660-1844 or bhallenbeck@freepressmedia.com. Follow Brent on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BrentHallenbeck.

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