28 March 2014

Fiddlehead Fern and Mushroom Ragout

The weather forecast has been all encompassing this winter. Left and right I'm barraged by predictions of snow in spring, below zero temperatures, storm gust winds. All of this weather has born true, and yet its the constant chatter about the freaky-long winter that's wearing me out. It's boring. I'm bored with myself every time I mention the cold. Our one comfort, unless you are living in Westeros (GOT fans? Anyone? Anyone?) is that you cannot stop the inevitable arrival of spring. It will come. It may be shorter than we would all like, but it is going to happen. 

So as I type this post amid 40-degree weather a few days before April, the arrival of rhubarb, purple asparagus, and these little fiddlehead ferns at my local green grocer is proof enough for me. 
This was my first time cooking fiddlehead ferns and I became fixated on the idea that I could potentially poison myself by preparing them incorrectly. 

After reading through various warnings, I realized this danger is slight and occurs only when the ferns are eaten raw. With this in mind I set about finding a recipe to highlight the spring that has just barely (not quite) arrived. I purchased two bouquet-like bunches of "hen of the woods" mushrooms and set about chiffonading them while boiling away any food-born illness potential in the ferns. 

The resulting ragout was both creamy and light -- the crunch of the al dente ferns went well with the nutty tenderness of the mushrooms. My favorite way to serve any sort of vegetable medley is, of course, on top of toast. There's something so homey about toast in general, and paired with vegetables, it feels downright virtuous. 
Fiddlehead Fern and Mushroom Ragout
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

1 pound fiddlehead ferns
1 shallots, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 large hen of the wood mushrooms, woody stem trimmed away, brushed of clean, and shredded/chopped in medium size pieces. 
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tsp chopped chives
1 tsp chopped parsley
Salt and pepper

In a saucepan, bring 1 1/2 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add fiddleheads and return to a boil, cooking for 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer fiddleheads to an ice bath until the fiddleheads are cool to the touch. Drain and pat dry, removing as much of the outer brown, tissue-like membrane as possible.

In a large skillet saute shallots in butter until softened on medium heat, about 2 minutes. Add thyme, shredded mushrooms, and garlic and continue to cook until mushrooms have softened and given up their liquid, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook until almost all liquid is evaporated, about 2 more minutes. Add chicken stock and cook until reduced by half. 

Add fiddleheads and cook 2 minutes more, add cream, chives, and parsley, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Serve immediately, as a side dish or main course served over pasta or toast. 

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