Saturday, May 15, 2010

Foraged Fiddleheads are Finger Food!

Yet another reason to love Nova Scotia - fiddleheads!
But fiddleheads as an appetizer?
Appetizers are not my forte - I usually do a no-cook item like grapes, cheese, olives, and bread. If I am hosting, I save my energies for the main events - main course and dessert -  and just rely on good wine and conversation to lead up to dinner...hoping no one will notice the absence of h'ors d'oeuvres.

Last week my fun, foodie friends asked me to bring an appetizer to a dinner party so
when I saw the baskets at the Halifax Farmers' Market filled with fiddleheads - I knew we had to have them! But Fiddleheads as an appetizer? a finger food?

Fiddleheads  are the tight little frond of an Ostrich Fern before the sun coaxes them to relax and open up. Reminds me of the fable about the wind and the sun - do you know it?  Real life lesson here people! Listen up!
The wind challenges the sun to a contest: " I bet I can get that man to take off his coat faster than you". The wind starts to blow and blow -but the man just holds onto his coat tighter and tighter. Now the sun's turn - All the sun had to do is beam her sweet face down on the man and, sure enough, he takes off his coat! Just for fun - if you know the moral of the story, please write in a comment.....

Back to fiddleheads - thus named because they look like the scroll of a violin - or fiddle. They are only available for a few weeks in early spring in Atlantic Canada and the Eastern States.
They are not farmed; but foraged. If you decide to go fiddlehead foraging, make sure it is the Ostrich Fern - some ferns can be toxic!

Fiddlehead Finger Food:
Wash your Fiddleheads very well - changing the water at least 3 times to remove all of the outer filmy brown skin. It is important that they are clean, but also the rinsing will improve the taste by removing some tannins that may lend a bitter taste. Then trim off any brown on the stem.

I didn't want to bother my host for a pan, butter etc..but they needed to be made on the spot...and be served hot, hot, hot! So I took my own pan with butter in it - the fiddleheads already cleaned and prepped.

Put the fiddleheads into a saucepan of boiling water and simmer for about 7-8 minutes - until they are bright green and tender crisp. Don't be alarmed by the residue of brown that may appear - it is just some tannin and plant matter.

Drain the water off, add the butter and saute for 3-4 minutes - I was lucky that Diana (host) had some lovely Fleur de Sel directly from France to sprinkle on top.
Now, I am going bold here - serve right away!

I really feel that it is important to keep it simple with fiddleheads -  no sauces or strong spices - so that you can enjoy the true taste of the new fern that just sprung up from the earth. A little garlic may enhance though.

Now... I think that the Fiddlehead can be classified in etiquette rules as a finger food in this circumstance. Similar to a whole stalk of asparagus in a casual setting. What do you think?
Here is my buddy, Brian enjoying - in fact - loving the fiddleheads. But using a fork?
Next time Brian - try it with fingers.
Hard to imagine, but they taste even better when popped into one's mouth with your fingers!


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