In the Maritimes, fiddleheads are traditionally harvested in the wild by consumers and professional foragers alike, but beware; only the unfurled heads of the ostrich fern are edible, and since all incipient ferns look alike, it is safer to purchase them from a reliable source. Another cautionary note, do not eat them raw or only lightly cooked as they can cause stomach upset unless cooked until just tender, (never mushy!).
To prepare fiddleheads, soak them in water, then rinse thoroughly to remove any sand or brown scales, and trim the tough ends of the stalks. Fiddleheads have a mild flavour, slightly reminiscent of asparagus, and are lovely simply steamed, garnished with butter, a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt. For a more elegant repast consider serving them in this velvety Vichyssoise soup, perhaps as a prelude to grilled salmon, lobster or scallops.
Serves 6 as a starter or 4 as a main course
Level of difficulty: easy
1 lb. fiddleheads cleaned and steamed until still firm approx. 3 minutes (you will cook them further)
2 small shallots finely chopped
2 leeks (white part only) finely chopped
8 sprigs of cilantro roughly chopped
1 celery stalk finely chopped
3 small (2 ½ cups) Yukon Gold potatoes peeled and diced
½ cup dry white vermouth, Noilly Prat is best
1 ½ cups low-salt chicken broth
1 ½ cups of 2% milk
1 cup 35% cream
2 tbsp. melted butter
salt and white pepper to taste
Tarragon oil garnish: 2 tsp. minced lemon zest, 4 sprigs fresh tarragon chopped,1 tbsp. butter and ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil – process in blender or food processor until fairly smooth.
In a large pot, melt butter; add onions, leeks, and celery, sauté over medium heat until just soft. Add potatoes, stock and vermouth. Bring to a gentle boil and lower to a simmer. Simmer covered for 20 minutes until potatoes are soft, add the fiddleheads. Remove from heat, and allow soup to rest for 5 minutes. Spoon soup into a blender or processor, add the cilantro. Purée until smooth, return soup to pot and stir in the cream. Serve soup either warm or at room temperature garnished with a drizzle of tarragon oil.
Recipe contributed by Loretta White a food writer based-in Chester,Nova Scotia. For more of Loretta's recipes visit Food for Thought at www.southshoreclipper.com
Complementary Wines: Cider: hard, Fruit Wine: Apple, Gewürztraminer, White Zinfandel
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