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Fiddleheads

Best way to cook them?

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  1. I can't think of anything better than steaming them, and serve with butter and lemon. They don't need elaborate recipes.

    1. We keep it simple--blanch them in boiling water, then saute with good olive oil and lots of fresh garlic, salt and pepper.

      14 Replies
      1. re: DBrooks

        Always blanch first. I get a big pot of water boiling, throw in the fiddleheads and let the water come back to a boil. Let cook for a minute - no more - then drain and saute as above. The blanching process removes any bitterness there might be. Some fiddles are more bitter than others, but this makes them all taste wonderful.

        1. re: Nyleve

          Thanks for the tip. I made a bunch about a month ago, but found them to be pretty bitter. Is that the brown fuzzy stuff that makes 'em bitter or late harvesting or ...?

          1. re: slobhan

            Remove the brown fuzzy stuff. You might still find them bitter, though.

            You might try this. I sometimes toss them in a white wine vinaigrette: white wine vinaigre, olive oil, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. Something about the smokiness complementing theflavour of the fiddleheads.

            1. re: hungry_pangolin

              I have eaten them all my life (New England and New York) and they are not bitter.

            2. re: slobhan

              I never found the brown paper to be obnoxious, but mature heads, which are about to spring open, can be bitter. The smaller the better.
              In addition, there is more than one type in the northeast, and the most common one is the bitterest. You would have to check internet sources for the mildest in your area, or cope with it as the above posters have done.
              At this time, they must be over and done with unless you go north into black fly country!

          2. re: DBrooks

            You really should blanch or boil them for a couple minutes for two reasons:
            (1) to assure they're fully cooked since they actually have a toxin in them that goes away when they're boiled.
            (2) it removes that brown fuzzy stuff.

            I boil for two minutes, drain, and then saute in butter and garlic. Yum, yum!

            1. re: NYchowcook

              The toxin story may be a myth. As far as I've been able to tell, it stems from reports of food poisoning in British Columbia a few years ago. But even Health Canada, which issued the warning, admits that no toxin has been identified and that the culprit ferns were not the ostrich fern commonly harvested and consumed in northeastern North America. Health Canada ninnies also recommend boiling the fiddleheads for 15 minutes and tried to ban raw milk cheeses a while back, by the way. I and many people I know have eaten cooked but not blanched or steamed fiddleheads for years with no unpleasant side effects. Thorough cooking? Yes. Mandatory blanching? No.

              The chaff can be removed by soaking, vigourous swirling and rinising.

              1. re: carswell

                I don't boil them to remove toxin - I just find I like the flavour better after a quick boil. Just had the last of this season's fiddles for dinner. Delicious. Health Canada folks are certifiable.

                I may be wrong, but I think that many of the unpleasant reactions people get to things like fiddleheads are very individual. For example, I can't eat puffballs, no matter how non-poisonous they are. I'll spare you the details but the reaction is extreme - I've confirmed it several times, just to be sure. Ugh. And my husband can't eat another wild mushroom that I have no problem with. I suspect the side effects of fiddleheads may be the same sort of thing. There's something about these undomesticated foods that just don't work for everyone.

                1. re: Nyleve

                  I didn't know you could eat puffballs. I couldn't imagine eating them, ick.

                  1. re: sarah galvin

                    Sarah, they are actually quite bland, but you have to pick them before they are mature, and no powdery spores inside. You still get a lot of mushroom in each one. Good with fresh pasta.

                    1. re: jayt90

                      I will wait for the teachable moment!

                      1. re: sarah galvin

                        Puffballs are the marshmallows of the mushroom world. They can be sliced and fried, but tend to soak up unimaginable amounts of butter which provides what little flavour they have. Even when I could eat them without becoming violently ill, I didn't love them - very soft spongy texture, not much else. I still pick them for friends who like them but, alas, they're not for me. Having said all that, they're worth trying if you find one - and really unmistakable. About the size of a basketball, solid white. Very impressive.

                2. re: carswell

                  Fiddleheads have been eaten for many years by thousands of people with no ill results. Some people's metabolism may not be able to handle certain foods such as beans, cucumbers, seasonings such as msg (which can kill some people), and it is probable that if you have problems with fiddleheads two possible things are wrong----they are old and infected with bacerial decay or you are allergic to them. Same applies to mushrooms of various types.

                  1. re: carswell

                    According to Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking, Pteridium Aequilinum is the common fiddlehead enjoyed in Japan and Korea that contains a 'potent DNA damaging chemical, and should be avoided.' That's probably where the toxic story originates. He also says that Ostrich ferns of the matteuccia family are thought to be safer.

              2. As well as simple dishes, you can incorporate them in different recipes like the Korean bi bim bop dish or the Spicy beef soup in this thread:
                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/472776

                1. My favourite way is to soak them 30 minutes in water acidulated with lemon juice, then drain well and slowly cook in butter in a skillet. They gain a mineral intensity and never come out soggy or grassy-tasting.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: carswell

                    I'll second this. I never boil them, ever. Nor do I worry much about the brown fuzz (I don't peel kiwi fruit. I rather LIKE texture). Wash them well & cook them in butter. Sweat them a little to soften, if need be (the smaller & darker they are, the less bitter & easier to soften they will be). As carswell states, they are very earthy and mineral-ly this way.

                    As for the "toxins"... Having grown up where you can gather these yourself along the rivers' edges, My parents always said fiddleheads were as good as the river where they were picked. Dirty river = toxic fiddleheads. If this is (as I have excepted it) the truth about fiddleheads, you are not going to be able to wash or boil out the poison anymore than you can cook the mercury out of contaminated fish. My technique & advice is not to worry about it. While if you are not going to be gathering them yourself you are unlikely to know the truth about their origins, Their season and accessability is so limited that I'd imagine you are VERY unlikey to eat enough of them in this short span of time to do any real damage to yourself. Think of it like tuna sushi or the tamale in your lobster... sometimes you've just got to eat it.

                    Caveat: don't eat these things if you are or may be pregnant. You should really limit your exposure to these things if you are even thinking about getting pregnant soon. The Maine board of tourism says you shouldn't eat the tamale DURING YOUR CHILD-BEARING YEARS! I know it sucks, I myself have gone 7 months so far with no sushi, trout or raw milk cheese.

                    1. re: butter and whiskey

                      One solution to fiddlehead toxicity is to be sure that they place you are gathering them has not been sprayed with herbicides (any place near electric lines is just about sure guarantee that they have been sprayed).
                      If you are not gathering them yourself ----buy them from a reputable supermarket such as Whole Foods which has stores in most states. They also have many things you will not find in most grocery stores such as Sapote, Cherimoya et al.

                      1. re: butter and whiskey

                        There should be no problem eating fiddleheads if you arr pregnant and purchase Organic farmed raised fiddleheads which Whole Foods sells.

                    2. My husband sautes them with onions, garlic, and carrots and serves them with potatoes. This combination is based on a recipe in "Friendly Foods" or "Eco Cuisine" by Ron Pikarski (sp?)