Fee, Fie, Fiddlehead Ferns

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Los Angeles has a long list of farmers markets, but the better ones aren’t the closest to us in Westwood. Our two (one in the village, the other on the VA property) are small, with common offerings. Probably why fiddlehead ferns have eluded me. *sigh* I had never tasted them.

UNTIL NOW, woo hoo!… via a private party at The Meadow during the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP). Seared on a slab of ancient Himalayan Salt, presented by cookbook authors and artisan retail shop owners Mark and Jennifer Bitterman, along with chefs Andrew Schloss and David Joachim, my first fiddles were a blast.

Andrew is a longtime food friend — cookbook author, artisan salt entrepreneur (Chef Salt was one reason for the dinner party) so I asked him for the run-down:“The fiddleheads were washed and trimmed of hard ends and any brown fuzzy fronds (green fuzzies are ok).  They were then blanched for 1 to 2 min and refreshed.  Seared on very hot salt blocks (about 600 degrees) until heated through, about a minute, and finished with a brown butter sherry vinaigrette (made like a classic vinaigrette using browned butter instead of oil and sherry vinegar for the acid).”

Fiddleheads on salt My tablemates compared them to asparagus; I thought the bite was closer to a green bean. The tight curl seemed to keep the snap texture, but unlike beans or asparagus, you really DO want to cook them enough to rid a bitter toxin in there. Just blanch, you’re done.

Calling around, I located fiddles at Whole Foods Market on 3rd Street in Los Angeles, $5.99 for a 12 ounce container, which sounded like a pretty good price.

Thanks uber-culinary-author-agent and publicist, Lisa Ekus, for the evening’s invite and follow-up info:

About Chef Salt – from the creators:

Chef Salt was conceived when Andrew Schloss and David Joachim, who make a living as award-winning cookbook writers and chefs, met international salt expert Mark Bitterman. The three of us instantly found common ground on the subject of flavor. We agree that the best flavor comes from ingredients carefully grown and harvested in small batches by experienced farmers. We also agree that there are tricks to making these ingredients work together to achieve the best results. Everyone wants the flavor of great restaurant food in their own home, but many people lack the time, experience, or expertise to make it. After hours of riding bikes, tasting salts, cooking food, and sipping Scotch, the three of us had an idea for a line of seasoning blends that would match the world’s most majestic salts to equally magical combinations of herbs and spices. Each blend would bring the art and craft of professional cooking into the home kitchen. Our thought was to put the chef in a jar.

We scribbled a few ideas on cocktail napkins such as a Maple Pig blend with maple sugar, bacon bits, ground mustard, and Sugar Maple smoked salt. Then we spent the next year developing twelve different blends. We tweaked and tasted each one, adding or omitting ingredients and refining the proportions. We then tested each one extensively, taking advantage of our connections in the culinary community to share the blends with scores of professional chefs, food experts, and home cooks. We used the blends in a huge range of preparations, from rubbing them into dry-aged steaks to sprinkling them on roasted donut peaches to swirling them with clarified butter in classic chicken vindaloo.

Painstakingly developed and meticulously perfected, every flavor of Chef Salt is the product of over 50 years of collective culinary expertise (and taste buds). The result is some of the finest, tastiest, and most effective seasoning blends available anywhere.

Chef-crafted in small batches from carefully chosen ingredients, each Chef Salt seasoning blend features artisanal sea salts and volcanic salts hand-harvested from mineral-rich oceans and salt deposits around the globe. Choose from NY Steak, Bacon BBQ, Tuscan Herb, 7 Salt, Bamboo Curry, and Tunisian Fire. Each flavor effortlessly seasons beef, pork, poultry, seafood, pasta, grains, beans, vegetables, sauces, and stews.

COMING THIS FALL: SALTED: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, With Recipes  By Mark Bitterman

$35 hardcover * 304 pages * 8×10 * On Sale October 12, 2010; Ten Speed Press * To Order:  www.themeadow.net/salted

Mark Bitterman captures the nuance and beauty of salt in this stunning field guide featuring hundreds of artisan varieties with photos. From the elegant fleur de sel and flake salts to 500-million-year-old Himalayan salt slabs that resemble pink quartz, Bitterman explains the history and science of salt production. SALTED profiles more than 150 salts and includes 55 recipes that showcase this versatile and marvelous ingredient. In SALTED, Bitterman’s mission is to encourage readers to explore flavors of salt beyond the iodized curtain and get the best results for their individual cooking style, personal taste, and unique nutritional needs.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Worth The Whisk May 18, 2010 at 4:58 pm

OMG, Tuimasi – I totally blanked, of course Fiji isn’t New Zealand and I apologize for insulting any Fijians or NZ-ers. I’ve not yet been to Fiji but I hope to, especially now that I know those fiddles are on the menu. Thanks for correcting me!

2 Tuimasi Tawake May 18, 2010 at 4:42 pm

If I get to prepare it this weekend, I’ll take a picture and post it by Monday next week.

Actually Fiji is not in New Zealand, Fiji is a South Pacific Island located North of New Zealand, a little way up…, but yes, they do grow it in New Zealand as well as Australia, it’s part of a healthy diet meal but I reckon the way we prepare it here in Fiji takes some beating…

Thank you for sharing your recipes, I really love the Apple Cinnamon Brunch Braid and the Scratch-Made Cinnamon Rolls – can’t wait to try them both.

3 Worth The Whisk May 17, 2010 at 9:27 pm

Tuimasi – how helpful, thank you soooooo much! Larry and I loved New Zealand, and now I love it even more. Next time we are there, more fiddles for us!

4 Tuimasi Tawake May 17, 2010 at 8:53 pm

Wow…. I forgot to mention salt in my post, you add salt to the coconut milk mixture before pouring the mixture to the prepared Fiddleheads.

I think the blanching and immediately soaking in icy cold water helps to keep the dark green crispy appearance – just a thought…

5 Tuimasi Tawake May 17, 2010 at 8:41 pm

Hi – I’m from Fiji, just wanted to say that we have lots of this here. We usually thoroughly clean the inner part of the tight curls with a little brush (a soft brittled new tooth brush is good for cleaning as it easy breaks when you try to untangle the tight curl), blanch in hot boiling water for about 2 minutes, remove and immediately transfer to icy cold water (it would be good to have ice cubes in the ice water as it prolongs the chill in the water). Let it soak in the chilled water for about 3 minutes and drain and place in a bowl, you could chill this while you prepare the sauce. Once done, the Fiddlehead should have a dark green colour as opposed to the one pictured above.

I usually serve this together with freshly extracted coconut milk of 2 medium sized coconuts (you could dilute the milk with 1/2 to 1 cup of water, according to your taste), flavoured with juice from 1 or 2 lemons (depending on your taste), 1 small bongo chilli thinkly chopped, 1 medium onion thinly chopped, 1 large tomato (seeds removed) – thinly chopped. Mix them all together and pour over prepared fiddleheads. Garnish this with chopped shallots if you like.

Now if you prefer, using a toothpick, you could actually tear the fiddleheads into two or four single strands, but I like to eat it whole as it is. There’s more crunch!

I hope you get to try out the way we prepare Fiddleheads in Fiji, I’m sure you’ll like it.

6 Worth The Whisk May 17, 2010 at 8:57 am

Julie, I have to say that I love how this photo came out – and it was shot via my Blackberry! I’m no great photographer, either; this one especially was just LUCK.

7 Jennifer S May 14, 2010 at 8:13 am

Fiddleheads are one of those spring favorites like asparagus and morels. I LOVE them. I like them steamed with butter, or with a little vinegar. I’ve never been hunting for them, but someday….

8 Julie M. May 12, 2010 at 5:25 am

I’m going to pass this article on to my mom. We were just talking about eating fiddlehead ferns the other day. She’d love to read this.

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