As the fiddlehead season peaks, I am just making sure they are on your culinary radar. I wouldn't want you to miss out on such an essential part of spring fever, that first taste of local green crunch. They are now plentiful at the market. François is certainly doing brisk business.
Most people are enchanted, but it's obvious that the poor fern is still misunderstood by many. Some poeple are scared of food poisoning; others have been turned off due to prior poor taste experiences.
Both of these are the result of inadequate washing or cooking. The thing is, fiddleheads need to be washed and cooked in lots of salted water. Many people seem shocked by our cooking instructions that suggest a double blanch(for 2-3 min each), then refreshing them in an ice cold bath. This is our way of optimizing maximum cooking time and water flushing, while preserving texture and colour. Of course this isn't necessary - the key is lots of boiling water. If you boil them in a sufficient amount of water, you can use a shorter cooking time (say 5-6 minutes) instead of the 15 minutes the government agency reccomends. That edict is to scare people from eating them raw and to provide a safeguard against all that can go wrong: not cleaning, or cooking them in a small pot, or happening on a bad batch due to careless picking or from a polluted source.
Besides cooking, the key to taste quality is your source, andfreshness, of course. If you buy fiddleheads from the supermarket that have been bought on the cheap (from who knows where) and then sprayed and sprayed while they wilt away in the display case, then those government guidlines are for you. If you buy fresh fiddleheads from a good source, then our guidelines are fine.
I saw an article on the new Gazette food blog about fiddleheads. http://communities.canada.com/montrealgazette/blogs/shopchopeat/archive/2009/05/05/fiddleheads-now-i-understand-you.aspxThe author claimed she didn't really like fiddleheads but then admitted she had never blanched them before.. No wonder. She was also surprised by the sheet slipped into her bag with cooking instructions. (That's when I knew they were ours). She didn't appear to be completely turned around when it comes to fiddleheads, but she did say that these were the nicest she had come across. Why didn't she mention the vendor, I wonder? Maybe that's our marketing/PR problem. But still, I think that when food quality so depends on the source and/or the producer, all food journalists and shoppers should be taking note.
The more people talk about provenance and question quality, the more it becomes part of mainstream consumer practice, so that ultimately, local producers doing things right will be favoured over hackers, and sketchy food from big industry that is trucked in from afar or from some indeterminate provinence will be shunned. I don't want nutritional numbers on my labels, I want information on the source. At the fish store or at the meat counter, I want to know where a food item comes from; is it wild or farmed, by who and how, organic, natural or not. Ok, I'm ontoanother topic, stop. Back to fiddleheads, before their time is up:
An article on Fiddleheads I wrote for the Cuisine Canada blog: Fiddleheads leading the parade where they do a better job of presenting my work than me, pictures and all.
And more recipes from a post a couple of years back: