Fiddlehead ferns are one of those springtime foraged green vegetables that hippies and foodies adore. Fiddleheads have a unique flavor profile and to me a tantalizing mixture of moss, forest vegetation, asparagus, mushrooms, and green beans. After recently seeing fiddleheads available for sale at Whole Foods, my assumption that fiddleheads were only available a couple weeks out of the year in the spring was incorrect. Below are my fiddlehead ferns preparation tips and a pasta recipe with fiddleheads and guanciale.
How to prep fiddlehead ferns
While the fiddleheads may look like evil alien vegetable creatures, they are simple to prepare – it just takes a bit of time. First, rinse them under cold water. Then remove the stems from the fiddlehead’s bottom. They should snap off easily like a weak twig. Afterward, I like to run them again under water to remove some of the inner seed sheaths and any brown colored silk. Lots of good rinsing should be involved in the fiddleheads prep stages.
Remember, the fiddleheads are immature ferns and could be poisonous to some but obviously no more dangerous than an oyster shooter. It is recommended not to eat the fiddleheads raw. After the cleaning stages of the preparation, one should blanch the fiddleheads in salted water. This will help rid of any ill infesting toxins in addition to removing some of the natural fiddlehead bitterness. After this, we are ready to get after it!
Pasta with fiddlehead ferns, ramps, and guanciale
For this pasta, prep the fiddlehead ferns (including a quick blanch), ramps and dice the guanciale into cubes. A secret to cubing and slicing thinly fatty meats is to throw the meat into the freezer for a quick cool down. This solidifies the fats and helps in the prep stages. Cubes of guanciale (unsmoked pig jowls/cheeks) can take any simply pasta dish to divine interaction.
Place a skillet on medium heat and let it get hot before throwing in the guanciale. Let the amazing pig face fat render and release its goodness. After a few minutes of rendering, throw in a dash of olive oil and red pepper flakes. Once the spice and smell of the red pepper flakes permeate your kitchen, add the fiddlehead ferns. All the time this is going on, have a pot of water seasoned heavily with salt boiling. Add the pasta and make sure to cook it truly al-dente.
As the pasta cooks, throw in a dash of butter and white wine vinegar into the guanciale and fiddleheads sauce. When the pasta is al-dente, use a pair of tongs and fork the pasta out of the pot and into the sauce. Once all the pasta is in the pan, throw in the ramps in addition to a bit more pasta water. Swish the pasta around so it coated and tossed properly with the pasta sauce. Season to taste and add more butter/olive oil/red pepper flakes/vinegar to adjust for one’s taste buds. Serve this sucka immediately with plenty of parmesan or pecorino cheese. This is an excellent spring/summer time pasta to share with friends that highlights the fiddleheads and ramps with majesty.