|photo by L. Gatto-White|
The late spring/early summer (did someone say ‘summer’?) brings many eagerly anticipated delicacies, and among them the most distinctly Maritime product is fiddleheads.
This harbinger of warmer weather is traditionally harvested in the wild by consumers and vendors 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)
· 1 lb. fiddleheads cleaned and steamed until slightly underdone (you will cook them further) then plunged in cold water to retain green colour
· 2 small shallots finely chopped
· 2 leeks (white part only) finely chopped
· 6 sprigs of cilantro roughly chopped
· ½ rib of celery (strings removed) finely chopped
· 3 small (2 ½ cups) Yukon Gold potatoes peeled and diced
· 2 cups low-salt chicken broth
· 1 ½ cups 2% milk
· 1 cup 35% cream
· 2 tbs. melted butter
· Small bundle of chives
Tarragon oil garnish – 2 tsp. minced lemon zest, 4 sprigs fresh tarragon chopped,1 tbs. butter & 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 until just soft
· add potatoes and stock, bring to a gentle boil and lower to a simmer
· simmer covered for 20 mins. until potatoes are soft
· remove from heat, add half the steamed fiddleheads and cilantro
· puree until smooth
· return soup to pot, cut reserved fiddleheads in half & add to soup
· Note: The soup can be refrigerated for 2 days at this point. To serve, return soup to pot add milk and cream. Warm gently (do not boil) taste for salt, adjust if necessary. Serve at either room temperature or warm, garnish with a drizzle of tarragon oil and snipped chives.