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Fresh recipes for short-season fiddlehead greens

THE season for harvesting fiddlehead greens is so short (early May to early June) that it's difficult to get beyond the favorite basic method for preparing them -- steamed or simmered briefly in a little salted water and served with melted butter. They can also be served with a splash of lemon juice or vinegar, or a dollop of hollandaise sauce, both simple ways to savor their delicate flavor. These curled fronds of the ostrich fern are indigenous to Maine and the Maritime Provinces but can also be found in the moist woods of Virginia, north across Canada, and down as far as Iowa and Missouri.

Fresh or frozen fiddleheads are preferable in dishes in which appearance and body are important, while the canned are excellent in soups, quiches, omelets, and casseroles. Ham and Fiddlehead Pie 1 9-inch pastry shell 3 tablespoons butter or margarine 1 tablespoon cornstarch 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided 1/8 teaspoon pepper 1 cup milk 1/4 cup mayonnaise 1 tablespoon lemon juice 2 cups diced cooked ham 1 pound hot cooked fiddleheads 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

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Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prick bottom of pastry shell and bake 12 to 15 minutes until brown. Remove and cool.

In 2-quart saucepan, melt butter and stir in cornstarch, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the pepper. Remove from heat and gradually stir in milk, mixing until smooth. Return to heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in mayonnaise, lemon juice, and remaining salt. Add ham. Line bottom of pastry shell with fiddleheads, reserving enough for garnish. Fill pastry shell with ham mixture. Garnish with rest of the fiddleheads and sprinkle cheese over top. Broil 2 to 3 minutes until light brown. Cool. Serves 6. `Belle of Maine' Fiddlehead Casserole 2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons flour 3/4 cup hot milk 1/2 teaspoon salt Dash of cayenne 1/2 pound mild yellow cheese 4 eggs, separated 1 can ``Belle of Maine'' fiddleheads, drained

Combine butter, flour, milk, salt, and cayenne. Cook over low heat until thickened and smooth. Add cheese. Stir until melted. Add beaten egg yolks. Cool. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Arrange fiddleheads in a 1 1/2-quart casserole. Add cheese mixture. Bake in a 350-degree F. oven for 30 minutes. Serves 6 to 8. Fiddlehead Salad With Egg Dressing Fiddleheads Bacon bits Chopped raw mushrooms Croutons Egg Dressing (recipe follows)

Cook fiddleheads briefly in boiling salted water. Chill. Put fiddleheads in bowl and add bacon bits, mushrooms, and croutons. Toss with Egg Dressing. Egg Dressing Yolks of 2 hard-boiled eggs 1 teaspoon prepared mustard 2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Mash egg yolks with mustard and blend with mayonnaise.

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