Thursday, April 12, 2012

Fiddlehead Fern Carbonara

Fiddlehead Fern Carbonara

In other taste-testing news, yesterday, I cooked up some fiddlehead carbonara, based on Closet Cooking's recipe. I had heard that fiddlehead ferns are considered a harbinger of spring, and are even celebrated in festivals as the first vegetable of the season. When I saw a man selling them at Eastern Market on Saturday, I just had to pick up a handful to try. When I asked him about them, he said they were a bit like asparagus, and he warned me not to overcook them.

Fiddlehead Carbonara
(2 servings)

1/2 pound pasta
4 slices bacon (cut into 1/2 inch slices)
1 cup (about 1/4 lb) fiddleheads (trimmed, well cleaned and boiled for 5 minutes)
1 ramp/wild leak or 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
pepper to taste
1 handful parsley (chopped)
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano

1. Start cooking the pasta as directed on the package.
2. Cook the bacon in a pan and set aside.
3. Drain all but a tablespoon of the bacon grease from the pan.
4. Add the fiddleheads, ramp and pepper, toss to coat and saute for a few minutes.
5. Mix the egg yolks, heavy cream and parmigiano reggiano in a large bowl.
6. Drain the cooked pasta reserving some of the water.
7. Add the pasta and parsley to the pan and toss.
8. Remove the pan from the heat, wait for the sizzling to stop and pour the pasta and bacon into the bowl with the egg mixture.
9. Add a bit of the pasta water and toss to coat.

This recipe as written above is almost identical to the directions by Kevin of Closet Cooking, but I noticed as I went to finished the dish, not only was it missing the bacon pictured in his photograph, but he also never instructed me on when to add the parsley. Though it provided nice visual contrast on top of my dish, I believe it would have been a more harmonious texture if it had been lightly cooked, as I added to the directions.

The fiddleheads themselves were rather similar to asparagus, but creamier, with a bit of unusual texture due to the way they are formed. Scott wasn't entirely keen on them, but he didn't dislike them, which I consider a win on the vegetable front when it comes to him. Still, we probably won't buy them again, since they were $20/lb. However, the individual ferns are light, and the 1/4 lb we bought was plenty for the two of us. Also, I planted ostrich ferns last year, which are one of the ferns from which fiddleheads can be harvested. As they become larger, stronger plants, we should be able to harvest them in the future. It's all part of my devious edible landscaping plan.

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