A few years back, while hiking through the dense coastal redwoods of the Pacific Northwest, I could not help but be taken in by the beauty of the forest floor. It was thick with lush green ferns. July was far too late to be hunting for fiddleheads, yet I could not help but to look – you never know. Hubby watched me for a few minutes, an odd look on his face. I explained that I was looking for an edible part of the fern. I’ve never seen fiddleheads in the markets and have been curious about them.
Fiddleheads begin to sprout up in late April or early May. Their window of harvest is very brief. If you happen to be in the forest and happen to see the young fiddleheads popping up, grab them while you can. If you happen to live in a part of the world where forests are lush and ferns are abundant, then you know what I am talking about. With luck, you’ll find the fiddleheads in a local farmer’s market. Rarely are they sold in the grocery stores.
I love the unusual look fiddleheads provide to any dish. In a pinch, when preparing this codfish, asparagus would be a suitable substitute. Still, wouldn’t it be fun to forage for your own Fiddleheads?
Codfish a La Lyonnaise
8 small onions, sliced
2 tablespoonfuls of butter
3-4 Potato, parboiled and slices – enough to cover bottom of skillet
½ Cup Cream
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Juice of 1 Lemon
Wash and slice potatoes one at a time, place in skillet until bottom is lined. Transfer to a pot and parboil potatoes until almost cooked through. Drain and set aside.
Heat butter in a heavy-bottom skilled. Return potatoes to skillet to line bottom of skillet. Cook uncovered over medium heat until lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, lightly season codfish with salt and pepper. Quarter onions. Place codfish and onions under broiler and cook about 8 minutes.
Turn fish under broiler and continue to cook until fork-tender, about 8 minutes longer.
Turn potatoes in skillet, cut into 4 serving portions continue to brown.
Place 1 fish and some of the onions over each potato base. Pour cream over fish. Season with lemon juice. Cover and cook until heated through.
Transfer to serving platter, drizzle with any remaining cream sauce. Garnish plates with 4 fiddleheads, if using, and serve.
Fiddleheads – Garnish (optional)
16 Fresh Fiddleheads
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 or 3 garlic cloves, pressed
Remove the dry, sheathlike papery particles from the fiddleheads. Fill a medium bowl with cool water; add 1 teaspoon salt and the lemon juice. Add fiddleheads, and push them down into the water several times to clean them. Allow fiddleheads to soak at least 1 hour. Transfer to paper towel to drain.
On a steamer rack set over an inch of water in a saucepan, steam fiddleheads, covered, until tender, 4 to 5 minutes.
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add fiddleheads, and cook 1 to 2 minutes on each side, until golden. Season with salt, pepper, and pressed garlic. Continue to cook about 30 seconds longer, until aromatic. Set aside and keep warm until ready to serve.
Note: Fiddleheads are the tips of young ferns and can only be harvested in the spring, so once they are gone, they’re gone. They have a wonderful green vegetable flavor similar to asparagus or rapini, but they also have a certain, hard to explain, tanginess that is completely unique. Be careful when working with fiddleheads, because the raw plant contains toxins that can be bad for you.
On a personal note, today is Good Friday. In our house it is a day for fasting and prayer. If you are observing this day as a Catholic, I wish you well as you walk in prayer The Stations of the Cross. If not, then I wish you a safe journey on your path to wherever life may lead you.