My recipes are almost always inspired by one ingredient. It may not be the main ingredient in the dish but it’s the one I pay homage to when I’m eating it. for this particular dish I wanted to revere the glorious fiddlehead ferns my friend Lori brought back from the farmer’s Market in Union Square in NYC.
It was also a first. I had never cooked or even tasted a fiddlehead fern in my life. Their harvest season is short and they are not readily available, but, the real reason might be because I have always been a little freaked out about eating a fern! When it is curled like that it has the look of a green roly-poly; my imagination can be too vivid sometimes. Whether it was the nightmarish image or the scarcity factor, I never had a brown paper bag full of them in my fridge willing me to cook them!
I am so glad I got past my initial angst, (mixed with genuine excitement) and made, what I think, one of my favorite things to eat in a while – absolutely yummy! I figured that their taste would be tender and delicate since they were after all, young fern shoots, so, I cooked similarly delicate tasting ingredients. I made a faintly lemony sauce with butter, broth and lemon juice and cooked it all with shrimp, another mild sweet flavor.
The fern dish went out to the family and, our friend Tom, who had joined us, for criticism. I was hoping it tasted as good as it looked? I was so happy when even the broth swimming in the bottom of the otherwise empty bowls were ceremoniously drawn to their mouths and slurped until every last bit of liquid was drained.
It is at times like these I am thankful for starting the blog. Otherwise this dish would be lost amongst all the other endless bits of information aimlessly milling about in my head!
You will need: 1 lb shrimp, peeled & deveined (use the 31-40 count per lb size), 3 cups fresh fiddlehead ferns, rinsed well, 2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 1 sweet onion, diced, 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (optional), 1/4 cup white wine, 1 cup chicken broth, juice of 1 freshly squeezed lemon, 2 tbs unsalted butter, 2 tbs heavy cream, 1 lb spaghetti pasta (I use Barilla brand), coarse sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper.
1 – Put pot of water on to boil and when it is boiling add 2 tsp salt and the fiddlehead ferns. Cover and blanch for 3 minutes. Remove with tongs or small slotted spoon, to avoid picking up the dirt and sand released from the ferns. Discard the cooking water and set ferns aside in a bowl.
2 – Put big saute pan on medium heat and add oil. Saute onions & garlic for 15 minutes, stirring frequently (turn heat down if too high). Add ferns and pepper flakes and continue to cook for a further 2 minutes or so.
Put pasta water on and cook spaghetti according to instructions. Reserve a 1/2 cup of pasta water before draining in case you need it for your sauce (I did not need any, but, just in case)
3 – Add wine, broth and lemon juice and when liquids come to a simmer add shrimp and cook for 4 minutes more. Add cream and stir in. Taste for salt and pepper seasoning and add accordingly.
4 – Just before adding the spaghetti add the butter and let melt while stirring. immediately toss in the spaghetti and coat everything with sauce. Add pasta water if you want a thinner consistency.
Divide into warmed bowls and top with a sprinkle of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese if you feel like it (I alway do!)