Among the seasonal treats that spring brings along, fiddleheads are one of my favorites, though I’ve never done much else than eat them as a side with, say, a pork chop or a piece of salmon, boiled and then finished with a little butter.
But this year, as I picked up a package at my local grocery store, I figured I could integrate them into something more elaborate, building on the earthy notes of this tasty, colorful green.
So after preparing the fiddleheads according to instructions, I boiled them for 10 minutes and meanwhile, cut a boneless chicken breast into two-inch long pieces, coarsely chopped half a white onion and sliced shiitake and plain old Paris mushrooms.
In a pan, with a good spoonful of butter, I started by browning the chicken on both sides, then added the onions, tossed, let them cook together for a minute, added the mushrooms and tossed some more, adding some freshly ground black pepper and some thyme.
When the fiddleheads were cooked (tender, but still a fairly bright green), I drained them, rinsed them and set them aside until the other ingredients were properly sautéed. I then added them to the pan, put a few dots of butter on top and let it melt into the mix as I tossed the contents of the pan regularly. After about two minutes, I added a splash of madeira (a little white wine could do the trick, but the aromas of the madeira add something extra to the mix of earthy aromas and flavors of the mushrooms and fiddleheads), and a couple of spoonfuls of cream, mixed well and let the whole thing integrate and warm together for another minute or two.
Then I just put that in a bowl and ate it, lapping up the sauce with some bread. You could also serve it over rice or with egg noodles. A glass of chardonnay – barrel-fermented, but with good acidity and little oaky tones – was a great match.
As for proportions, I had almost a pound of fiddleheads, eight ounces of mushrooms and only one chicken breast, which made the fiddleheads the core of the dish. You could, of course, add more meat, depending on what you’re trying to achieve, but I liked the fact that the chicken, here, gave flavor to the fiddlehead dish, rather than the other way around. And in terms of veggie-to-meat proportions, I’m sure Michael Pollan would have approved.
One note. If you’re in the Northeastern corner of North America, there’s only a couple of weeks of fiddlehead season left, even with our slow, cool spring. In Southern Ontario, according to Twitter echoes from the markets, it’s just about the last week. So gather the fiddleheads while ye may, and sautée them right after that – or blanch them and freeze them for later use.