I was ready to post this recipe at 12:30 last night, but as I hit “Publish,” an error message popped up and erased the whole post. At midnight, I was too spent to cobble together what I could remember of my original writing, but I thought it was a fitting end (hopefully) to a week that’s had some pretty messy flops in the kitchen. I guess it happens to everyone; sometimes things just don’t work out. Ideas that you think might turn into fantastic recipes fall flat. A few days ago, for example, instead of sweet potato and chickpea fritters, I had a disintegrated, oily mess. What that means is that the next few posts I’ve developed include some of the quick and easy meals I’ve made for dinner as a Plan B, when my bigger ideas didn’t pan out.
This fiddlehead pasta dish is a good start to my series of flops. My sister came to visit me earlier this month and brought a small paper bag full of these fiddlehead ferns. The first time we made fiddleheads, it turned out disastrously. It was a few years ago, and we were up in the Green Mountains of Vermont, celebrating my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary. We hiked along the trails and saw these ferns growing in the wild, and we were intrigued when we saw them for sale at the local market. My family and I bought a bundle, cooked them up, and ate them. And they were so bitter. As I’ve since learned, fiddlehead ferns need to be steamed for a few minutes before adding them to a dish, like this pasta. Here, I sauté the fiddlehead ferns for four minutes and then plunge them into an ice bath to halt the cooking process. Then, after cooking the shrimp and pasta, I add the ferns to the olive oil sauce. It turned out beautifully.
This is a quick, simple, and healthy dish. Fiddleheads have a short season, so if you can’t find them, feel free to substitute any seasonal vegetable. Asparagus, peas, or broccoli would be great here, too. Fiddlehead ferns have an intensely earthy flavor, which remains even after steaming them. Adding them to the olive oil and garlic mixture and cooking just a tad longer seemed to mellow their flavor a bit.
Fiddlehead Fern Shrimp Scampi
1/4 to 1/3 pound fiddlehead ferns
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound shrimp
3/4 pound spaghetti or linguini
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the fiddleheads and simmer for 4 minutes. Drain and immediately run under cold water or immerse in an ice water bath to stop the cooking process and set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.
2. In a 12-inch skillet, heat the olive oil then add the garlic. Gently sautee for 2 minutes, until the garlic starts to color. Add the shrimp in an even layer and allow to cook, about 3 minutes, before turning shrimps over. Cook another 2 minutes or until cooked through.
3. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to package instructions or until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water before draining. Add the cooked noodles to the skillet with shrimp. Add the fiddlehead ferns and toss to coat the pasta evenly with oil. Add some of the reserved pasta water if the dish is a bit dry. Sprinkle in the Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.