On the trail the other day I came upon an elderly Korean couple with full bags of fiddleheads and devil's club buds. They looked a little guilty clutching their haul, probably because the rules about foraging in state parks are ambiguous and rarely posted, and my interest might have struck them as of a vaguely law enforcement nature. Then I emptied my pockets and revealed my own small stash of fiddleheads gleaned along the way.
Big smiles now. The Koreans were surprised that someone of my age and ethnicity knew about the hidden delicacies in the woods. It's true that most of the foragers I encounter tend to be older first-generation immigrants. As I say in the book in the squid-jigging chapter, foraging comes natural to such folks. They foraged in their native countries and see no reason not to forage in their new adoptive homes. In many cases they find far less competition, as Americans are too busy porking out at the usual fast food drive-thrus.
You can read more about foraging and cooking fiddleheads here.
I decided on the Fiddlehead Frittata mainly because I like the alliterative sound of it. If you had asked me yesterday what I thought about frittatas in general, I would not have put myself in the camp that is absolutely nuts for this Italian staple, though I might have given an appreciative nod to its simplicity as well as the long-standing tradition of saving a few wedges for later. But now, after chowing down on today's Fiddlehead Frittata for lunch, I can safely say it's a thing of awe-inspiring beauty. I also got lucky in the choices I made: the slight bitterness of the fiddleheads was balanced nicely by the sweetness of the caramelized onions and the bright flavors of the herbs, in particular the sage.
Like so much of the cooking I do, the frittata is rustic country fare—peasant food, as they say. It fits right in with my love of chowders and stews and casseroles. I'll be making more in the future.
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup fiddleheads, cleaned and blanched in boiling water for a few minutes
1 onion, chopped
3 tbsp heavy cream
1 handful fresh herbs, chopped
1/2 cup mozzarella, grated
1/4 cup parmesan, grated
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. On stove top over medium heat add oil to 10-inch non-stick, oven-proof skillet. Saute onions for a few minutes, then add fiddleheads. Cook for several more minutes, until onions begin to caramelize and fiddleheads are tender.
2. Whisk together eggs, cream, and your favorite herbs. I used thyme, oregano, parsley, and sage. Add grated mozzarella to mixture.
3. Reduce stove to medium. Pour egg mixture into skillet, tilting pan slightly to insure even distribution. Cook until eggs have firmly set on the bottom, 5 or 6 minutes.
4. Sprinkle parmesan on top and finish cooking in the oven, several more minutes.
5. Remove skillet from oven, allow to cool for a minute or two, then slide frittata onto large serving dish (or cover pan with dish and invert if easier, but remember to flip frittata back over or cheese will run off). Cut into wedges and serve.