Saturday, May 21, 2011

fiddlehead ferns, aka wtf do i do with this? learn a technique, cook a million things

waaayyyyy back when, when i was in sunday school, one of the first parables i learned was about jesus teaching someone to fish or something like that.... wait i got that so wrong. ok. i can give you a fish or i can teach you to fish. thats it..

one second on religion. i dont care if you are religious or not. here are the most important things you should get out of any religion. first, know that religion killed faith. humanity and its shortcomings and faults made faith into something its not. whoever the higher being may be, they are up there facepalming going, i cant believe you morons. i left it so simple but you ruined everything. second, its a guidebook to make your life better. its not a guidebook to tell someone else how to live.

anyways, sorry about that. it had to come out. probably because im bitter because im still on this god forsaken earth after the rapture. damn its may 21st 2011 and im still here with you assholes. greeeeeaaaat....

well similarly to the fish and fishing analogy, you can read a recipe and follow it step by step and learn to make a dish. thats great. nothing wrong with that. but i have an alternative, something i always talk about. learn techniques and you will exponentially grow your cooking vocabulary.

here we go.

so i was at berkeley bowl the other week and i noticed something interesting in the produce section. fiddlehead ferns? now i had a few years of my life where i was knee deep into horticulture. my handy dandy pacifc guide to trees and shrubs was always in my backpack and i would randomly identify things by their leaf patterns, fruits and flowers. when i saw fiddlehead ferns in the produce section i was, ummm stumped. you eat fiddlehead ferns? interesting.

of course, my foodcentric friends.. .no more than a couple days later, a buddy had a picture of a dish she made with fiddlehead ferns!

i picked some up the other night. had to try it myself.

now do i know anything about cooking fiddlehead ferns? not really. how do i approach this?

so heres something i learned awhile ago. you grab some basic ingredients, heat up some oil, add some aromatics, toss in some oyster sauce, add your veggies and its tada! its delicious. almost any green veggie will work. this is simple technique to make literally hundreds of dishes. you just need to adjust it slightly for the veggie youre using.

ok so i grabbed some basic ingredients i had in the frig. some firm tofu from hodo beanery, garlic, onion and green onion.

this fiddlehead fern is NOT a leafy green. it wont cook very fast in a pan while your stir frying everything. so what did i do? well first i trimmed of the thicker end of the fiddlehead ferns. then i blanched it in boiling hot salted water.

then i put it under cold water to stop the cooking process while i worked on the rest of the dish.

i added some olive oil to a hot pan and seasoned some tofu chunks with salt and pepper and started the cooking process for these.

why am i cooking this tofu first? well hodo beanery firm tofu is FIRM. this wont crumble up while cooking like other tofu you may have worked with. this is really tofu steak.... i really love hodo beanery products GOOD stuff. and i also like a nice sear on the firm tofu. it builds flavor and adds a nice texture.

i take this slightly seared tofu out and put it on a plate while i address the rest of the dish.

i threw in the aromatics, the onion and garlic. a little sesame oil here, some salt there , some black pepper..... ooh i had some shichimi on the counter so i tossed some in. why not? i let this sweat for a bit *basically cook a bit under med heat*

and the binder that make this technique work for all things green leafy veggie? oyster sauce. i toss in about a table spoon.

oh wait, did i have some left over ground turkey? might as well toss that in to. its not like this is a recipe or anything.

i heat everything threw and i put in on a plate while i worked with the fiddle heads again. at this point, the fiddlehead ferns are trimmed, blanched in hot salted water and chilled to stop the cooking process under cold water. now its time to get them cooking again. i heat up the pan again, add in some sesame oil, toss the fiddlehead ferns in and season with salt and pepper.

now i finally add back all the other ingredients, including some green oinons i was saving for last and heat and toss around for one final time.... and this dish asked me to splash in some ponzu. i obeyed.
then tada!

this is the first time i ever cooked fiddlehead ferns. i used a simple asiany technique to try out this interesting veggie. what do i think of fiddlehead ferns? they are very interesting indeed. texture like okra, flavor similar to aspargus.

what should you take out of this? well, never be afraid. you build up your cooking vocabulary. when you see something you dont know too well, adapt it to something youve done already. this technique will work great with snow pea leave, pea srouts, green beans........ its a helpful tool to learn something new, try something new and keep building up that cooking vocab of yours!

1 comment:

  1. is this the best way to cook fiddlehead ferns? of course not. this is just an exercise in working out the cooking vocab of yours. i learned the flavor profile of a new veggie and strengthened the notion that learning to cook by techniques is gold!