My apologies for the lack of blogging over the last week; my Dad passed away just over a week ago. For those of you who have read through some of my other posts, you will know that after my Dad became ill with cancer, he became a fan of the Food Network. He was never very interested in cooking, probably because my mother was such a good cook, but when he would go through a “phase” like his panini phase, homemade pasta phase, homemade bread phase, or risotto phase, he would achieve absolute mastery in whatever phase he was in. I made this risotto a couple of weeks ago when I was enthralled with the spring bounty available. I’m posting it today because my Dad taught me how to make risotto. I don’t think he ever made this particular type, but I imagine he would have liked it!
If you like asparagus, you’ll like fiddleheads, and ramps are like a delicate cross between a leek and a green onion. Both are only available for a short while in the spring. Fiddleheads are actually emerging ferns (or “fronds”), but edible fiddleheads only come from the ostrich fern. So, while it’s tempting to go out and forage for your own food (particularly when he see the price of fiddleheads), I don’t recommend this unless you have a background in botany. Not all fern fronds are edible and some are carcinogenic. It is also important to cook the fiddleheads thoroughly as they have been known to carry food borne illness. In this recipe the fiddleheads are boiled and then sauteed; sauteing alone is not recommended. Sometimes the fiddleheads have a bit of their brown papery skin still on them; you want to remove all of this as it makes the fiddleheads taste bitter. I’ve heard of different techniques for cleaning them (shake in a brown paper bag), but I find it easiest to just wash them thoroughly in a colander and take care to remove any brown bits.
One final note, I used bacon in my risotto (if you follow my blog you know about the amazing bacon I buy from a local farm); I think it would be great with pancetta. For a vegetarian option just leave out the bacon and use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.
- 1 1/2 Cups Arborio Rice
- 1/2 Cup Ramps (cleaned and chopped – both white and green portions)
- 1 1/2 Cups Fiddleheads (cleaned)
- 2-3 Slices Bacon or Pancetta
- 2 TBS. Unsalted Butter
- 6-8 Cups Chicken Stock or Broth
- 1/2 Cup White Wine
- 1/2 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan
In a medium saucepan, bring 4-6 cups (enough to cover fiddleheads) of water to a boil. Boil fiddelheads for 15 minutes and drain. In the meantime, chop the bacon and add to a medium sized saute pan. Cook the bacon thoroughly. Add the ramps and fiddleheads and saute until ramps are wilted. Add chicken stock to medium saucepan and heat to just below boiling- keep on stove at a simmer. In a separate saucepan (medium to large) heat butter; add risotto to pan and saute for a few minutes until rice is well coated. Add wine, and then,using a ladle, add about 1 cup of the simmering chicken stock to the risotto. Stirring constantly, cook until broth is absorbed and repeat process of adding stock and cooking to absorption. Continue this until risotto is creamy and tender with just a little firmness to the bite. Add bacon, ramp, and fiddlehead mixture, along with parmesan cheese, to the risotto and serve immediately.