Mint And Fiddlehead Ferns: Recipes With The Harbingers Of Spring


April showers bring May flowers, but also trout, fresh mint, green garlic, and fiddlehead ferns—all true harbingers of spring.

Baking whole trout wrapped in pancetta, a mild un-smoked bacon, contrasts well with the delicate flavored fish without overpowering it. This preparation can be done a few hours ahead and refrigerated until baking time.

Fiddleheads are young coiled fern leaves, about an inch in diameter. They have a short season and need to be thoroughly cooked before eating them. Fiddlehead ferns are a good source of potassium, and they also contain vitamin C, niacin and iron. They are absolutely a delicacy and well worth a try.

Combining fiddlehead ferns and green garlic follows a seasonal cook’s unwritten rule “what grows together goes together.” Complete the main course with tuxedo sesame seed red potatoes and serve a well-chilled rose from Provence. Bon spring appétit!

Herbed Stuffed Trout With Pancetta(Serves 4)4 whole fresh trout, about 3/4 pound each, scaled, cleaned, and rinsed

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 fresh thyme sprigs

About 6 fresh mint leaves, chopped (if desired)

1 lemon, cut into slices and halved

About 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into thin slices

16 thin slices pancetta (about 3/4 pound)

Lemon wedges, thyme and mint sprigs for garnishTo prepare:Rinse the fish well and pat dry with paper towels.

Season the fish, inside and out with salt and pepper.

Stuff one sprig of thyme, sprinkle a pinch or two of mint, three slices of lemon, and one slice of butter inside each fish.

Wrap four slices of pancetta around each fish and tie with cotton kitchen string to keep the pancetta in place and cook evenly.

Transfer the fish to a parchment lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until baking time.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Remove plastic wrap, dot the top of the fish with butter or drizzle with oil, place the pan in the center rack of the oven, and roast until the fish turns from translucent to opaque.

Bake about 15 to 18 minutes if the fish has not been refrigerated or about 20 to 22 minutes if fish is cold. (Test the underside of one fish to see if it flakes.)

Remove the strings and transfer the fish to a warm platter or dinner plates, garnish with sprigs of thyme and mint and serve at once.Fiddlehead Ferns With Green Garlic(Serves 4–5)2 cups fresh fiddlehead ferns, washed

6 to 7 stems of green garlic with white bulbs about 1/2-inch thick

About 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil

1 teaspoon unsalted butter

1 to 2 teaspoons Meyer lemon juice

1 teaspoon Meyer lemon zest

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For serving: Maldon salt To prepare:Trim off any tough stems or brown parts of the fiddlehead ferns and wash under cold running water.

Plunge fiddlehead ferns into a pan of boiling salted water and cook them until tender, about six to seven minutes, drain, and pat dry with paper towels.

Trim roots off white bulbs, trim off any spots of the green stems and discard.

Rinse in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Thinly slice the whites and chop the greens of the garlic.

In a medium skillet over moderate high heat, lightly coat the bottom with olive oil.

When oil shimmers, add garlic and sauté with a pinch of salt until whites are tender and almost translucent.

Transfer the garlic to a side dish.

In the same skillet over moderate high heat, lightly coat the bottom with grapeseed oil, add butter and when the foam subsides, add fiddlehead ferns.

Quickly sauté undisturbed until the edges have browned, about two to three minutes.

Add lemon zest with a splash of lemon juice, according to taste.

Add reserved garlic and toss to reheat.

Taste and adjust the seasonings and serve at once.

Pass Maldon salt at the table.Tuxedo Sesame Seeded Red Potatoes (Serves 4)5 to 6 small red potatoes per person, scrubbed and drained

Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

About 2 tablespoons toasted white and black sesame seeds (sometimes labeled Tuxedo)

For serving: Pinch Maldon salt

Fresh mint sprigs for garnishTo prepare:Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

In an oven-to-table baking dish that will accommodate all the potatoes in one layer, lightly coat the bottom with oil.

Place potatoes in a bowl, drizzle oil over them and shake the pan well to coat each potato.

Transfer to the prepared baking dish, scatter sesame seeds on top and bake until potatoes are crisp, browned, and tender to the point of a fork, about 25 minutes. The cooking time will depend on the size of the potatoes.

Transfer potatoes to serving bowl, sprinkle with salt to taste and garnish with fresh mint.

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