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Fiddle Faddle

April 25, 2011


By Lauren Johnson

Last weekend after grabbing lunch in Frenchtown, my husband and I took a late afternoon stroll along the Delaware River to digest.  As we walked, we took in the sights and sounds of the perfect early spring day, in particular all the new green shoots and young plants that had recently taken root.  Among them we spied a particularly enticing plot of young fiddleheads.

When I was younger, my parents showed me how to identify a few of the wild edibles growing in our back yard.  Fiddleheads were one such treasure and we had the pleasure of collecting them along the banks of a little stream that ran through the front yard.

Inspired by this memory, we collected a few fistfuls of the tender green spirals to cook for dinner that night.

Polenta with Shitake Mushrooms, Wild Fiddleheads, Parmesan and Thyme

Two fistfuls (approx 2 cups) of young, washed fiddleheads (see note)

8-10 large shitake mushrooms

1 cup organic polenta

3 cups water


tablespoon butter

2 T olive oil

2 tsp garlic powder

good, aged parmesan cheese, finely grated

bouquet of fresh thyme

In a large saucepan, bring about 6 cups of water to a boil.  Drop the cleaned and prepared fiddleheads into the water for about one minute, then immediately remove from heat, strain, and set aside.

Remove stems from mushrooms and cut them into slices about ½ inch thick and set aside.

In a separate saucepan, prepare your polenta.  Bring the 3 cups of water to a boil, add a good pinch of salt, and slowly pour in the polenta.  Turn the heat down to a simmer, and stir constantly so you don’t get any lumps.  Once it’s nice and thick like porridge, remove from heat and set on a cool burner.  Stir in a tablespoon of butter (this adds depth, but is optional).

Heat a large saucepan on medium/high heat with 2 T of olive oil.  Once the pan is good and hot, add your mushrooms.  Sprinkle with garlic powder and add a dash of salt. Stir so they don’t stick.  Once they turn a nice golden brown (5-7 minutes), add your fiddleheads.  Sauté for just a few minutes, then remove from heat.   I like my vegetables a little al dente so more nutrients remain intact.

Spoon polenta into a bowl, top with the mushroom and fiddleheads, sprinkle with Parmesan, and finish with a generous sprinkling of fresh thyme.

Note: The younger the fiddleheads, the more tender.  Look for ones that are just uncurling from the ground. I like to snip the stem so it’s about 2’’ long.  You can also find fiddleheads at gourmet and farmers’ markets.  See link for additional info on usage and identification:

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