Dan Clapson, a courageous and talented food blogger, is never one to turn down a challenge. Not even when it means he’ll be recreating Top Chef Canada winning dishes. We love to see him visit the Calgary Farmers’ Market weekly to pick up the ingredients he needs to “Take the Challenge Home”; he’s an inspiration to many, launching a very successful Start from Scratch program, teaching students to chuck the crap into the trash and get back into the kitchen.
Spring is right around the corner, which means there will be lots of fresh, seasonal produce hitting our vendors’ shelves. The most recent, with a fleeting seasonal window, got us pretty excited to snap them up while they’re around: fiddleheads are a great (and interesting) addition to a wide range of dishes. These unfurled fronds of the ostrich fern are known as fiddleheads because they resemble the finely crafted head of a fiddle; easy to cook and, much like asparagus, have a delicate green flavour that is best accentuated by simple cooking.
Dan Clapson’s Lemon Rosemary Risotto with Honey Roasted Fiddleheads and Spot Prawns inspired us to make our very own version of a delicious fiddlehead dish, and you can pick up all of your ingredients in one quick stop at the market.
1 package of Garlic Fettuccine from The Stock and Sauce Company
1 clamshell of Fiddleheads from Cherry Pit
1 lemon and 1 sweet yellow onion from Souto Farms
50g of Parmigiano Reggiano and 100g of thick-cut pancetta from Fresh DELIcious
8 fresh Scallops from Blu Seafood (ask Brian, Mary, or Terry to slice them in half to make 16 smaller quick-sear scallops)
Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper
*It’s important for us to note: it is not recommended, under any circumstances, that fiddleheads be eaten raw. If you’d like to toss them into salad greens or a light quinoa salad, we think it would be yummy, but be sure to steam them for 10-12 minutes.
First, let’s start by putting two pots of water on: one for the pasta, and one to steam the fiddleheads. Be sure to salt your pasta water liberally, rule of thumb is that it should taste like the ocean.
Begin prepping the fiddleheads by washing in cold water, letting the water get into all of the curly nooks and crannies. Trim away the hard bits of the woody stalks. When the water is boiling, place in the top of the steamer and steam for 10-12 minutes. If you prefer to boil them, 10 minutes is probably good. We’re going to quickly sauté them with the onion and pancetta after steaming.
While the fiddleheads are steaming and the pasta water is coming to a boil, thinly slice the shallots and snip the pancetta into squares (yup, snip. Using scissors on the pancetta is much easier, and quick too!). Place about a teaspoon of olive oil in a pan on medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the onion and sauté for about 3 minuets before adding the pancetta. When the pancetta is golden, add the fiddleheads to the pan and give it a good toss. Do not add any salt, just freshly ground pepper; the scallops will be seasoned and the pancetta is pretty salty, so adding salt now will make it pretty intenso-salty. This is where you can add fresh or dried basil if you so wish.
Grate the parmigiano reggiano and set aside.
Now, we’re going to drop the pasta; fresh pasta only takes about 3-4 minutes in a pot of water at a rolling boil, do not overcook it. Mushy noodles, blech. Remember, before you strain the pasta, reserve a mug of the salty pasta water, we’re going to use it to loosen the ‘sauce’.
Drop the strained fettuccine into the pan with the onion, pancetta, and fiddleheads and toss a few times to coat the noodles. Add the zest and juice of the whole lemon. Pour in the grated parmigiano reggiano and add a little of the reserved pasta water. Give it a couple good tosses to coat the pasta. Add more water if need be, but don’t add too much; it shouldn’t be soupy, just enough to lightly coat the noodles. Take off the heat while you quickly sear the scallops.
To sear the scallops, remove the small side muscle, rinse with cold water and thoroughly pat dry. Add a dollop of butter and a splash of olive oil to a 12 to 14-inch sauté pan on medium to high heat (about mark 7). Why butter and olive oil you ask? Well, butter is delicious but it has a lower smoking point; adding the olive oil prevents it from burning. Salt and pepper the scallops. Once the pan is hot* (never put food into a cold pan), gently add the scallops starting at 12 o’clock proceeding clockwise, making sure they are not touching each other. Sear the scallops for 1 1/2 minutes on each side, about the time it takes you to get back to 12 o’clock, they’ll be ready to start flipping. The scallops should have a golden crust on each side while still being translucent in the center.
*To test if your pan is hot enough: touch the tip of the edge of a scallop to the pan , if you hear a sexy sizzle, it’s ready.
Pile the fettuccine in a large family-style serving dish, top with the seared scallops, and a little more parmigiano reggiano if desired. Serve immediately with a crisp white wine at a table with family and friends and find out just how everyone’s day went… because that’s what food is all about, no?