Yeah, I don’t like the Yankees, not one bit. But this post isn’t about baseball, it’s about Yankee Fiddlehead Casserole and failure. We don’t see enough failure in the blogosphere. Just shiny success stories. (Actually, not entirely true. See if you can get through this.)
Let’s face it: anyone who cooks experiences failure—or they’re not trying hard enough. Right now I have a casserole dish more than half-filled with food that no one wants to eat. I suppose the tip-off should have been the mindless replication of this one fiddlehead recipe online. Dozens of sources for it, all with the exact same ingredients. I figured I was being clever to tweak it a bit and add a twist or two. No matter. What came out of the oven was, in a word, gross.
A big part of the problem was the fiddleheads themselves. Here in the Pac NW we’re limited to the lady fern for our fiddlehead fix. While much of the rest of the country basks in the cool shade of the stately ostrich fern, we get the coy lady, who dispenses her favors with a penurious fickleness. Now don’t get me wrong, the lady is a lovely fern, and can wow in the right conditions, but she’s no ostrich. (I’ve heard rumors of a few ostrich patches in the North Cascades and the far northeastern corner of Washington State…unverified as of yet.) Lady fern fiddleheads are not as firm as ostrich, and they can be bitter if not picked immediately after emergence. There are tricks to dealing with bitter fiddleheads, prolonged boils and such, or balanced ingredient matching. But I was in denial.
The marriage of tender, sweet ham and slightly bitter fiddleheads was headed for divorce court before the first rose petal hit the ground. My lunch of Fusilli with Fiddleheads the other day was delicious—in part because the lemon juice and zest brightened the fiddlheads, and the parm tied it all together with the pasta. There was no such tying together at dinner. So chalk this one up as a loser. Next time I’ll pay more attention to that little voice saying “Beware, beware…”
In other news, I’m halfway through my last jar of thimbleberry jam and already suffering from withdrawal. This is quite simply the best jam I’ve ever made, and it wasn’t even a fancy blend of ingredients—just thimbleberries, sugar, and a little lemon juice. You see, most of us haven’t eaten thimbleberry jam because the berries very rarely make it to a receptacle other than the palm of our hand before being greedily devoured.
For you jam enthusiasts out there: I advise restraint. Save enough thimbleberries during your berry reconnaissance—just a couple pints, if you can manage it—and you’ll be very happy come winter. And then very sad when that too is gone. August can’t come quick enough.
Been reviewing the first typeset pages of Fat of the Land the book! Excitement here at FOTL headquarters building. Stay tuned for cover art, which should be up soon…
Bon weekend everyone!