On the menu: Fiddlehead Quiche
It is not spring in Maine (or in the Northern Midwest) without a eating a few fiddleheads. Fiddleheads are the new spring growth of the ostrich fern. They’re picked while they’re still rolled up tight, just like the end of a violin. You know how most forager types in all the big cities are talking about ramps and nettles right now? Please. Let me tell you, fiddleheads are where it’s AT. Emma definitely agrees with me; she’s got over 10 pounds of them at home. My father definitely agrees with me; he’s still finishing up his pickled fiddleheads from last year. I was thinking about my dad as I made this dish. I bet he would go crazy over it!
I actually had a fiddlehead quiche once. I spent a summer working as a research aid for the Forest Service in Grand Rapids, MN, and one weekend I went to a wild foods workshop, where I sampled white pine needle tea, candied violets, and the aforementioned quiche. When we got our most recent batch of fiddleheads–there’s all sorts of folks selling them on the side of the road here, it’s great–I remembered that quiche. It was high time to recreate it. There were a dearth of blog posts about quiche last week, just in time for Mother’s Day brunch. Since I won’t see my momma for another month, I took inspiration from Ruth and Martha and made a nice dinner instead.
It all starts with the crust. Just your basic pie crust. I’ve learned that splitting the Joy of Cooking recipe unevenly, using 2/3 of the dough for the bottom crust, makes a big, easy to work with base for any pie. I’m not much for top crusts, anyway, and the remaining 1/3 makes great hand pies (or mini pies!). The important thing is this: you have to prebake your crust. It creates a barrier between the creamy custard and the crispy crust. The contrast is unbelievable. You have to prebake your crust! Once the crust is baked and cooled, you load it with cheddar cheese, dump in your fiddleheads and any herbs you may have on hand, and then pour the custard over everything. After about an hour in the oven, it’s done.
This. This was a wonderful meal. Fiddleheads have a unique earthiness to them that cuts right through the rich egg custard. There were enough vegetables in each slice to compensate for eating an egg pie for dinner. We only caught hints of the nutty cheddar, bright chive, and warm nutmeg flavors, but we were definitely okay with letting the fiddleheads steal the show. Summer is coming. Go and eat some fiddleheads!
Basic Pie Crust, below
1 lb. fiddleheads
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
5 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
freshly grated nutmeg
freshly grated black pepper
Assemble the pie crust, splitting the dough into thirds. Create a disk with 2/3 of the dough, wrap in plastic, and chill for 30 minutes. Save the remaining 1/3 for another use. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Roll out the pie crust and place it in a 9 inch pie plate. To prebake, poke the pie crust numerous times with a fork, line with parchment paper, and fill with pie weights. I use dried beans. Bake crust for 20 minutes then let cool.
Rinse the fiddleheads thoroughly. Very thoroughly–I rinse mine 3-4 times to make sure all the dirt is out of them. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and saute the fiddleheads for 3-5 minutes, until bright green and tender. Season with salt and let cool.
Mix eggs, milk, nutmeg, salt, and pepper in a medium size bowl. Whisk to combine, but don’t whisk too hard. You don’t want to incorporate a ton of air into the eggs. Now, assemble the quiche. Spread cheese evenly on the prebaked crust. Add fiddleheads and chives, then pour the custard over. Bake at 350°F for 50-60 minutes, until golden brown and set.
Basic Pie Crust
from the Joy of Cooking
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 1/4 t. salt
3/4 c. vegetable shortening, chilled
3 T. cold unsalted butter, cubed
6 T. ice water
Sift flour and salt together. Cut half of the shortening and all of the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or work it in gently with your fingers until it has the consistency of cornmeal. Cut the remaining half of the shortening into the dough until it is pea sized. Sprinkle the dough with the ice water and blend gently to combine. Shape into two disks, wrap in plastic, and chill for 30 min. Bake as directed by individual recipes.