Monday, May 11, 2009

Fiddleheads and Arepas

There is something about the arrival of fiddleheads to market that provides reassurance that spring is here to stay. They are baby ferns, picked before they unfurl. (Do non't go picking these from your yard or forest willy-nilly, some ferns are poisonous.) I only tasted them for the first time last year, and I have to admit that I wasn't bowled over. A bit like asparagus mixed with green beans and a hint of okra, but more bitter, fiddleheads are special because they have such a short season, so I thought it best to give them a second try.

I have also been experimenting a lot late with gorditas and arepa recipes. Portable, pocket foods are awesome - they are the culinary marsupials! I have modified the Bob's Red Mills recipe for gorditas on the back of the masa harina bag, but they are still too dense. Last week there was some significant success using P.A.N. pre-cooked cornmeal during a group effort to produce arepas and I thought tonight was the night to make them again.

I didn't have any P.A.N. precooked cornmeal, but I did have a bag of this:

The translation on the back of the bag said it was pre-cooked cornmeal, so I figured I could just mix it 1-to-1 with water, add salt and make arepas.
I should have known something was amiss when the mixture needed an extra cup of water to form a dough. But I pressed on, shaping the balls, forming disks, searing them on each side and then placing them in an oven till they cooked through and made a hollow sound when tapped.

The fiddleheads
I cleaned them (washed them in water a few times, and snipped off the brown ends) and then sauteed them in brown butter with garlic. They lightened in color as they cooked.

I served them up with seasoned black beans (onions, garlic, cumin, oregano, turmeric) and chopped avocado with lime and some scallions.

The fiddleheads were much better than I remember them being! They retained a bit of their crunch and had a nice green asparagus-green bean flavor. And honestly, what doesn't taste good sauteed in brown butter with garlic?
The arepas on the other hand were very dense and the flavor was off. I am going to have to hunt down some P.A.N. cooked corn meal and some more masa harina and do more experiments.

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