I received an email from one of the local markets that they had just received some fiddlehead ferns and fresh morel mushrooms. What would I do with the fronds and morels once I brought them home? No clue, but I went in search of them regardless, knowing they would be part of the evening meal.
I wanted to do something fresh, filling and delicious but without the addition of cream. Enter my friend risotto. I have a few favorite ways to make risotto, one of them being with a mix of dried and fresh mushrooms, pancetta and saffron. Eventually, I will share that recipe. For this dish, I started with my seasonal ingredients.
You could almost just prepare the asparagus, fiddlehead ferns and morels in the white wine butter sauce and forget about the risotto if you are pressed for time. I will leave that up to you! No matter which direction you choose, you will have a great recipe base to sample some of spring’s fleeting delicacies.
Personally, I’m not a huge fiddlehead fern fan, but they are a fun, seasonal ingredient and “just work” in this dish. The morels for this recipe cost $7.80. They are not cheap, but are worth the once a year splurge. Enjoy!
Asparagus, Fiddlehead Fern & Morel Mushroom Risotto
6 c. low sodium chicken broth
4 T. unsalted butter
1 bunch asparagus
16-18 fiddlehead ferns (optional)
18 small morel mushrooms (can substitute with other mushrooms)
1/2 c. dry white wine (I used Chardonnay)
1 T. Canola Oil
2 T. unsalted butter
1/2 c. minced shallots
1.5 c. Arborio rice
1 c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano + 1/4 c. for serving
2 T. Parsley, chopped (optional)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1.) Broth: Pour chicken broth into a large saucepan. Bring to a slow simmer. Reduce heat to low and maintain a gentle simmer.
2.) Asparagus, Fiddlehead Ferns & Morels: Heat a medium frying pan over low-medium heat. Add 4 T. butter. Gently melt and allow to turn a rich golden-tan, stirring occasionally with a spatula. Once the butter is browned (but not burned), add morels and asparagus. Sauté 2-3 minutes. Add fiddlehead ferns. Sauté additional 5 minutes. Turn heat to high. Pour in white wine. Sauté 5 minutes longer, stirring occasionally, until most of liquid is absorbed. Remove pan from heat and set aside.*
3.) The Rice:Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat. Melt 2 T. butter & 1 T canola oil. Stir in minced shallots and sauté until golden. Stir Arborio rice into the shallots and continue stirring, 2 minutes longer until oil coats all of the rice. Begin adding broth, 1/2 c (4 oz) at a time, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon. Once most of broth is absorbed or you can run your spoon down the center of the pan without liquid immediately covering the space back up, add another ladle full of broth. Continue to do this 18-25 minutes, or until all of broth is gone.** Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper as you go, taking care not to add too much salt..
4.) Bringing it all together: Add the reserved spring asparagus, fiddlehead ferns & morels along with any sauce left in the saucepan to the rice. Stir. Slowly stir in the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve garnished with fresh parsley and extra parmesan cheese.
*You can forget about the risotto if you like and just prepare the asparagus, fiddlehead ferns and morels up to this point. Serve them as a side dish, mixed in with an omelet, atop grilled chicken or as part of an antipasto platter!
** I use a 4 oz ladle to scoop the broth out of the pot. A measuring cup will work, too.