Shad Roe and Fiddleheads
"Tutu" is Hawaiian for grandmother. why is that relevant? Because I'm a Hawaiian from Hawaii. How did a Hawaiian end up in the mid Atlantic cooking, well that's a story for another time.
My Tutu's the matriarch of our culinary family having 3 chefs, 3 restaurateurs, a good housekeeping editor, 2 bar managers, 1 sous chef, and some servers here and there over 3 generations. One of her favorite dishes in the spring time is Shad roe and foraged fiddle heads. What is Shad roe? What are fiddle heads? Shad is an anadromous fish (fish that lives in the ocean and spawns in fresh water) that spawns in the rivers of North America. The water temperature influences what time of year the shad spawn and the river they spawn in is the same as where they were born. The water temperature and the fiddle head ferns coincide here in the upper mid Atlantic.
Fiddleheads is the Ostrich fern in its "blooming" stage in the early spring. Curled up it resembles the head of a fiddle hence the name "fiddlehead". This fern has a flavor of
asparagus and spinach and has an awesome crunchy texture. There are a few distinct features that you need to look for because not all fiddleheads are Ostrich ferns and edible. When looking for fiddle heads look at the stem. You're looking for a distinctive "U" shape in the stalk or stem. If the stem is round then you found some delightful lawn decoration, but nothing edible. You can find these unique plants along streams, and in moist lowland of forest floors. Once they have unraveled their leaves these plants have passed their edible faze and you'll have to wait until next year.
I find the best way to cook these in a quick blanche in well salted boiling water, and then shocking them in salted ice water. They have a layer of brown protective film on them that needs be removed after they're blanched. Then lightly sauteing them in brown butter.