Monday, May 21, 2012

Wild Things: Fiddlehead Ferms and Morel Mushrooms

“Wild Thing!”
And Max said, “I’ll eat you up!” *

Salmon with Fiddleheads Ferns and Morels

Hold on a minute, Max. Those wild things are mine. And please, don’t send me off to bed without eating anything. 
This past weekend at the farmer’s market one of the merchants, Mainly Mushrooms, had fiddlehead ferns and morels, two wild treats of the spring. The morels weren’t local; it was a bad spring for morels around here, so they were from elsewhere; sometimes you can’t eat locally all the time. The fiddleheads and wild mushrooms became part of a dinner to celebrate spring. We purchased four ounces each of the fiddleheads and morels but saved some of each for a later use (perhaps tossed with some pasta and asparagus on another day?). If you want to splurge, and morels are a splurge, you could use more. Who am I to tell you what to do?
Although the recipe calls for salmon (I used some wild sockeye, previously frozen but still delicious) you could use chicken, which is what I did for our youngest daughter (who isn’t very fish friendly). If you don’t want to bother with the butter sauce, you could use the pan juices from the morels and fiddleheads.
A note for the inexperienced: morels cannot be eaten raw; they are toxic until cooked.

Salmon with Fiddleheads and Morels with White Wine Butter Sauce
For two portions

Two 5 to 6 ounce portions salmon fillet
2 ounces fiddlehead ferns
2 ounces morel mushrooms
salt and ground black pepper
olive oil and  unsalted butter, for cooking

1. Rinse the ferns under cold water. Trim off the bottom ends. For a contrasting look, gently push the center of a few of the ferns so they uncoil. Set the fiddleheads aside. Rinse the morels under cold water to remove any dirt. Slice the morels in half or quarters, depending on their size. Set aside.
2. Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat; when hot, swirl in a tablespoon olive oil. Add the fiddlehead ferns; season lightly with salt and black pepper and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. Heat a second small sauté pan over medium heat; when hot, add a teaspoon each olive oil and butter to the pan. Add the morels, season lightly with salt and black pepper and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. Set aside.
4. If making the white wine butter sauce, prepare it now, set it aside and keep warm.
5. Heat a non-stick sauté pan over high heat. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. When the pan is hot, swirl in a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the salmon, skin side up, to the pan. Sear the salmon for 3 to 4 minutes (depending on the thickness). Turn the fillets and cook for an additional 3 to 4 minutes, to the desired degree of doneness. Remove the salmon from the pan to a plate. Reheat the fiddleheads and morels.
6. To serve, plate the salmon fillets onto two plates. Spoon the sauce over and around the salmon. Garnish with the fiddlehead ferns and morels.

White Wine Butter Sauce

1 teaspoon minced shallot
½ cup dry white wine
2 to 3 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter

1. Place the shallots and wine into a small saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and simmer until the wine is reduced to 2 or 3 tablespoons. Over low heat, whisk in the butter until a creamy emulsified sauce forms; season lightly with salt. Set aside and keep warm until needed; if the sauce gets too hot, the butter will break.

* words by the great Maurice Sendak, from “Where the Wild Things Are.” You will be missed, Mr. Sendak. Your books have made a lasting impression on us and in our children’s lives. We are ever grateful. Thank you. 


  1. Thank you for your inspiration! Wayne and I had our first ever morels, cooked in olive oil and some quark for a creamy sauce with pasta. Delicious!

  2. We we splurged. Now we had a second quark adventure. Margaret made waffles and we topped them with quark and the strawberries that had been slowly cooking in Lemmon juice and grand marnier