Because of the diverse nature of the many different restaurants and chefs Brian Henry has worked under he is highly proficient at a wide range of cuisines.

Brian’s cooking is seasonal, inventive and smart, but in no way unapproachable or fussy. When he is coaxed out of the kitchen and starts talking about food, his passion and knowledge are instantly recognizable.

"Chef Brian Henry cooked a series of delicious appetizers for us as we sat around a table in the kitchen". Thanks

Tony Aspler, Wine writer

“Chef Brian Henry puts one hundred percent of his energy into going all the way.”

Birgit Moenke, Editor Stir Media Read More Reviews

Gastronomically yours,

Fiddleheads

 

Fiddleheads are the young wild fern shoots that are harvested from the forest floor before they uncurl and grow into long leafed ferns. Their shape is comparable to a scroll or the head of a violin, after which they are named. Fiddleheads have been a seasonal mainstay in diets for centuries throughout Asia, Europe and North America for centuries. They taste like a mix of asparagus and broccoli with mild earthy mushroom accents.
This wild vegetable is harvested in the spring by cutting the fiddleheads close to the ground while they are 10-15 cm in height. They are in season for about two weeks per region but are often available longer as they are shipped between regions.

The long awaited spring rains that arrived this week gave us the well needed dousing to kick the greening of the forests into high gear. The forest floor is sprouting to life with fiddleheads popping up everywhere. These can be gathered by you in the wild or will be available for purchase in grocery stores and farmers markets for the next couple of weeks.

Once harvested or purchased your fiddleheads need to be washed, trimmed and refrigerated as soon as possible as they are highly perishable and should be prevented from further ripening or uncurling. They can be stored for 2-3 days in a refrigerator sealed in a plastic bag.  Fiddleheads can be stored longer by freezing them. To do this you will need to clean and trim the fiddleheads and then blanch them for a couple of minutes in salted boiling water and then quickly cool them down by plunging them into cold water. Drain and dry the blanched fiddleheads and seal them plastic freezer bags and freeze them. They will keep for up to 6 months in the freezer.
To cook your fiddleheads you will need to first remove the yellow/brown skin, and remove any browned tips. Blanch them for a couple of minutes in salted boiling water and then quickly cool them down by plunging them into cold water.  Now you can prepare your fiddleheads by steaming, boiling or sautéing them.  It is recommended that fiddleheads be cooked for at least 10-15 minutes.
Fresh fiddleheads like asparagus are best when served with a bit of  butter, salt, pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice as their mild flavour can be easily overpowered. This week’s recipe highlights the fresh flavor of fiddlehead ferns with sliced browned garlic which will not over power the fiddleheads.

 

Sauté Fiddleheads

Ingredients:

1 pound fiddlehead ferns

2 tbsp. vegetable oil or butter

1 – 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced not chopped

2 lemons cut in wedges and seeded

Method: Trim and rinse fiddleheads, removing any brown tips or mushy parts. Blanch the fiddleheads as outlined in the article.

Preheat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil or butter and the fiddleheads to the pan. Stir the fiddleheads constantly and cook them until they start to brown, about 7-10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and continue cooking until the garlic becomes fragrant and lightly browned. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste and serve immediately Serves 4

 

 

Foraging in the Forest

 

Spring is here and the warmer temperatures combined with this week’s much needed rain will have ramps, morels and fiddleheads poking out from the forest floor any day now in no particular order. I do enjoy ramps and morels; the fiddleheads as far as I’m concerned can stay in the forest. Although I harvest morels I do not give advice on harvesting any wild fungi as mistakes can be fatal.

Ramps or wild leeks are a member of the Lily family and typically is one of the very first plants to sprout out of the ground after the snow melts. This species is native to North America and usually first appears in late April and can be harvested throughout the month of May. This smaller and more pungent leek grows in moist sandy soil often near streams. I usually stumble upon ramps when foraging for morel mushrooms or vice versa so try hunting for both and see what you find.

It is of little known fact that the USDA and the province of Quebec have both declared that wild leeks are an endangered species resulting from its commercial exploitation and have enacted strict laws in respect to harvesting them. Although Ontario does not yet have these same laws I do recommend that you only harvest ramps when they are abundant, and even then only collect scattered patches or individual plants.

Wild leeks are easily recognized with its pale green, smooth, broad leaves that reach a height of eight inches which are often tinted with burgundy or purple highlights.  First time ramp hunters need not worry so much about their botanical identification skills for when one pulls the strongly rooted scallion like bulbs from the ground your nose will confirm your find;  by tearing the plants stem and taking a sniff.  If the strongly distinctive scent of an onion sears your nostrils then you have hit pay dirt; which reminds me… be sure to wash your leek harvest by soaking them in several changes of cold water as they are quite sandy.

Ramps are adaptable to almost any food style and can also be sautéed or used in soups and stir fries. Substitute them in any recipe that calls for onions or garlic. I enjoy eating freshly harvested ramps raw. Be forewarned that their pungent garlicky odor can linger for a couple of days on your breath and ingesting large quantities of ramps can have an ill effect on ones constitution so as with all great things exercise moderation.

Later in the season the ramps produce a yellow flower which only develops after its leaves have died and fallen from the plant. Although they are still edible at this time the bulbs become rather swollen with a tough woody texture.

I like to pickle my ramps as it mellows their strong flavour and it allows me to store the ramps and enjoy them year round. They make for a brilliant accompaniment to our locally raised beef grilled up on the bbq or served raw as a tartar.

 

Pickled Ramps

1 pound ramps

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup cider vinegar

3/4 cup water

1 tbsp kosher salt

1 tbsp Pickling spice

1 tsp black peppercorns

Pickled ramps:

If the ramps are young and tender, you can leave the green tops on otherwise cut them off about 1/4 inch above where the stem turns white. Trim away the roots. Discard any dried out or dirty leaves and rinse several times to remove dirt and debris. Place ramps in a large heatproof, non reactive bowl.

To make the pickling brine: combine all the remaining ingredients in a saucepan.  Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the brine from the heat and immediately pour it the over ramps. At first it may appear that there’s not enough brine, but once the ramps wilt there will be more than enough. Let the ramps cool to room temperature. Transfer them into smaller non reactive containers, cover tightly, and place in the refrigerator to allow the flavours to develop. After 24 hours has passed it is time to enjoy your harvest. Keep the ramps stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator for 8-12 weeks.

 

 

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