This time of the year brings with it an abundance of fabulous ingredients. Some of which only make a brief appearance then bow their heads to the summer heat only to reemerge next year. Here in the northwest we are lucky to have three of my favorites, morel mushrooms, fiddlehead ferns and ramps.
Most of us have heard of morels. An interesting mushroom, it is found mainly in areas that have experienced forest fires in recent years. It is also known for its curious looks and expensive price if bought from harvesters or local vendors. Morels are delicate and delicious and, if you are willing get up to your elbows in ash, very affordable.
The other two ingredients, fiddleheads and ramps, are found growing wild next to streams, rivers and other moist shaded areas. Fiddleheads are the very top shoot of a regional wild fern variety and are easily identified by their curled top that looks like the head of a fiddle. Ramps, also known as wild leeks, are found in many of the same areas as fiddleheads and have a very pungent scent and strong flavor much like garlic. Because of their very short shelf life many choose to pickle them if they have more than they can eat in two to three days. One of my favorite dishes uses all three of these and fresh Alaskan halibut to create a unique and rare dining experience.
You will need to gather the following ingredients before you get started:
2 pounds fresh halibut fillets
1 pound morels
1 pound fiddlehead ferns
1 pound ramps
8 oz. butter
First, wash morels gently in water. Repeat until they are very clean and the water shows no sediment after rinsing. Set on a towel to dry. Now, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Wash the fiddleheads and ramps briefly in cold water. Trim the ferns if needed.
Remove the roots of the ramps and trim the green ends making the whole ramp about 4-5 inches long. Working in batches blanch and cool each in ice water, remove and set with the mushrooms. Next, if not already done by your fishmonger, cut halibut into 6-8 oz. pieces and season with salt and pepper. Add half of your butter to a hot skillet set to medium heat and once melted add the fish. Slowly cook until nice and golden brown then carefully turn over. Once seared on all sides, remove and let rest.
Working quickly, add the rest of the butter and start to cook the morels until almost cooked through, then add the ferns and ramps. Cook until hot, about 3-4 minutes, tossing with the butter as you go. Season to taste with salt, pepper and the juice of one of the lemons. Divide the vegetable mixture between four plates toping with the halibut and finish with the remaining lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil. Paired with your favorite white wine this is a rare treat that is delicious and simple, but only for a short time. Enjoy!
Josh Auerhammer is chef/owner of Culinary Design Studio in Bigfork.
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