Fiddlehead Ferns With Bacon, Browned Garlic and Onion, and White Wine Reduction

As promised yesterday, I’ve prepared an incredibly simple yet delicious Primal Fiddlehead Fern recipe. I originally planned on making a big dish, with lots of ingredients, but I realized that doing so could weaken the presence of the fern. Since these things are relatively rare, I wanted to make sure they were the stars of the show and didn’t get lost in the melee.

1/2 pound Fiddlehead Ferns
12 oz applewood smoked bacon
1 medium onion
1 large clove garlic
1/4 cup dry white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
Salt and pepper

I started by preparing the ferns as mentioned in yesterday’s post: a 3-4 minute roiling boil blanch followed by a cold water bath. At the same time, I cut up the bacon into 1 inch pieces and started cooking it over medium heat.

Once the bacon is getting nice and crispy and is about five minutes from finishing, saute the ferns in a large tablespoon of butter in another pan over medium-high heat. Once the bacon’s done and the ferns have been cooking for three minutes, toss in another dollop of butter and add the garlic (chopped). At this point, remove the bacon, pour out about 2/3 of the rendered fat into a container for later use, and then toss the chopped onion in the rest of the bacon fat over high heat.

Watch this carefully, as the onions will burn quickly. Keep stirring the onions while watching the ferns and garlic. When the garlic is starting to brown, pour in the wine and let it reduce. The onions should be done by now so go ahead and take them out before they burn. As the wine reduces, you may want to add a bit more butter as a thickener.

Plate the ferns and top with salt, pepper, bacon, and onions. It’s a pretty filling dish by itself, or you could serve it alongside a piece of grilled meat, like a lamb leg steak.

If you can’t find Fiddlehead Ferns or would rather not fork over the money (I think you can count me in that boat as long as they’re $20 out here), you can substitute chopped asparagus spears and leave everything else the same. If you live near a local fern source, you really have no excuse not to try it out. It’s a really easy recipe that actually looks quite professional – I usually just go for function over form when it comes to cooking, but the mix of colors was a nice surprise.

The best thing about this is that it’s relatively wide open for additions or subtractions. I can imagine this dish going well with some crushed red chile pepper for heat, or with some grated aged Gouda to add a sharp bite to the white wine reduction. Fresh herbs like thyme or parsley might help, too. If you do decide to try this recipe, let us know if you make any alterations and how it turns out!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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25 thoughts on “Fiddlehead Ferns With Bacon, Browned Garlic and Onion, and White Wine Reduction”

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  1. So will I, Greg.

    Applewood smoked bacon is the flavor of the month, isn’t it? Is applewood smoked bacon really smoked with applewood and not simply infused with ‘natural’ flavoring and does it really taste different than ordinary bacon?

  2. I just picked 10 lbs in about an hour. Took another hour to clean. Here in northern Vermont we’ve also been having a great year getting wild leaks (ramps) They go great with native brook trout or a nice rare moose steak, like I had last night.
    I like my fiddle heads as a salad. After blanching and cooling, I just add my favorite dressing – great!

  3. I just picked up 1/4 lb of ferns at Whole Foods for $14.99/lb. It’s be a nice little primal snack. Have everything but the white wine. Will let you know how it goes, Mark!

  4. I picked about a pound yesterday at my in-laws and was planning on having some for lunch today! I think I’ll try this recipe instead of just frying up with butter!

  5. EEXXCCUUUSSEE me, as your 81 year old Dad, I know a few things about fiddleheads. With all due respect to your recipe, it is a desecration of one of nature’s most perfect vegetables. There is nothing more delicious than a pan full of fiddleheads slightly steamed and sautéed in butter. The flavor is indescribably fantastic. My best description would be a blend of mushrooms, green beans and asparagus. The genesis of this primal food stems from New England trout fishing protocol, whereas one would go to the stream or brook as soon as the fishing season opened. He would carry a small backpack which included some simple eating utensils, small frying pan and a stick of butter which he would tie with a string and gently lower it into the sold spring running water while he fished with his handtied flies and caught a beautiful rainbow trout. After cleaning his fish, he would browse along the edge of the brook and gather fiddleheads. since they only are available for about 3 weeks, they are God’s way of blessing the lonely angler. Building a small campfire, he would fry his outrageously fresh fish in butter and then put the lid on his pan and steam the fiddleheads a few minutes before sautéing them in butter. No onions, no bacon, no fancy sauces to cover the delicate flavor. His only out-of-pocket expense for this extraordinary primitive gourmet feast was the cost of the butter and his fishing license. Of course, if he had a half bottle of Landmark chardonnay it would be as close as you could come to heaven on earth. Love your new website, have just ordered 5 books so I can get your autograph. With great pride and love, Dad

  6. Just saw a contain of Fiddleheads at my local wegmans. Looks like its time to give this a go around.

  7. hey! i used steam whistle beer (a local pilsner) instead of wine. went realllly well! thanks for the recipe!

  8. How I miss steamwhistle..why don’t they ship it outside Ontario? (Specifically, to PEI?)

  9. really, they don’t? i’m surprised!
    btw, fiddleheads are about $5/lb in kensington market and about $7/lb at my local grocer here in toronto

  10. Hmm…Never heard of these before but it looks delicious. Wonder how hard they are to find outside New England? I may try this with an asparagus substitute too.

    1. Fiddleheads are available in the wild in the South, too. In fact, anywhere you find a wood with a mature canopy.

      Hope that helps.

  11. Just picked 25lbs today about gone by here had a feed last night just boiled in water. eat with butter and vinegar. very good frozen.

  12. Tried for the first time this weekend. My g/f blanched them then drizzled with peanut satay sauce (mixed with coconut milk. To die for!
    Simple is better for this green.
    heard the frozen ones are good also

  13. Love Fiddle heads and Morels, this winter in Ontario we had less snow fall and the morel crop was not so large as it usually is but we managed to forage a decent amount for a few wonderful recipes. May we finally got our April showers and the fiddleheads are showing their fine forms all over my back yard (150 acres of woodland with trails) So we picked our hearts out this morning and are going to give this recipe a try only no wine for me so we are going to sub with Scotch as we often do for Morels. Oak aged Scotch adds that lovely woodsy flavour..I’ll let you know how it goes. Happy foraging folks!

  14. Cleaning these things is a pain in the ass, but it must be done unless you like eating dirt. 3-4 changes of water sometimes. I blanch them, plunge into cold water, pat dry then saute with butter/lard/whatever and some chopped shallots or ramps if you can get them. It’s a fantastic dish that you can only prepare a few times a year.

    Blanching is highly suggested; the blanching water will turn brown and some people do it twice to remove the tannins.

    Be sure if you pick your own that they are ostrich fern and not bracken; the latter are carcinogenic!

  15. check out “fiddleheads (a wild delicacy of maine and the northeast)”when you get to this page click on discussions for many good can find it at google.