Orecchiette with Mussels and Fiddleheads

Serves 4

  • 1¼ pounds of ostrich fern fiddleheads, cleaned
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 pounds of mussels, carefully cleaned and sorted
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ cup of brandy or white wine
  • ½ pound of orecchiette, or other fresh pasta shapes, or gnocchi if preferred

Boil half the fiddleheads for a short time in salted water. Drain and cool immediately in a bowl of iced water. Place the bowl to one side. In the meantime, sweat the onion in a pan with some oil. Add the remaining fiddleheads. Cooking on a high heat. Pour on 2 ladles of hot water, and cook for 30 minutes. Check the seasoning. Add the sautéed fiddleheads into a blender and purée.

Add the cleaned and closed mussels to a wide pan with a drop of oil. Place over a high heat and cover. Once the mussels have opened, remove from the heat and leave on one side to cool down. Discard any that have not opened. Retain 16 of the best in their shells for the garnish. Shell the others.

For the sauce, heat some oil and the garlic in a pan and quickly sauté the mussels. Pour over the brandy and leave to evaporate. Add the fiddlehead purée and mix so that the flavors combine.

In the meantime, boil the orecchiette in plenty of salted water. Drain when barely al dente, and mix in with the sauce so that they finish cooking. Dish up and decorate each plate with four of the mussels still in their shells, the previously reserved fiddleheads, and a generous grind of pepper or touch of chili pepper flake.