Frito Misto Fiddleheads with Lemon Basil Aioli

Serves 4–6

For the Frito Misto

  • 4 quarts of peanut or vegetable oil
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of cake flour
  • 2 cups of sparkling water (such as Pellegrino) or you can use buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 12 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½–2 pounds of fiddleheads, cleaned and patted dry (or other spring vegetables such as ramps and asparagus of nettle leaves)

Place the oil in a 6- to 8-quart pot and heat it to 375°. Sift together the all-purpose and the cake flours. Place in a wide bowl or on a platter. Whisk together the sparkling water, egg, salt, and pepper in a large shallow bowl.

While the oil is heating, prepare the fiddleheads. Make sure that they are dry before coating. To avoid gluey fingers, use one hand for wet dipping and the other for the dry bowl. Working with a few pieces of fiddleheads at a time, dip them into the sparkling water mixture, coating them well. Lift them out and let the excess mixture drip off. Drop them into the flour mixture, working quickly to coat them evenly with the flour. Shake off any excess flour, and lay the fiddleheads in a single layer on a large parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Continue until all the fiddleheads are coated. You can coat fiddleheads up to 20–25 minutes ahead of frying, which makes the coating adhere better.

When the oil is hot, carefully add the fiddleheads to the pot but do not overcrowd. Fry until golden brown, 2–3 minutes. Give the fiddleheads a stir as they fry, turning any that are browning unevenly. Using a slotted spoon or flat strainer, remove the vegetables and place on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Hold in a warm place while frying the rest of the fiddleheads. Be sure to bring the oil back up to temperature before adding the next batch. Serve warm with a lemon basil aioli.

For the Lemon Basil Aoili

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup pure olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 6 large basil leaves, minced and chopped

Combine the extra virgin olive oil and the pure olive oil in a measuring cup with a spout. Place the garlic and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the garlic is fine minced and beginning to liquefy. Add the whole egg and egg yolk. Processes for 30 seconds with the machine running. Slowly drizzle in the oil. As the mixture thickens, the oil can be added a little more quickly. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice, and process briefly to mix in. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed if the aioli is too stiff, and water in ½ teaspoon increments to thin. Once finished, place into a bowl and stir in minced chopped basil, about ¼ cup, just before serving.