Thursday, May 19, 2016

Andy Ricker: Phat Phak Kuut (Thai Stir-fried Fiddlehead Fern)

I think this is the first time I've seen fiddlehead ferns in my neck of the woods.  Okay, bad wording.  There are no woods around here where fiddleheads might be found.  The ostrich fern, from which we get these lovely little curls, would not like 105°F in the summer, so I know for a fact these were shipped in from somewhere much more hospitable, but I'm not complaining.  I decided to do something a little bit different with them, but imagine my surprise when I found that you can actually make a Thai dish with these babies!  Really yummy, but even with using the minimum 4 chilies, the top of my head nearly blew off, so maybe start with...oh...say...ONE.

Note:  I had no pork stock sitting around waiting to be delicious, so I used some ham stock concentrate (Better Than Bouillon), and all was right with the world.

Phat Phak Kuut (Thai Stir-fried Fiddlehead Fern)
From Chef Andy Ricker, as seen on The New York Times cooking blog

1 pound fiddlehead ferns (about 4 cups)
2 tablespoons’ worth of garlic cloves
4 to 10 small, fresh Thai chilies, depending on your tolerance for heat
4 tablespoons neutral oil, such as peanut or rice bran
2 tablespoons fish sauce
4 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
¼ teaspoon MSG (such as Accent), optional
Freshly ground white pepper, to finish
½ cup pork stock

Clean the fiddleheads by soaking them in cold water and shaking them dry in a colander. Trim the stem of each within an inch or two of the curled top. Slip off any slimy brown skin. Pick over for sticks, dirt and bugs. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it well.

Smash the garlic and chilies into a rough, lumpy paste in a mortar and pestle.

Blanch the ferns for a minute or two. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wok or wok-style pan over medium heat. Add garlic and chilies and cook until fragrant but not brown.

Take the ferns out of the blanching water, shake them dry in a colander for a few seconds (a little water is not a problem) and toss into the wok. Crank the heat all the way up. Stir-fry for a minute, add the fish sauce, stir-fry again for a few seconds, then add the oyster sauce, sugar, MSG, and white pepper. Stir-fry for a few more seconds, then add the stock and cook until sauce is thicker than water but nowhere near a glaze.

Serve on a large platter or in a shallow bowl. Eat hot.

Makes 4 servings

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