Fiddlehead ferns, morels and asparagus gratin

Fiddlehead ferns, morels and asparagus gratin

I had my first taste of morels last week using morels I found in the woods, and the Chicken and Morel recipe I made merely whetted my appetite. I’m consumed with my next morel fix, but this past weekend’s hunt proved fruitless. I’m a desperate woman; I can still smell their muskiness on my hands. My hunt continued at Whole Foods. Fresh fiddlehead ferns, another Michigan forager’s prize, were at available ($14.99 a pound) and I spied some dried “Forest” morel mushrooms hanging above. It’s $20 for a 1-ounce bag of these babies, but I know “Forest” is a excellent brand of dried mushroom so I grabbed a pack. I added a couple of steaks to my cart, an unctuous cabernet, and totally blew my food budget for the week. My friend, Wendy Williams, shared a recipe with me using fiddlehead ferns and morels from the late, great Tapawingo Restaurant. This Ellsworth Restaurant, a celebration of Michigan’s culinary treasures, put our state on the destination map for serious world-class dining. Its exit is, in my opinion, a shame. I didn’t follow the Tapawingo recipe to the letter, eliminating some ingredients and improvising with ingredients I had on hand, but it was pretty darn close to the essence of springtime Michigan perfection–especially with a grilled steak on the side. Instead of using individual ramekins, like the original recipe calls for, I used a shallow, oven-proof platter so increased the oven temperature and decreased the cooking time. I was out of shallots so substituted scallions, and would have preferred using ramps (wild leeks) if they were available to me.

Recipe: Fiddlehead ferns, morels and asparagus gratin


  • 6 ounces (1.5 cups) thin asparagus cut into 2-inch inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound (1 1/2 cups) fiddleheads (cleaned of brown leaves and trimmed of woody ends)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions, shallots or ramps (wild leeks)
  • 1 cup fresh or rehydrated morel mushrooms* stems removed and cut in half if large
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons Madeira wine
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme leaves
  • 1/4 c fresh white bread crumbs or panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Blanch asparagus and fiddleheads in boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Drain and shock in ice water.
  3. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large sauté pan over medium heat. Add scallions and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add morels and sauté an additional minute or two or until just tender. Remove morels and scallions from pan and reserve. Add remaining butter, cream and Madeira to pan and simmer over low heat until slightly reduced, 4-5 minutes.
  4. Return morels to pan, stir in thyme, and gently heat an additional minute. Place mixture in a shallow, oven-proof baking dish (about 6 inches by 6 inches) and bake on the center rack of oven, about 5-6 minutes or until golden brown. Serve.

*Carefully wipe the sand off fresh morels with a damp paper towel, only if necessary. If using dried morels, rehydrate according to package instructions using a minimum amount of water (save the water for soup). A 1/2 ounce of dried morels yields about a cup of rehydrated morels.

Time: 30 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 4 side dishes

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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