Fiddleheads are coiled ferns that are only edible before they are open. They are foraged in the spring and seen in grocery stores until the early part of the summer, but they’re best eaten at the beginning of the season. Fiddleheads are mainly eaten one way: sautéed with butter! They are enjoyed for both their look and their asparagus-like crunch, so they’re rarely cut up or cooked into other dishes. This tart takes them to another level while allowing them to be seen and eaten without doing much to them.
1 tbsp butter
1 cup cleaned fiddleheads
1/4 package (5 or 6 sheets) frozen phyllo dough, thawed
4 tbsp butter, melted
5 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups whole milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 cups shredded old Cheddar cheese
6 to 8 basil leaves (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a medium pan over medium-high, melt 1 tbsp of butter and sauté fiddleheads until tender and cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes. Set aside.
In a small, shallow baking dish or a 9- by 6-inch pan, lay a sheet of parchment slightly larger than the tray. Prepare the phyllo dough and 4 tbsp of melted butter as follows: Lay your thawed phyllo between two slightly damp towels. Keep your unused phyllo dough covered while you work, or it will dry out and crack. Have a pastry brush and the melted butter nearby. Position 1 sheet of phyllo in the pan, making sure it also goes up the sides, and drizzle some of the melted butter over it, brushing lightly to cover the surface with a thin layer. Fold the phyllo to create layers. The idea here is to create a shell that the liquid filling can sit in. Continue layering and buttering the phyllo in any which way to create an even shell while also lining the sides of the pan. Leave some higher phyllo overhangs, which will get nice and crisp in the oven.
Bake in the oven until the shell feels slightly crisp to the touch and the edges are just browning, about 10 to 12 minutes. When the crust is finished blind baking, remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the slightly cooled crust and pour in the egg mixture. Gently place the cooked fiddleheads neatly in rows over the tart.
Bake until firm and set in the middle but not overcooked, about 15 to 18 minutes. Let cool before cutting into slices. Garnish with basil, if desired. This tart is also excellent served cold.