Sweet-and-Sour Fish with Morels and Fiddleheads Recipe

I’ve been a little cooped up as of late. But my restlessness slowly is turning to excitement as I anticipate the start of foraging season in the Midwest. I love a broad variety of wild plants and fungi, but certain favorites stand out for their culinary value and availability near my home—specifically morel mushrooms and fiddlehead ferns.

This recipe uses a combination of fun flavors to wake up your household and your taste buds. The sauce hits the palate hard using spice, sour, sweetness, and the added bonus of umami from the morel mushrooms. Many ingredients for this sweet-and-sour sauce can be found in many everyday pantries and tweaked to your liking.

You can use almost any firm-fleshed fish from your freezer such as whitefish, walleye, pike, panfish, redfish, or rockfish. Serve it over rice and some bright herbs to chase away the winter and quarantine doldrums.

Serving size

2-4

Time to make

1 hour

Ingredients

1 lb. fish fillets
1 cup fiddlehead ferns
½ cup cilantro, chopped
½ cup green onions, sliced
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. cooking oil
1 cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper

Sauce
1 cup dried morel mushrooms (or two cups fresh morels)
1 cup orange juice
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup white wine
½ cup brown sugar
Juice and zest of one lemon
1 tsp. chili flake
½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. black pepper

Also works with

Any firm-fleshed fish such as walleye, pike, panfish, or bass.

Fresh morel mushrooms or store-bought mushrooms.

Spinach instead of fiddleheads.

Special equipment

Sauce pot, cast-iron skillet, rice cooker or small pot

Method

1
  1. If your morels are dried, soak them in water for half an hour before cooking. In a medium sauce pot combine all of the sweet-and-sour sauce ingredients, including the strained mushroom liquid. Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce for 15 minutes or until half the volume remains. Set aside and remove the lemon peels.
  2. Chop  the cilantro and green onion and place in cold water in the refrigerator. This will make the green onions nice and crisp.
  3. Pour the flour in a Ziploc or paper bag and season with salt and black pepper. Cut the fish into 2- or 3-ounce portions and place them into the flour. Shake to coat the fish evenly.
  4. Place a cast iron skillet or sauté pan on medium-high heat. Add the cooking oil and heat until it sizzles when you drop in a pinch of flour. Lay the coated fish pieces in the pan. Make sure to leave space between each piece so they brown evenly. Flip the fillets when golden brown and repeat on the other side.
  5. When the fish pieces are browned on all sides, pour in the sweet-and-sour sauce. It will immediately bubble hard and begin to thicken and reduce. Add the fiddleheads. Cook the fish in the sauce for another 3-5 minutes. Finish the sauce by adding butter. Serve over white rice and garnish with the cilantro and green onion.