Grilled Mahón Cheese with Roasted Fiddlehead Ferns and Hot Italian Turkey Sausage
Finally got to Sandwich Surprise my parents this Sunday, thanks to our Mother’s Day plan to have my mom and dad over to watch Tiger win and catch up on Mad Men. (They normally wait until they can borrow the DVDs from their public library, but we’ve been DVR-ing all the new episodes for them.)
We planned to watch at least the Season 6 premiere, so I thought I could use it for inspiration, especially because it featured plenty of random food: poi, PB&J Ritz crackers, goulash, a meatball sub, etc. But none of those things seemed springy or Mother’s Day-y enough.
I mulled and mulled over my long list of sammies I haven’t tried yet, and couldn’t settle on anything until I wandered around Whole Foods, where I accidentally landed on an ingredient that tied in Mom, Mad Men and spring: fiddlehead ferns.
Fiddlehead ferns are a spring veggie that just started cropping up at WF. I have been absolutely obsessed with them; they’re SO good roasted and served with organic white jasmine rice.
Luckily for me, fiddlehead ferns grow year-round and are a menu staple in Hawaii, where the Drapers kick off Season 6 with a boondoggle in Honolulu. Also, it turns out that Mom has been craving them since she and Dad vacationed in Hawaii in 2006.
As for the rest of the sandwich, I grabbed sausage because the ferns are like a cross between asparagus and broccoli rabe minus the bitterness, so I thought they’d pair well. And the Mahón is a 60-day aged, firm Spanish cows’ milk that melts well and has a sweet, nutty, slightly floral flavor which I thought would go well with the loaf of sourdough I baked Sunday morning.
The ferns need to be either roasted, steamed or boiled before adding them into grilled cheese filling. (You can also make it vegetarian by skipping the sausage or using Tofurkey sausages instead.) Click here for steps on roasting the ferns and sausage.
To grill the sandwich, slice your bread and butter one side of each slice. With the butter side down on one piece, layer the Mahón (or cheddar or Gruyére or mozz or whatever else you’d like). Then layer the roasted fiddleheads on top.
I ran out of cheese for this photo, which is why the cheese layer looks so sparse.
Slice the sausages in half and then lengthwise in quarters. Layer onto the ferns.
Finally, layer some more cheese to bind the sammy and top with another slice of bread, butter side out.
Melt 1/3 T. of butter in a frying pan. Using a spatula, place the sammy in the pan and cover with a lid. I have a clear All-Clad lid, so I can keep an eye out for the bottom layer of cheese melting.
Once it does, using two spatulas, gently turn the sammy over and cover again. When the other layer of cheese melts and the bottom layer of bread is a golden-orange color, it’s ready to eat!
I usually try to test the sammies before springing them on folks, but I didn’t have a chance this time.
Fortunately, Mom and Dad showed up hungry and ready to be guinea pigs. (And yes, I know, they’re my parents, so the likelihood of them being anything but positive were slim to Sergio-Garcia‘s-chances-of-winning-the-Players-Championship-after-playing-the-17th-hole-yesterday.)
Everyone started out with a quarter of a sammy, in case it was a bust and I needed to whip up something else.
(That’s not, um, my Steelers blanket.)
“This is delicious,” Mom said. “I love fiddlehead ferns! I’m so happy I know where I can buy them now, because we had these in Hawaii. The sausage isn’t too hot for me. And the cheese is great. Abe, can you buy Mahón cheese tomorrow when you go to the store?”
“Scrumptious,” said Dad. “I like the crunchiness of the bread. The cheese and the sausage have a lot of flavor. One thing I might change is I’d add tomatoes. But that’s because I like tomatoes. Can I have another one?”
After they both had more substantial servings of it, Mom wanted to try a version with just the ferns, just to see if she liked that better.
“Actually, it’s better with the sausage,” she said, after a couple vegetarian bites.
Couldn’t agree more: The sausage had a nice kick to it, and fennel seed on a sammy always makes me happy. Don Draper-on-my-TV-level happy.
If you want to be Sandwich Surprised yourself, just follow my Twitter account, like my Facebook page and/or subscribe to my blog here, and then comment, post or tweet to me. If I’m in your area (I do road trip it sometimes) or if you’re taking a trip to New York City, you could get a Sandwich Surprise soon!
Fiddlehead ferns, any amount (I used 1/2 lb.)
Hot Italian Sausage, turkey or pork or soy, any amount (I used 2)
Kilauea black sea salt
Cost with the Mahón cheese, the minimal butter and the homemade sourdough (the recipe is at the bottom of my Duck Fat-Roasted Cauliflower Steak & Prosciutto on Lavender Sourdough post. Just skip the lavender and form a large loaf instead of individual rolls) was about $26 for 6 sandwiches (which was enough to feed 4 of us). FYI, I already had the paprika and the black sea salt.
Preheat the oven to 350˚.
Put the fiddleheads and the uncooked sausage in a roasting pan. (If you use Tofurkey sausages, just keep in mind that they won’t need nearly as much cooking, likely just 5 minutes.)
Crush then mince 1-2 garlic cloves, sprinkling that evenly over the pan.
Drizzle olive oil over it all, then stir to make sure everything gets coated.
Shake lots of Hungarian paprika on each side of the sausages.
Season with Kilauea black sea salt to your liking. I probably used about 15-20 pinches for 3 lbs. of meat and ferns.
Cover pan with aluminum foil and place on center rack in oven for 25-30 minutes, then roast uncovered for another 10-15 minutes, until the fiddlehead is cooked but somewhat al dente. You just don’t want it to crunch when you bite it. Works well as an entrée on its own, or with rice too!