The settlers of the southern Appalachian Mountains were among the first to use the term “ramp” to describe the potent little plant otherwise known as Allium tricoccum. Indigenous to the southeastern United States, it is almost an exclusive group who knows how to prepare and appreciate the ramp’s flavor. It may never be described as delicate or a good “first date food”, but that is not what it is best known for anyway. And this is one instance when tasting brings understanding. Though these recipes probably pale in comparison to your time-tested family ramps recipes, they are a nice way to try something new with a classic springtime food.
These recipes feature ramps in ways to accentuate its strong flavor. I have included three main dishes, no desserts. Ramps, Potato & Bacon Casserole is a comfort food with ramps’ healthy properties. The odor encourage folks to keep their distance for a few days, so you can avoid catching a cold from any of them. Ramps joins forces with mushrooms in the Ramps & Mushroom Chicken. It is so simple, you’ll be freezing ramps to enjoy this dish year-round. A portion of the recipe can even be made ahead of time. Ramps Risotto gives you plenty of carbs in each delicious spoonful. It is an Appalachian twist on a classic Italian meal.
PLEASE NOTE: If ramps are not available in your area or season, you may substitute leeks, wild garlic, or shallots in the same quantity for a similar flavor outcome. Photos are by Lauren, Darya Pino of Summer Tomato food site/blog, and Dan Heatherly.
Ramp, Potato & Bacon Casserole
7 slices smoked bacon
2 tablespoons butter
5 ounces ramps, cleaned, trimmed, chopped (about 1 cup when chopped)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups diced red potatoes, boiled
6 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups half-and-half cream
2 cups Swiss cheese, grated
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Lightly spread 1 tablespoon butter around the inside and on the bottom of an oven-safe casserole dish.
3. In a skillet over medium heat, fry the bacon for about 5 minutes or until crispy. Remove from heat and place the bacon strips on a plate with paper towels. Let them cool before crumbling the strips into smaller pieces. Set them aside.
4. Return to the same skillet, and remove all but 2 to 3 teaspoons of the greasy drippings. Return the pan to medium heat and add the remaining butter and chopped ramps. Season with pepper and cook for 10 minutes or until tender. Stir the cooked red potatoes in with the ramps.
5. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs before whisking together with the half-and-half. Add the ramp and potato mixture to the bowl and blend. Add 1 cup Swiss cheese, the bacon pieces, and the nutmeg then mix completely.
6. Pour the mixture into the buttered dish and cover with aluminum foil. Bake the dish for 55 minutes, or until the ingredients have set. Remove the foil and set the dish aside.
7. Carefully position the top rack of the oven to be 6 to 8 inches from the broiler. Prepare the oven to cook on the broil setting. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the cooked mixture and place in the oven. Broil for only 2 to 3 minutes, just long enough to brown the top cheese layer. You can leave the oven door partially open to keep an eye on it.
8. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Serve warm.
Ramps & Mushroom Chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoon oil
1/2 pound mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed
2 1/2 tablespoons chopped ramps
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons butter
1. Slice the chicken breasts in half horizontally to make six chicken cutlets. Sprinkle pepper lightly on the chicken breasts.
2. Over medium heat, warm 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet. Place chicken breasts in the pan. After 7 minutes, turn each over and let the other side cook for 5 minutes, or until the center meat is no longer pink. Remove them from the pan and set aside on a plate. If your oven range runs hot, you will want to cook the chicken over medium-low heat. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside in a covered dish to keep warm. At this point, if you are making the dish ahead of time, you can cover and refrigerate the chicken and continue with the remaining steps the day you plan to serve the dish.
3. In the same skillet, add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil and warm over medium-low heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 3 minutes. Stir in the chopped ramps and cook for 2 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan and pour in the white wine. Cover and let simmer for another 3 minutes.
4. Add the butter to make the sauce seem richer and remove the pan from heat. Serve warm.
2 tablespoons oil
3 to 4 ramps, cleaned, trimmed, and sliced
1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups Arborio rice
7 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup wild rice, cooked
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves.
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Over medium heat, warm the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the ramps and garlic to cook until soft. Once soft, stir in the Arborio rice and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.
2. Gradually, pour in the stock into the pan. Wait until the rice has absorbed the amount added before adding more. After all the stock is incorporated, let the mixture cook for 10 minutes over medium-low heat.
3. Add the cooked wild rice to the cooking mixture. Stir the two types of rice grains together to blend completely. Let them cook for an additional 5 to 7 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and spoon into a serving dish. Spoon the butter on to the mixture and sprinkle the top with the thyme, Parmesan cheese, and pepper. Serve hot.