April 3, 2012

Ramps, Bacon, and Fried Potatoes

Early in the month of March means one thing in our house, ramps! With family that live in the mountain counties we are able to get ramps early in the season (when I think they taste the best) and by the end of the month I have normally used them in a variety of recipes. Before I met my husband I had no idea what ramps looked like, much less tasted or used them in recipes. That all changed when I married someone who grow up in the heart of West Virginia ramp country. The first year his mother brought down young ramps to clean I had no idea what to do with the bag of very muddy and ugly looking roots and shoots of what looked like a odd looking green onion.
I quickly learned that each ramp has to be cleaned and cut to be prepared to cook with. To do this I cut off the root and take off the dirt and outside husk of each of the ramps. Before each ramp is cleaned they look like this:
Not very appetizing, but after being cleaned and washed up they look like this:
So your probably asking yourself great, now what do I do with them? The answer is so much! Ramps are a great way to add flavor to a variety of recipes from biscuits to stews, pizza, you name it they work! While a lot of people prefer the later ramps which have a leafier green top, I am partial to the early shoots, I feel that the flavor is better and I prefer them when baking or cooking. So what do I do with the pounds of ramps I receive each year? I love substituting them for green onions in savory biscuits, with eggs, stews, soups and most importantly with fried bacon and potatoes. So here is my recipe for Ramps, Bacon, and Fried Potatoes.

After cleaning and trimming up your ramps, fry enough thick cut bacon (I love the maple cured variety) for the number of servings you are making. I normally make an entire package, if you've read my blog before you know that my family absolutely loves bacon and my husband would use bacon in absolutely everything if I let him.
Next I add the ramps and cook until they are softened and slightly caramelized. If you have an abundance of bacon grease pour off the excess before frying the ramps.
When the ramps are finished cooking, add the potatoes and fry until they are browned and crisp. Since the potatoes takes a lot longer than the ramps or bacon, I will often start them first and add chopped ramps in with the bacon grease while they are frying to ensure that the bacon and ramps don't get cold while the potatoes are frying.

Once everything is done, I plate the bacon, ramps and potatoes and enjoy! If you want an even stronger ramp flavor you can add minced ramps to the potatoes while they are frying. My two boys love their potatoes this way and they taste great! The most important thing to remember when using ramps is that the flavor is much stronger than leeks or green onions so a small amount goes a long way. Additionally, similar to garlic your pours will sweat out the ramps the next day after eating them, so warn everyone around you that's its ramp season. Or better yet make sure that they eat as many as you do!
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