In the mountain region of Western North Carolina a sure harbinger of spring is the arrival at table and produce stands of ramps the wild leek of Appalachia.
Ramps (Allium tricoccum ) grow in the rich, moist soil of cool deciduous forests and are among the first plants to appear in the spring. Traditonally they were eagerly collected and consumed as the season's first greens and were consiidered a spring tonic rich in vitamins and minerals after the long winter without fresh vegetables.
Simple fare using ramps include fried potatoes, scrambled eggs, soups, meatloaf and bread stuffing for chicken or turkey. The ramp has a strong onion & garlic flavor that can substitute for either ingredient in contemporary recipes.
Ramps have in the last decade become very popular with trendy restaurants in New York and elsewhere making the collection of wild ramps a problem as over picking has dwindled the natural supply. Ramp picking in the Smokey Mountain National Park, for instance is now prohibited as is harvesting ramps on other public lands.
It takes several years for a harvested patch of ramps to recover and produce anew. Because of the rising demand for fresh ramps an effort to conserve native populations and meet the rising demand for ramps local universities are developing sustainable cultivation practices for ramps.
Active time: 20 min Start to finish: 1 hr
3/4 lb ramps
1 (3- to 3‚-lb) chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 lb small red potatoes, halved
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken broth
Preheat oven to 500°F.
Trim roots from ramps and slip off outer skin on bulbs if loose. Cut off and reserve leaves, leaving white bulbs attached to slender pink stems.
Put leaves and bulbs in separate bowls.
Pat chicken dry. Put in a flameproof large shallow roasting pan, without crowding, and surround with potatoes. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and rub all over to coat evenly. Arrange chicken skin sides up and season with salt and pepper. Roast in upper third of oven 20 minutes.
Toss bulbs with remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil and season with salt. Scatter bulbs around chicken and roast mixture until breast pieces are just cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer breast pieces to a platter and keep warm. Roast remaining chicken and vegetables 5 minutes more, or until cooked through. Transfer to platter and keep warm, loosely covered with foil. (If crisper skin is desired, broil chicken only, skin sides up, about 2 minutes.)
Pour off fat from roasting pan and straddle pan across 2 burners. Add wine and deglaze pan by cooking over high heat, scraping up brown bits.
Boil wine until reduced to about 1/4 cup and add broth. When broth boils, add
ramp leaves and stir until wilted and tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove with tongs
and add to chicken. Boil pan juices until reduced to about 1/2 cup and pour