Thursday, May 7, 2009

Elusive Rhubarb

Since Saturday I have been told that rhubarb has been at the market, but it's still very new and in scarce quantities. Lazy bones that I am it's always noon-ish or later before I get to Union Square from the Lower East Side and by then it's gone. I love rhubarb. When I was a little boy in Hamilton, Ontario Canada my brother and I used to live in with our Grandparents in the Summer, they had a small house on a dead end street with a neighbor whose back yard opened up into this unkempt abandoned lot, rhubarb grew there like a week. My favorite thing to do was to pick as much as I could carry and bring it back to my grandmother, she give me a jar of sugar and sit down and put one end of the rhubarb into my mouth to make it nice and wet then dip it into the sugar, biting off the sugary coated part, loving the pooh pooh platter of mouth water sour rhubarb juxtaposed to the granular sweetness of the white sugar.

For the last several weeks I've been craving Rhubarb crumble with Strawberry Ice Cream, so in advance of actually getting my hands on some rhubarb and probably several weeks before we see a strawberry here's some recipes to to get you ready for that magic convergence that will soon be upon us.

Rhubarb Crumble
(this is a reprint from an earlier posting with some slight variations - obviously I'm obsessed)

Chop 4 cups of rhubarb into roughly 1” sections, add 3/4 c-1 ½ cups sugar* -(I like it sour so I use less, but this is a good range – try a cup and then vary it as you see fit) and 2 T unbleached all purpose flour and toss it together until the rhubarb is well coated, put into whatever baking dish you want to use (it should be able to accommodate 2 quarts). Place 1 cup walnuts (or pecans or even almonds in a pinch) in a food processor and process until the nuts are ground, but still have a diverse texture. Add 1-cup whole-wheat flour, 8 T raw cane sugar (like Demarrara or 6 T brown sugar and 2 T white sugar), 1 t cinnamon, 1/2 t salt and mix, using your hands incorporate 12 T unsalted butter a few tablespoons at a time. This mixture is very moist. Spread it over the rhubarb and bake in the middle of a 375° oven for 45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling and thick around the sides. I love to serve this with unsweetened whipped cream or with a few tablespoons of crème fraiche – go ahead and add some sugar if you like it sweeter and, depending on how sour the crumble, this might be a good tack for those at your table who prefer their crumble sweeter.

Strawberry Ice Cream

Clean, hull and roughly chopped 2 cups of strawberries, toss with 2 T of sugar and set aside to macerate.

Separate 9 eggs, reserve the egg whites for another use (Angel Food Cake!). Place the 9 egg yolks in a big bowl, add 3/4 cup sugar.

Mix 2 Cups of Heavy Cream and 2 cups of Half and Half in heavy bottom 2 quart pot and heat until just starting to boil. Turn off heat and add a 1/4 cup of the hot liquid to the eggs yolks, stirring to incorporate, add another 1/4 cup of hot liquid and repeat. Finally add all of the hot mixture to the egg yolks and once well mixed pour back into the sauce pan.

Over medium heat stirring constantly warm the mixture until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Cool to room temperature then place in the fridge until cold (preferably over night).

When the custard mixture is cold fold in the macerated sweetened strawberries, 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice and 2T vodka (optional*). Place into your ice cream maker and process as per the manufactures instructions.

Serve with Rhubarb Crumble.

*The reason I like to add a small amount of alcohol to ice cream is because it prevents it from getting really hard and gives it a nice reliable texture.

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