Friday, May 21, 2010

Rhubarb Roundup

When I told Alex that I was planning to make a rhubarb cobbler, or perhaps a rhubarb cake, he gasped. "But what about the jam?" he asked. "Aren't you going to make the jam, a whole pot, just for me?" And it's true that every year for the past four or five years, I've made rhubarb-ginger jam as my first rhubarb treat of the season, and it's also true that he's gotten his own special container of it.

It wasn't that I didn't want to make the rhubarb-ginger jam; it was that I was almost out of crystallized ginger, and it was Sunday afternoon, and I didn't feel like driving to the store that I knew would have some (since the store I was going to anyway definitely didn't). My rhubarb plant and its satellites at the edge of the yard will provide a copious supply, however, so I knew there would be time for the jam. I decided that this meant I had to branch out and try something new.

I love reading through all the rhubarb recipes written up this time of year, and I was tempted by several of them.

There was this rhubarb country cake, first written up in the New York Times and then baked by Luisa at the Wednesday Chef. (There's also its cousin at Epicurious.) Just a few days ago, Deb at Smitten Kitchen wrote about some yummy sounding rhubarb tarts. And the minute I have an event to cook for or a dinner gathering or something where multiple people will be eating it, I'm totally going to make this rhubarb ginger brioche bread pudding. (It was in the most recent issue of Bon Appetit, which I just started getting in lieu of the late, lamented Gourmet.)

But what I ended up with, after much recipe consultation, was this rhubarb cobbler, from Smitten Kitchen in May, 2009. I figured that I could mix the rhubarb with what little crystallized ginger I had left, to give it at least a hint of subtle ginger flavor. It also helped that I already had ginger frozen yogurt (made by this fabulous Boston company, Sweet Scoops), which seemed like it would complement it nicely.

The recipe is fairly straightforward. You chop up the rhubarb and let it sit with the sugar and whatever flavorings you're using. (Deb added a vanilla bean; I used the ginger and some lemon zest.)

Meanwhile, you make a sweet biscuit dough and let it chill. Then you cover the rhubarb mixture with the biscuits. My biscuits (which I cut with the lid of a stainless steel container from India) started out looking very neat and then got messier as the dough got warmer and stickier.

Thankfully, that didn't matter in the end, as everything baked together nicely into a bubbly, brown, ginger-scented pan of rhubarb deliciousness:

A few thoughts: I lightened up the biscuit topping a bit, more out of laziness than out of intention. I didn't have any heavy cream so used half and half instead. I also used 4 tbsp. of butter rather than 6. The biscuits were still delicious. If you want them richer, go with the higher amount of butter and the cream, but know that if you lighten it up a bit, it will still taste fine.

I found the rhubarb very tart. I did use slightly more rhubarb than the recipe called for--probably 2 1/2 pounds rather than 2--but I also added more sugar--probably a generous 3/4 of a cup. Still, it was very tart. I'd probably go up to a full cup next time. This really wasn't a problem, as it just meant adjusting the cobbler-ice cream ratio a bit in favor of the ice cream, and I'm never one to argue with that.

The jam will be next, but in the meantime, I'm glad to have broadened my rhubarb horizons. It's a good thing my plant is so enormous--it's going to be in demand!

Rhubarb Cobbler
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Claudia Fleming via New York Magazine

For dough

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 hard-boiled egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon salt
4-6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream

For rhubarb

2 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 6 cups)
1/2 - 1 cup sugar, depending on how tart you like it
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger
zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, egg yolks, and salt. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the flour resembles coarse meal. Add 2/3 cup of cream and pulse until the dough comes together. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently pat it together, incorporating any stray crumbs.

Using a small ice cream scoop or a large spoon, form the dough into 2-inch balls, then flatten them slightly into thick rounds. (Alternately, use a cookie cutter or something like it.) Chill for 20 minutes (and up to 2 hours). Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put the rhubarb in a shallow 21/2- quart casserole dish and toss with sugar, ginger, lemon, and cornstarch. Allow to macerate 15 minutes.

Arrange the biscuit rounds on top, leaving about an inch between them. Brush the biscuits with cream and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake the cobbler until the rhubarb is bubbling and the biscuits are golden brown, about 40 to 45 minutes. Serve with ice cream or crème fraîche.


Robin Aronson said...

THis sounds fantastic.

Kristie Sloan said...

This really sounds like an interesting flavor combination! I'll have to give this a try. I think one of my favorite rhubarb combinations is pairing it with pineapple.