03 June 2009

Rhubarb pie

You don't often find rhubarb paired with southern-style bbq. Rhubarb is a northern thing. Primarily because it requires cool weather to grow, and it requires a real winter every year. In my own home, in Alberta, rhubarb grows like mad. One mature plant is sufficient to provide all the pie you can possibly want for a year, but most of my large extended family grows multiple plants. So *everyone* has more rhubarb than they can possibly want.

You can imagine my unhappiness to discover when I first moved to Houston, that not only was rhubarb almost never available, but when it was it was $7.99 a pound and looking rather limp. I would carry my limp rhubarb, with mushy brown ends, giddy at the prospect of rhubarb pie, and deliver it to my girlfriend (now wife). Inevitably during checkout, the checkout person wouldn't know what it was, nor know the code, and would ask with fascination, "What do you do with it???".

Rhubarb pie is the single best thing you can do with rhubarb. People always want to adulterate the pie with raspberries or strawberries to which I say, "DON'T ADULTERATE MY RHUBARB!!!" Rhubarb is bright and fresh-tasting. It's wickedly sour, so it needs a lot of sugar in it to cut the sourness. And it makes your teeth feel furry. But it's so crazily delicious, and pie goes so well with bbq, that a simple rhubarb pie seems perfect after a beef brisket.

Rhubarb should be crisp and firm. It should be bright-colored (vibrant reds and greens - they're two different varieties) and the ends of the stalks should be green. If they've been in the store a while, they start becoming soft and brown. Fresh rhubarb is like fresh celery, it should snap when bent. In San Diego, it's more frequently available than in some of my previous homes, so I buy it whenever I see it and chop it up and freeze it (it freezes very well, and can go straight into the pie without thawing - if you let it thaw, it will turn into goop).

What follows is my wife's own words, describing her beautiful, fabulous, amazing rhubarb pie:

The crust

This is my Mom’s pie crust recipe. Per pie:

2 cups flour

1 tsp salt

2/3 cup Crisco (Bbq Dude is always trying to make me use use leaf lard, but I just can’t do it. I like Crisco)

1/3 cup very cold water (mix 1 cup water with some ice cubes and let sit, pour off the 1/3 cup when you need it)

Add the salt to the flour and mix. Add the 2/3 cup Crisco and mash into the flour with your fingers until you’ve made something that looks like the photo. Don’t handle it too much, it should only take about 2 min. This will make mess out of rings on your fingers or bells on your toes, so put them someplace safe. Add the 1/3 cup very cold water and mix with fingers till it all starts sticking together. Don’t handle it too much. Have 4 sheets of wax paper or parchment paper ready to roll the pie crusts out in. Place about 1/4th of the dough in between 2 sheets of paper and “roll like mad” as my Mom says. Move the rolling pin around to generate an at least somewhat circular shape. You want the dough to be about 2-3mm (1/10th inch) thick.

The filling

This is out of the The Fannie Farmer Cookbook 13th edition which I think is a great basic cookbook. I usually set up the filling before I start making the crust, and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. You don’t want the crust to be sitting around drying up while you get the filling ready. If you have to walk away for a few minutes, cover the pie crust with a kitchen towel, or some plastic wrap so it won’t dry up.

4-4.5 cups rhubarb chopped into about 0.5-1 inch (5 cups if you want a taller rounded top)

1 ¼ cup sugar

4 tab flour

1/8 salt

2 tbsp butter

Mix everything but the butter together in a big bowl.

Take the paper off one side of one pie crust and put it down as the bottom crust into a 9 inch pie pan. Peel the other paper off gently and then push gently into the edges of the pie pan. Make sure you have ½ inch of crust beyond the edge of the pie pan. Pour in filling including allll the extra sugar that isn’t stuck to rhubarb. You really need all the sugar. Put 1 tbsp on butter on the top and another one near it. Take the paper off one side of the other pie crust and lay it gently over the top of the pie. Peel the other paper off gently. Use a butter knife to trim the pie crusts to about ½ in beyond the edge of the pan. Use your fingers to fold the top crust under the bottom one all the way around the pie while pressing the fold together. You need to seal the pie so the filling won’t leak out during cooking. Then go back around the pie and smoosh the crust together, making hills and valleys as a pattern, or use something like a fork to smoosh the crusts, making a fork pattern. Finally use something sharp to make a few holes to let the steam out during baking.

Bake for 10 min at 425 (with a cookie sheet underneath because some pies will leak, the leakage will burn, the burn will smoke and smell, etc), then turn down to 350 degrees for 30-50 more minutes or until the top is lightly brown.

If you cook it the day before you want to eat it, and let it sit at room temperature, it will set (=not be runny), but it’s yummy either way.

P.S. I don’t think adding strawberry is a crime against nature. It’s a different pie, and also yummy.

Mistake I’ve made more than once…

1. Close the pie and forget to put the butter on top inside, then I have to cut a line and slide the butter in. tricky, but works out fine.

2. Use frozen rhubarb and forget how much time the frozen rhubarb adds to the baking. We often use frozen rhubarb and forget that it takes 1h-1.5h longer to bake than written above, and forget to plan ahead, and have to bring the pie to people’s houses to cook it because we run out of time. When using frozen rhubarb, try to knock off ice crystals so you don’t add that water, and double the amount of flour in the filling.


Final note (Bbq Dude here again) - I'm ashamed to admit, I ate the pie too quickly. I wasn't able to get a shot of a slice of pie. I apologize. But it was worth it.


Dr. Ricky said...

You know I am still on a quest to make a savory application with rhubarb. Okay, the stew didn't work out as planned. Maybe rhubarb tempura?

Bbq Dude said...

I thought the rhubarb stew was pretty good. It's merely unfortunate that the stew turned such an alarming shade of grey.

Rhubarb tempura would still need significant sweetening...

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