Friday, April 12, 2013

Roasted Rhubarb

The word rhubarb comes from Latin- barbarum for "foreign". Rha was the name the Volga River was know by in medieval times, and the plant may have been additionally named after it as rhubarb came from the foreign lands east of the Volga. 
(Thank you, Harold McGee.)

In the spring rhubarb is out in full force, and if not so full force yet, it will soon be. 
It's funny how those vibrant stalks almost look out of place with the rest of the produce (yes, it's a vegetable mostly used as a fruit). One might think that with the shocking color it can have, rhubarb might be much more sweet and fruity than it is... but it wouldn't make for such a nice surprise if someone decided to take a bite out of a raw piece.
Then again, you do find some variability in the sweetness vs. tartness. 

If they're roasted, pieces of rhubarb more or less retain their shape.
In addition, I think the rhubarb flavor more intense with the all-encompassing heat from the oven.

After roasting, the pieces of rhubarb remain a little tart, and the light syrup has just enough sweetness- but not too much.
If you would like the dish more uniform in flavor and jammy in consistency, a better way to cook might be on the stovetop. Maybe bring the mixture it to a simmer and reduce the heat, stirring every now and then to break up the pieces of rhubarb and to make sure nothing scorches.

If you like it sweet, of course, you could add more sugar. But I figure rhubarb IS tart, it's just the way things are. Why try to completely mask it?
As an example, I recently had a tiny scoop of rhubarb-lemon verbena sorbet at a restaurant between courses. It was tart, as it should be, but it was perfect.

Serve with plain yogurt, rice pudding, meringues and whipped cream, crème fraîche, a little whipped mascarpone, ice cream, custard... preferably with something white and creamy in the equation.
Plain cake works, too.

Other things that might be nice additions include:
lemon instead of orange
a broken cinnamon stick

Roasted Rhubarb

2 lb. (907 g) rhubarb (about medium-sized if you can find them)
2/3 c (130 g) sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 orange
1/3 c (80 ml) white wine

Preheat the oven to 325 F/160 C.
Trim the rhubarb and cut into about 2 inch (5 cm) pieces and place in a large bowl and sprinkle the sugar over the top of the rhubarb.
Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and add both the seeds and empty pod to the rhubarb. Zest the orange directly over the rhubarb mixture, and then juice it and add the juice to the bowl. Pour in the white wine and gently toss the rhubarb so that all of it becomes coated with everything.
Tip the rhubarb mixture into a 9x13 inch pan (something flat and 2-3 L or so), and scrape out any bits that stick to the bowl. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and roast about 30 minutes, or until the rhubarb is tender. Remove the pan from the oven, carefully remove the foil and let the rhubarb cool before serving.
Serve the rhubarb in it's syrup warm or at room temperature.

1 comment:

  1. This is very similar to a dessert we had almost daily while in Ireland. Our host would roast/simmer rhubarb with natural sugars (juices, mostly) and fresh ginger. But white wine? Now we're talking!