Rhubarb Meringue Pie
When you move someplace new there are always a number of things to get used to. Here I’ve had to get used to the sweltering heat and to humidity so heavy I feel like I’m walking through a stuffy mist (I’m not used it yet and I never will be). I’ve had to get used to the unpredictable, erratic and crappy weekend metro schedule. I’ve had to get used to the idea that rhubarb costs $4 a pound.
That’s right folks, $4 a pound. In Wisconsin this stuff grows like a weed and most people can’t even use up all the rhubarb in their own gardens. You have to practically give it away. $4??? Hell no. I decided to take this problem into my own hands and when the boyf and I drove up to Wisconsin in July, I went to town on my dad’s dining-room-table sized rhubarb plant. I chopped up about 10 pounds of it, and the rhubarb came back to Virginia with us. In fact, I was tempted to cut 3 times as much and sell it super cheap at the farmers market.
The rhubarb has been waiting patiently in the freezer for the perfect recipe (recipes, actually, since we have a ton) to come along and today, my friends, is the day. My friend Sarah suggested I make rhubarb meringue pie, and since I didn’t have other baking plans for the weekend, I decided to give it a try. Sarah was my first ever foodie friend: we would have dinner parties each month where we would experiment with different foods that we’d never really cooked before. Now Sarah is a baker/cake decorator extraordinaire, so if she tells me to try a dessert recipe, I’ll do it.
After much internet “research” I found a rhubarb meringue recipe and a pie crust recipe that I decided to use. I couldn’t decide whether to go with Julia Childs’ recipe or that from Cook’s Illustrated, and I eventually opted for Cook’s Illustrated since they have a very thorough vetting process for all of their recipes. Even so, it is now official: pie crust is the bane of my existence. The crust looked great before I baked it, and it went downhill from there. I think the problem may be that I don’t break the butter down into small enough chunks. I don’t have a food processor, so I cut in the butter and crisco with 2 knifes and eventually just used my hands. All the pie crust-related literature says that the key is to have pieces of butter/crisco within the dough and if you don’t do this then your pie crust will not be flaky. The crust tasted fantastic, but it fell down the sides of the pie dish in a lot of places and looked all funky I give up.
But, hey, it’s the taste that counts in the long run, and this pie was one of the best I’ve had in a while. Luckily the boyf didn’t really like it because it has a mushy consistency so the rest of the pie is all mine (maybe that’s not so good, actually…). It was so good. So good, in fact, it inspired a haiku (please don’t laugh too hard):
Yummy rhubarb pie:
You are sweet and smell so good.
What’s wrong with the crust??
(From Cook’s Illustrated)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
4 tablespoons chilled vegetable shortening
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water
Mix flour, salt and sugar in bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Scatter butter pieces over flour. Cut butter into flour with five 1-second pulses. Add shortening and continue pulsing until flour is pale yellow and resembles coarse corn meal, with butter bits no larger than small peas, about 4 more 1-second pulses. Turn mixture into medium bowl. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons ice water over mixture. With blade of a rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix. Press down on dough with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together, adding up to 1 tablespoon more ice water if dough will not come together. Shape dough into ball with your hands, then flatten into a 4-inch-wide disk. Dust lightly with flour and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate 30 minutes to an hour before rolling. Makes enough one 9-inch pie crust.
Rhubarb Meringue Pie
(Adapted from Seasonal Ontario Food)
4 cups chopped rhubarb
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 cup water
pinch of salt
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup water
3 large egg yolks
3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 tablespoons sugar
Prepare the pie crust, roll it out and fit it to your pie plate, and prick it all over with a fork. Bake it at 400°F for 12 minutes, until very lightly browned. Reduce the heat to 350°F.
Meanwhile, put the rhubarb in a large pot with the sugar, the nutmeg, the 1/4 cup of water and salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer, stirring frequently, until it is tender and starts to disintegrate.
Mix the flour and remaining water to a smooth paste in a bowl, then beat in the egg yolks. Remove the pan of rhubarb from the stove, and begin mixing small amounts of rhubarb into the egg yolk mixture. When it is about half rhubarb, begin stirring the egg mixture back into the pot of rhubarb, a spoonful at a time. When it is all in, return the pot to the stove and continue cooking it over medium-low heat, until thickened. This will take seconds rather than minutes – don’t overdo it. [Mine actually thickened quite a bit as I was mixing the rhubarb into the eggs, so putting it on the stove didn't do much.]
Allow both the pie crust and the filling to cool somewhat. However, while they are both still warm, spread the filling into the pie crust.
Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar and sugar until very stiff. Spread the meringue over the pie. Bake the pie at 350°F for 12-15 minutes, until the meringue is golden brown. Let cool completely before serving.