A common theme I think will continue to pop up throughout my blog will be contrasting tastes and textures in what I cook. I was looking for a dessert to make with a tangy-sweet flavor to fill a craving one day and found this Emeril Lagasse recipe on FoodNetwork.com. The first time I went to make this pie, I had no idea what a rhubarb was or what it looked like. I ended up having to ask a produce stocker! I have made it several times and each time it comes out great! A warning: if wanting to serve this straight out from the oven, be prepared to be serving more of an rhubarb-apple cobbler. I have had better results letting this pie sit until pretty cool or even overnight in the fridge before cutting it. It reheats well though and is great with a side of vanilla ice-cream.
First, a little about Rhubarb. Rhubarb is a root vegetable but is taxed in the US as a fruit. Strange I know. It looks similar to celery stalk except it is a little larger and pink to red on the outside and a nice apple yellow-green in the middle. The taste is very tart so a sweetener is usually used with the cooking to balance out the flavor. Jams, jellies and pies are common uses for rhubarb in the kitchen. The leaves however are toxic so don’t use those for cooking! There are recipes for using the leaves for making an organic pesticide though. Fresh rhubarb can be found in the US around April/May or October/November depending on where you live and how far your grocery ships from. Specialty markets may carry frozen rhubarb year-round.
From what I found, the earliest use of rhubarb was around 2700 BC in China. Medicinally, it was used as mainly a digestive aid. In larger doses, rhubarb can help as an astringent, a laxative and also helps cleanse the body of toxins helping with skin irritations. Topically, it can help heal burns. Other uses include cleaning burnt bits off pots and pans, and as a hair dye for blonde-golden colors.
7 tablespoons butter (divided 3 Tbs and 4Tbs)
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, divided *I use the Splenda brown sugar to cut down on the sugar a little. Remember, when measuring brown sugar, always pack the sugar into the measuring cup for proper amounts.
Juice of 1 large lemon (I also add the pulp)
1 cup and 1 Tbs flour (divided 1 cup and 1 Tbs)
2 pounds Rhubarb (preferred fresh but frozen will work) -trim the ends of the stalk and cut to .25 inch thick bits.
2 pounds McIntosh apples – cored, peeled and sliced .25 inch thick. *although I often leave skins on fruits and veggies when cooking for the fiber and nutrients, it is better to peel the apples for this recipe.
1/2 cup Calvados (Apple Brandy) and a long lighter.
pinch of ground nutmeg (or more if you like it)
1 tsp ground cinnamon (or more if you like it)
Kosher salt to taste
1 cup walnut pieces
1 unbaked 10-inch deep dish pie shell *I can never find 10 inch pie shells. I usually get 9 inches and make two pies. One in a 9″ deep dish shell and another in a 9″ regular shell.
First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large saute pan, melt 3 Tbs butter. Add the sugar, one half of the brown sugar, lemon juice and pulp, and 1 Tbs of the flour. Stir a minute on medium to high heat to dissolve the sugars into the liquid.
Add in the rhubarb and saute for 4-6 minutes, until the rhubarb begins to soften. Add the apples and continue to saute for another 3 minutes. Pour in the Calvados and carefully flame the apples. If you’ve never flamed anything before – be careful! What I do is turn down the heat, turn off the lights and have the lighter ready. Pour in the brandy evenly around the pan, let it settle a little and then TIP THE PAN AWAY FROM YOU. With the lighter on, touch it near to the pooling juice at the far side of the pan. It should catch in a “poof” and have a blue flame. Carefully set the pan back flat. The longer you keep the flame, the more ETOH will burn off so worst case, your pie may taste more or less brandied. Depending on how you like it, you may only want a quick flame! Feel free to light it a few times if you’re not happy with how much it burned. Once the flame is out, turn the heat back up and let it cook one minute. The apples will not look soft at this point yet, that’s OK.
Season with salt (I use about 1-2 tsp), cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix all the seasonings together well. By this point, the rhubarb will be breaking down further into more a fruity looking mush. Remove from the heat and let it cool.
While the mix is cooling, it is time to make the topping! In a microwave safe bowl, melt the last 4 Tbs butter, remaining brown sugar, flour and walnut pieces. With your (clean) hands, mix everything together until the butter is well-distributed and it looks a little crumbly.
Pour the cooled filling into the pie crust (or crusts). If using two crusts, be sure to evenly distribute the juices and apples. If one pie has more mush than substance, you’ll get that cobbler I told you about. Sprinkle the walnut crumble mix evenly over the top then bake for 45 minutes. I suggest also putting an old cookie sheet on the rack under the pie to catch any bubbling drippings. Saves an oven cleaning. I pretty much keep an old cookie sheet in the oven at all times for that reason.
Let the pie cool before cutting, 15 minutes minimum but really, I have had better luck cooking the pie the day before and letting it set in the fridge. It cuts much neater and re-heats just fine. Serve a-la-mode!