It’s the middle of May and that means that the rhubarb I’ve been watching grow for the last 6-7 weeks is finally ready to start harvesting. That may not mean a whole lot to many people, but I get all excited just thinking about it. Yes, I know I need to get out more! But seriously, I love the tart flavor of rhubarb. Paired with strawberries, it becomes the ultimate late spring/early summer food pairing, at least in my book.
I’ve got 3 huge rhubarb plants in my backyard; enough to keep my family constantly in rhubarb desserts for the next 2 months and still have enough to give away to friends not blessed with their own plants, and, depending on how rhubarb crazy we get this year, enough to freeze so that we can have rhubarb pie later in the year, when the craving hits.
While my favorite way to eat rhubarb is in pie, we try to find other ways to use it to keep things fresh and lively. This recipe is a great way to showcase shortcake early in the season, when many of us have to still rely on strawberries shipped in from California, instead the the more flavorful sun ripened strawberries that can be picked closer to home.
The recipe calls for sweet vermouth in which the rhubarb is poached. I like the added subtle flavor this adds, but if you don’t have sweet vermouth and don’t want to buy any, the fruit will still be plenty flavorful if you substitute water or red wine.
Poached Rhubarb with Strawberries
12 oz. rhubarb, cut into 1/2″ chunks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup sweet vermouth
2 Tbsp. grenadine
2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
Combine sugar, vermouth and grenadine in a nonreactive saucepot and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the rhubarb, bring to a boil and cook for 3-4 minutes. The rhubarb should still be slightly under cooked when you remove it from the heat, or it will overcook and turn to mush. Leave out on the counter and allow to cool to room temperature. The rhubarb will finish cooking and sweeten up as it cools. Once cool, add the strawberries, stir and refrigerate. This can be made a couple of hours ahead.
2 cups All-purpose Flour
1/4 cup Sugar, granulated
1 pinch Salt
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1 each Egg, beaten
1/2 cup Half and Half
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
6 Tbsp. Butter, chilled and diced
Preheat the oven to 400. In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. In another bowl combine the egg, half and half, and vanilla. Add the butter to the dry ingredients and cut it in using a pastry blender or 2 knives. The mixture should resemble coarse crumbs when done. Add the wet ingredients stirring only to bring the dough together. Don’t over mix the dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead 4 to 5 times. Pat into a circle about 7 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter 3 inches in diameter, cut out 6 rounds. Place on a sheet tray that has either been greased or lined with parchment paper. Brush the tops with an egg wash made of 1 egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp. of either water or half and half. Sprinkle tops with granulated sugar then bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Place on a rack to cool.
Split 4 of the shortcakes in half and place bottoms in a bowl. Top with 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream and equally divide the poached rhubarb and strawberries over top. Cover with top half of shortcakes and serve.