Friday, March 17, 2006

Friday Food #10: Rhubarb Apple Pie

I don't make a lot of pies. I get nervous about the crusts and make a crisp or a cobbler or a cake instead. I'm all about easy food.

But it's starting to be spring in Richmond. Spring means a few days in the 80s, then a few back in the 40s, a repeating cycle that creeps slowly upward until, suddenly, it feels like summer and you realize the cherry blossoms are gone. During those up-and-down days there is rhubarb in the grocery stores, and the first strawberries, trucked up from Florida. Ignore the strawberries; find a couple of last fall's apples, instead, and make this pie. In some places rhubarb is also known as pie plant; one taste of this and you'll see why.

Start with the easiest pie crust ever. I don't use the crisco anymore, as earth balance has a nice non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening in sticks that works really well. Again, half and half with unsalted butter. And if you have a few hours, don't put the crust in the freezer. Put it in the fridge, go and pick up the kids at school or whatever you have to do, and then come back and roll it out after you've put the filling together.

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

Then prepare the filling:

1-1/2 lbs. rhubarb, cut into 1-inch chunks (more or less). If the stalks are big and stringy remove the strings.
2 medium apples, cut into 1-inch chunks as well. Peel or not (I never do).
3 tbl. instant tapioca
1-1/4 cups vanilla sugar (or plain granulated sugar. Vanilla sugar is made by putting a vanilla bean into your sugar canister, but it takes a few days. Don't sweat it.)
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg
dash cloves

Let all those ingredients sit together in a big bowl while you roll out the crust.

Once you've got the bottom crust rolled out and fitted into your pie plate, dump the filling in. Then roll out the top crust. If you want to be traditional, cut it into 3/4 inch (or so) strips, and weave a lattice crust. (The Joy of Cooking has a very clear diagram for this--it's easier than it looks, and very impressive!)
Or simply roll a top crust, place it over the bottom and seal up the edges, and cut vents in it.

Place the pie plate on a cookie sheet (the juices will boil over and make a mess of your oven) and place the whole thing in the oven. After 15 minutes, turn the heat down to 350 and bake for another 1/2 hour to 45 minutes. My pie took an hour altogether, and even then the middle wasn't bubbling up as much as I thought it should; keep checking to make sure the juices are bubbling and the top is not burnt.

And enjoy! This is a little less sweet than the traditional rhubarb-strawberry pie and tastes just like spring to me.


Claudia said...

I used to make my own pie crusts, too. Before children. Now, I buy the pre-made ones. And, actually, Pillsbury does it better than me - I always managed to work the dough too much and made it tough. Just don't have the pastry touch, I guess.

expatmama said...

My all-time-favorite pie of all time (yeah, I know that's redundant, but man, do I love this pie) is rhubarb, and I like it tart. This recipe sounds really good-- though rhubarb is one of the few fruit/veg that I have never seen here (another favorite, cranberries, are also among the no-shows.) Last year on my trip home, my dad made a few rhubarb pies in my honor, so I'll pass this recipe on to him for this year's visit!

Lilian said...

Late comment here, but I HAVE TO MAKE THIS PIE!! It must be super delicious.