Thursday, August 28, 2008

Deliciously Out-of-Season

Yea, so this recipe is pretty much seasonally inappropriate right now. But with all the stuff I've had to take care of in the past couple of months (i.e. the bar exam, moving, finding an apartment, booking a trip!), I just haven't had a chance to share it until now. I do hope you'll forgive me.

Rhubarb holds a special place in my heart. I had never tried it before I lived in Austria for six months in high school. My host mother made a wonderful rhubarb tart often, and it was always delicious. Faintly sweet, with the slightest pucker that makes the taste buds stand at attention - I could tell that rhubarb was good stuff.

Rhubarb is a truly fascinating thing - somewhat mystical in its taste, texture and flavor. It really is like nothing else - it's essentially inedible raw, it's leaves are poisonous, it really is like nothing else, and it technically is a vegetable after all. However, once cooked, it becomes something great, it practically melts into something delicate and complex, and it's combination with strawberry creates one of the most classic of food duos. The two complement each other so effortlessly, as the mellow tartness of the rhubarb plays off of the universally-adored sweetness of the strawberry.

This cobbler is especially great at the end of an early summer BBQ, shared with friends all basking in the glow of law school graduation and a shared shirking of bar-review responsibilities (even when the BBQ turns into an indoor grill-fest because, ahem, my lovely friend Sara failed to check that the grill was operational; actually, cobbler is especially good in such a situation). Warm from the oven and topped with vanilla ice cream, it's comfort food in it's purest form.

Cobbler is the type of dessert that even those who don't care much for dessert enjoy. It must be because you don't have to love dessert to love fruit, and cobbler is among the most delicious of ways to showcase summer's bounty.

Though I can only attest to the deliciousness of the precise recipe shared below, I can only imagine that any type of fruit would result in an equally delicious cobbler, since the cornbread-biscuit topping is delicious and hearty and complements the sweetness of the fruit oh-so well. Next time I make this, it's going to be with peaches, since peach cobbler and cornbread are mainstays of any good southern square, why not compact the two into a glorious, sweet, savory, crumbly dish of summer? Just replace the strawberries and rhubarb with some sliced peaches (I'd imagine about two-or-so pounds would do just fine, a few tablespoons of sugar and a tablespoon of cornstarch, bake the peaches a bit before topping with the biscuit mixture. Once topped, just bake as below for about 25 minutes.

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler With Cornmeal Biscuit Topping

OK, so this recipe should have been shared in late spring. For that I apologize, BUT - with the wide array of high-quality frozen fruits available, a good cobbler can be enjoyed any time of year.

When I baked this, I found the cornbread biscuit to overwhelm the fruit topping a bit in its volume. The proportions were just a bit out of whack, so in the recipe below I have adjusted the fruit filling a bit (such that it should fit a 9 x 13 inch baking dish, as opposed to a pie dish, which the original recipe called for), but I have left the topping unadjusted. If the proportions in the picture look good to you, I have put the adjusted amounts in parentheses.

Adapted from Bon App├ętit, April 1996; recipe from

1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 lbs strawberries, hulled, halved
2 cups 1/3 to 1/4-inch-thick slices fresh or frozen rhubarb
1 cup all purpose flour (1 1/3 cup)
1/3 cup sugar (4/9 cups, or about 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal (1/3 cup)
1 tablespoon baking powder (1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon baking soda (1 1/3 teaspoons)
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, diced (4 tablespoons)
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk (3/4 cup)

To Make Filling:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix sugar, flour and cloves in large bowl. Add strawberries and rhubarb and toss to coat with sugar mixture. Transfer filling to 9 x 13 inch baking dish.

To Make Topping:

Mix flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Gradually add buttermilk, tossing with fork until moist clumps form (do not overmix). Spoon topping evenly over filling.

Bake until topping is golden brown and filling is tender, about 25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Top with ice cream, if you know what's good for you.


Dave said...

My mom's circa-1930s Peach Cobbler Recipe might be worth looking at for info on a similar recipe. Maybe combining her filling with your topping for a starting point? It's a thought anyway.

Shelby said...

Dave that looks great! I just might be giving that a try pretty soon! Thanks for sharing!

Dave said...

Shelby, I discovered I never posted that recipe on my own blog! I've now posted it here, with props to you for making me realize I'd never posted the darn thing.