I've been trying to no avail to think up some witty prose about rhubarb to share with you. Rhubarb just isn't that funny. In fact, it usually looks a bit scary sitting in the produce section after its long flight or truck ride to the market. To my eyes it appears a bit jet-lagged while it taunts the little children who have no idea what it is. What is that? Red celery? Growing up here in California, where we don't grow it in our backyards, rhubarb is usually relegated to a tiny selection of a dozen or so stalks in the 'exotic vegetable' section. The section children instinctively know to steer clear of.
It wasn't until a few years ago that I could say that I had ever tasted rhubarb on its own. It seems someone way back when got the bright idea to pair it with strawberry and that was all she wrote. Strawberry-rhubarb jam, strawberry-rhubarb pie, strawberry-rhubarb muffins, blah blah blah. Thats all I had ever tried. Yes, rhubarb does bring that certain tang to strawberry confections and takes them to another level but surely it is a taste that deserves to step out on its own as well. Children should not be scared of rhubarb.
As Dorie suggested, roasting preserved the texture (somewhat) and intensified the flavor as you would expect from roasting. The technique is super easy so it is worth a go and would make a fun impromptu 'show off' type move as a warm topping to simple vanilla ice cream for dinner guests. This particular parfait topping has a few more extra steps than a plain whipped cream but its light, elegant result is well worth it. You might be tempted to 'soup up' the parfait with raisins, granola, etc. but let me tell you it is entirely unnecessary. This rhubarb should be the star of this show. (Strawberry will surely get its chance another time. )
Roasted Rhubarb Parfait
- 2 cups sliced rhubarb
- 1/4 cup sugar
- Grated zest of 1/2 orange
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 egg white
- Pinch salt
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 400 and center a rack. Prepare the rhubarb by cutting it into pieces and tossing them in a baking pan with the sugar and orange zest. Let pan rest for 5 minutes until the moisture extrudes a bit. Cover pan with foil and roast for 15 minutes. Stir if the sugar has not fully melted and roast a few minutes more. After sugar is melted remove foil and let rhubarb roast 5 more minutes or until syrup is bubbling. Remove pan and let rhubarb cool. Add a small drizzle of honey if you think more sweetening is required.
While rhubarb is cooling make the topping. Beat the egg white to stiff peaks with the pinch of salt. Heat the sugar with 3 tablespoons of water to thread stage. (Just before it starts to color.) With the beaters going, pour the sugar-water mixture into the beaten egg whites and continue beating until the stiff meringue is cooled. Meanwhile, beat the cream to peaks with the vanilla extract. Fold the two mixtures together.
Spoon the rhubarb in the bottoms of 4 jars or coupes. Top with parfait. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.