Rhubarb

Rhubarb, like quince, isn’t on most people’s culinary radar unless they are fans of Prairie Home Companion where Garrison Keiler sings about Bebopareebop Rhubarb Pie. And describing a fight as a rhubarb (usually the emptying of benches at a baseball game) is about as old fashioned as home run hitters without steroids. Still, rhubarb reminds me of the coming of spring.

Rhubarb looks like a ruby colored celery. Indeed, after the leaves are removed and the stalks washed, rhubarb is cut very much like celery, crosswise into crescents. However, because rhubarb breaks down quickly, those crescents should be fairly wide, an inch or so.

Rhubarb is cooked much like cranberries. Add about 1/4 cup water and sugar to taste (1/2 to 1 cup) to a pound of cut-up rhubarb. Cover and cook gently about 5 to 10 minutes. Be careful not to let the rhubarb disintegrate. As with cranberries, you can add all manner of seasonings to stewed rhubarb such as orange juice, orange liqueurs, lemon and ginger.

Spoon rhubarb over ice cream, waffles or pancakes. Compotes made with stewed rhubarb make good low-fat desserts or breakfast dishes.  Just add some dried fruits such as prunes, raisins and apricots, or perhaps some other fresh fruit like strawberries. Strawberries are rhubarb’s favorite companion which is why you see so many strawberry-rhubarb pies, crisps and compotes. Kirsch marries nicely with both.

Because pork has a natural sweetness, it goes well with stewed rhubarb.

PORK TENDERLOIN WITH RHUBARB SAUCE

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon each ground coriander and ginger
  • 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 pork tenderloins, about 11 to 12 ounces each
  • 1/2 pound rhubarb
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 ounces raspberry vinegar, raspberry liqueur or raspberry brandy
  • 1/2 cup defatted chicken stock

1)Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Mix the salt, pepper, coriander and ginger in a teacup. Rub the oil  over the tenderloins. Then rub on spices.

2)Put tenderloins the in a cast iron or other ovenproof skillet. Put the pan in the oven. Cook for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the internal temperature of the thickest part reaches 150 to 155 degrees.

3)Meanwhile, wash the rhubarb and peel it if it looks tough, as you would celery. Cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Combine in a heavy saucepan with the sugar, orange rind and water. Cover and cook over medium-low heat 5 to 7 minutes or until very soft. Set aside.

4)When the tenderloins are done, remove them to a warm platter and cover with foil. Put the skillet on the stove over medium heat. Add raspberry vinegar, liqueur or brandy and scrape any particles on the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon. Add the stock and reduce volume by half. Add rhubarb and reduce slightly until sauce thickens. Taste for seasoning. Then strain through a sieve (use the back of a ladle)into a saucepan.

5) Cut pork into approximately 3/8-inch thick slices, reserving the juices from slicing. Add juices to the rhubarb sauce. Heat to thicken if necessary. (The sauce should gently coat the meat.) Put pork on a platter or individual plates and pour sauce over. Serves 4.

Sam’s Cooking Tip: Pork tenderloins are remarkably lean with less than half the fat of skinless dark meat chicken. Because they don’t have much fat, it’s important not to cook them more than 155 degrees, plenty hot enough to avoid trichinosis because the trichina worm is killed at 137 degrees.

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