Rhubarb and I have always had a complicated relationship. I didn’t grow up on an idyllic farm with barnyard animals and giant stalks of rhubarb that Mom would whip up into luscious pies and jams. No. I grew up at the Jersey shore, where early spring merely meant we were a bit closer to long lazy beach days and juicy ripe tomatoes.
As a food-obsessed kid, I remember hearing about rhubarb through the grapevine: on cooking shows, in magazines, and cook books. I was totally intrigued by it, and longed to know what it tasted like, just like all the other seemingly exotic foods I watched chefs consistently fawn over.
We didn’t speak rhubarb in my house. We spoke baked chicken, fried flounder, frozen dinners and lots and lots of pasta. Rhubarb was basically akin to balout: something weird that we didn’t eat. Period. Which is precisely why I’ll never forget that one fateful day at a friend’s party when someone mentioned a rhubarb pie. I raced to the dessert table to be first in line for a slice. No whipped cream or other adornment needed, I eagerly took a bite… And immediately spit it out into a napkin.
This was NOT what I was expecting! I was overcome with a mix of emotions: major disappointment, slight embarrassment, but mostly just confusion. It was sour. And stringy. And goopy. And… just… weird. From that day on, I declared myself to be someone who is most definitely NOT a fan of rhubarb.Fast forward to a few years ago and my interest had been piqued once again. Rhubarb was everywhere. All my favorite bloggers and chefs started going bananas for it every spring, and it set my FOMO off like crazy. Perhaps it was time I gave rhubarb another shot. I bought a few stalks, took them home, and then scoured the internet for the best things to do with them. I found a simple recipe to roast the rhubarb along with some strawberries, a vanilla bean, plenty of sugar, and a hefty splash of bourbon. It is a known fact that vanilla, sugar and bourbon will make anything taste amazing.
The scent of berries, bourbon and vanilla caramelizing in the oven was intoxicating. Even if it tasted horrible, I’d make this recipe again for the smell alone. So far we’re winning. Upon removal from the oven, I took a fork, dug in, died and went straight to heaven. It was sweet, fruity, and not at all boozy. The softened rhubarb melted in my mouth and added just the right balance of sour. I get it now!
Just like that, rhubarb was bumped to the top of my “things I love about Spring” list. I’m so glad we were able to work out our differences. It’s funny how I’ve come to discover that most of the things my 10-year-old self loathed, my 30-year-old self loves. Sometimes it’s just a matter of miscommunication. I’ve still yet to encounter an opportunity (or the courage) to try balout, however. I’ll leave that for my 50-year-old palate to discover another 20 years from now. Maaaaybe. These roasted strawberries and rhubarb are just lovely spooned over ice cream, swirled into yogurt, or eaten warm with a fork straight off the roasting pan. But this year I decided to up the ante by putting them on a shortcake: the quintessential late spring/early summer dessert that is basically perfect in every way. This version is no exception.
Individual nutmeg scented biscuits get topped with syrupy roasted fruit and a dollop of bourbon-spiked whipped cream. What could go wrong here? Nothing. That’s what. Rhubarb lover or not, this recipe is destined to make you smile… Probably from the bourbon.
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated (optional)
- 3/4 cup cold heavy cream
- 2 large stalks rhubarb, cleaned and cut into bite sized pieces
- 1 lb fresh strawberries, washed, dried and hulls removed, larger berries halved or quartered
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup bourbon
- 1 vanilla bean, scraped
- 1 cup heavy cream, chilled
- 1 tablespoon bourbon
- 1 tablespoon confectioners sugar
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and nutmeg in a medium bowl and then add in about half of the heavy cream. Use a rubber spatula to begin incorporating the cream into the dry ingredients. Add the second half when it's almost fully incorporated and stop mixing the second the dough comes together. Be very careful not to overmix.
- Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper and place 4 even sized heaps of the dough on top. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until they are golden brown around the edges. Remove and allow to cool.
- Leave the oven preheated to 425 degrees. Combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, bourbon and vanilla bean on a large parchment lined baking sheet. Use your hands to thoroughly mix everything together and spread out in an even layer. Bake for about 20 minutes until the rhubarb is tender and the liquid has thickened. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Discard the vanilla bean or save for another use.
- Chill a medium sized mixing bowl in the freezer until ready to use. Pour the cream, bourbon and sugar in and begin whipping. Whisk briskly until it forms stiff peaks, about 5 minutes by hand.
- Slice each biscuit in half lengthwise and place each bottom half on a plate. Top with the warm strawberries and rhubarb, then put a heaping dollop of whipped cream on top. Place the top of each biscuit on top of the whipped cream and garnish with a dusting of powdered sugar. Serve immediately. Leftover strawberries, rhubarb and whipped cream can be stored in an air tight container in the fridge. Biscuits are best kept frozen for later use.