Sunday, 16 June 2013

Crisp: Summer in a Casserole Dish

Let's get the excuses over with. I'm back at school, D is TAing, and life Chez RosenBum has been more than a little hectic. But we're still cooking and eating, so here we go...

It feels like summer has been so long to come this year. Aside from one crazy hot day a couple of weeks ago, it's felt mostly Spring-like since the end of April. I'm ok with this, as one is if one lives in a house without air conditioning, but it made me forget what fresh fruits and vegetables we have to look forward to. We had stewed rhubarb at D's mom's the other week and I remembered how long it's been since I've made a crisp.

We wrote about crisps with our Sweet Spot column (RIP), but that was in the fall, so we were talking apple crisps. Now, you can obviously buy apples in the summer, but with so many other summer fruits, why would you? D's mom very kindly sent me over some of her rhubarb and I supplemented it with some rhubarb and strawberries from St. Lawrence Market.

Before I go into the recipe, let me say a few thing about crisps:
-They are forgiving. Once you add some sugar to mostly unappetizing fruit (such as not very sweet strawberries) and bake it, almost anything will be delicious. D's mom had sent over rhubarb days before I had time to make the crisp, so I chopped it up and mixed it with sugar and it sat in the fridge quite happily for a few days.
-The topping can be whatever you want it to be. I've already played around with the Joy of Cooking recipe, but you could make further tweaks.
-If you use juicier fruit (like rhubarb or a berry), you might want to add cornstarch or tapioca to help seize up the filling a bit if you're concerned about a runny crisp. I always forget and it's always delicious anyways.
-Use whatever dish you have. Casserole dish? Fab. Individual ramekins? Adorable!
-To accompany a crisp, my first choice is Liberte's Méditerranée Vanilla Yogurt, but you can use whatever you've got. You could use ice cream. Or nothing. Or just plain whipping cream because that's all you have in the fridge and it will STILL taste amazing.

And now the recipe! This is based on the Joy of Cooking's 'Apple or Fruit Crisp' recipe, but less and less every time I make it.

Chez RosenBum's Super Casual Sunday Morning Rhubarb and Strawberry Crisp
1) Pick your dish, first, as that will mostly dictate your quantities. My go-to is a 1.4L CorningWare casserole dish and quantities below reflect that. No need to grease first.
2) Crank up the oven to 375F.
3) Chop up a handful of rhubarb stalks (maybe 7 or 8?) into smallish chunks. Toss them into the casserole dish with about 1/2 cup of white sugar. This is something to taste, I'm afraid, and you'll figure out what qty you're happiest with over time. You basically want the rhubarb coated in sugar as it can be quite sour, especially early in the season.
4) Chop up as many strawberries as you need to fill up the casserole dish. I used about 2/3s of a basket. Given the sugar you've added to the rhubarb, you likely don't need to add more sugar even to sour berries, but it's your call.
5) In a separate bowl, mix 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 cup oats. Depending on your preference, you can mix up the proportions, but you want 1 1/2 cups of topping. I think particularly you could halve the brown sugar and double the oats.
6) Chop 3/4 of a stick of cold butter (salted, unsalted, doesn't really matter) and with your hands or a pastry fork, work it into the topping. The JOC advises that you're aiming for 'crumbs' here, but I think as long as it's uniformly divided, the butter can be a bit chunky. It's going to melt anyways. Sprinkle the topping on the fruit. I'm working on experimenting with how much I can cut down on the butter. At 3/4 of a stick, I think there's still room to decrease.
7) Toss your crisp into the oven on a tray and start checking it at 30 minutes (the JOC says 50-55 minutes, so it really depends on your oven). You want it to be golden and bubbly. The tray comes in handy if you have a little spillover. It will have shrunk considerably, height wise, and that's ok.
8) Let it cool slightly and serve with your choice of dairy.  Less gluttonous people might get multiple servings out of this, but we get four (basically two breakfast's worth). Enjoy!

And speaking of sugar, fat, and salt, I'm just finishing Michael Moss' amazing Salt, Sugar, Fat and boy oh boy do I have opinions. More on those later this week.