5.09.2008

Rhubarb pie: the one little thing that can revive a guy

It is just after 6 o'clock on a Saturday evening. The news from Lake Wobegon is drifting out through the screen door. The weather is hazy and cool; it is springtime on the Atlantic.

Suddenly, events on the air begin to spin out of control. A woman screams, a door slams, and the sound of a man weeping echoes across the waves.

Wouldn't this be a good time for a piece of rhubarb pie? asks the familiar voice of Garrison Keillor. A piano chimes in, and the woman recovers herself for a rendition of beebop-a-reebop rhubarb pie.

It's strange, but the thought of a piece of rhubarb pie can do that to a person. Around this time of year, when the broad green leaves emerge drooped against scattered fences, I get the urge to pull up a pink stalk and crumble a sugar cube beneath its raw root. I remember sitting on my mother's kitchen counter, fingers sticky, slowly crunching through a bowl of raw pie filling on many a spring evening. The warmth of the sugar followed by the sting of the fruit made every bite necessitate another, until finally the syrupy stalks were hustled away from me and into the pie shell.

There are still few treats I prefer over a sugared slice of raw rhubarb. While this recipe ought to make 4 pies, it seems it only ever yields 3 when I'm baking. Passed down from Alex's grandmother, it has a subtle tang and a thick, flaky crust—a combination that can't be beat.

HAMI'S RHUBARB PIE

Makes 4 pies

Filling: In a food processor, mix 5 cups rhubarb with 2 cups sugar and 6 tablespoons flour until well blended.

Crust: Mix 4 cups flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cut in 1 and 3/4 cups butter. In a separate bowl, mix 1/2 cup cold water, one egg, and 1/2 tablespoon vinegar. Add to flour and butter mixture and stir lightly. Roll out on a well-floured surface.

Bake pies at 350 for 30-45 minutes, or until crust is crisp and slightly golden.

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