Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Crostata That Almost Wasn't

Sometimes things just work out.

Yesterday afternoon, the Coppertop Guy called me.  A friend of ours who lives in Indiana had a really early flight out of O'Hare this morning and needed a place to crash.  We expected him to get in really late, say hi, go to sleep, and then leave before we woke up.  At about 5, CG called again to say that our friend had gotten on an earlier train and was going to be to our place at about 7.  I love to feed people, so I was happy about this new development.  I got home from work, looked at the messy house, decided that people like to eat more than they like to look at clean rooms, and went straight to the kitchen.  I threw together the crust for this absolutely lovely strawberry rhubarb crostata that I had been planning.  CG got home and I found out immediately that he did not share my opinion about messy rooms not mattering.  Ah well, marriage is a learning experience, after all.  I baked chicken breasts and potatoes, made these butter-glazed radishes and carrots, and tossed together a quick spinach salad.  While everything was working (I love braised and baked things - you can get them going and then go do something else!), I made the strawberry-rhubarb filling.  Then we sat down to eat.

I love when friends unexpectedly drop by.  This is probably due in part to my leave-the-mess-and-let's-have-some-cake mentality, but mostly I just love having people around.  This particular friend just finished his Master's degree and is about to start a new job, left this morning for a week-long trip to El Salvador, and his wife is having a baby in August.  It was so nice to have this impromptu get-together to catch up and hear about his life.  With all the ways we have to communicate with each other, nothing can replace a face-to-face conversation over a shared meal.

Not to mention, it can really pay off to have an extra pair (or two) of hands in the kitchen.

Caught up as I was in the lively conversation we were all having, I didn't give my full attention to the crostata assembly.  I took the little disk of dough out of the fridge, sprinkled flour on the counter, and started rolling.  I got it all rolled out, poured the filling on top, folded up the edges... and then remembered that I was supposed to have done all this on a piece of parchment so that I could transfer it from the counter to a baking sheet. 

Pause for a moment of panic.

These two sweet men who were casually chatting in the kitchen saw the impending catasrophe, and with barely a word from me, they sprang into action!  It took six hands and two spatulas to get that sucker onto the pan, but it didn't fall apart!  Woohoo!  Crisis averted!

I am very thankful for my friends.

Rhubarb and Strawberry Crostata
adapted from Bon Appetit, May 2011

The flavor of the whole wheat flour adds a whole new level to the crust, and its nuttiness stands up well to the intense flavor of the rhubarb.  I used coarse kosher salt, and I loved coming across the little intact bits of it as I ate!  Salt + butter + sugar = good.


1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cubed
1 large egg
1 tablespoon whole milk

1/4 cup cornstarch
4 cups 1/2-inch-thick slices rhubarb (about 6 stalks)
1 cup fresh strawberries, quartered
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg, beaten
Raw sugar

Combine both flours, sugar, and salt in a processor; blend for 5 seconds. Add butter; pulse until butter is reduced to pea-size pieces. Whisk egg and milk in a small bowl to blend; add to processor and pulse until moist clumps form. Gather dough into a ball; flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap; chill at least 1 1/2 hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.

Dissolve cornstarch in 3 Tbsp. water in a small bowl; set aside. Combine rhubarb, strawberries, and sugar in a large heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until sugar dissolves and juices are released, about 4 minutes. Stir in cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil (rhubarb will not be tender and slices will still be intact). Transfer to a bowl. Chill until cool, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°. Roll out dough on floured parchment paper to 12" round; brush with beaten egg. Mound filling in center of crust; gently spread out, leaving 1 1/2" border. Gently fold edges of dough over filling, pleating as needed. Brush border with egg; sprinkle with raw sugar. Slide parchment with crostata onto a large rimmed baking sheet and bake until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly, about 45 minutes. Let crostata cool on baking sheet on a rack. Transfer crostata to a platter, cut into wedges, and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

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