Chef Dave Smart is the chef at Front and Central restaurant in Wolfville and author of the Cooking Smart column in the Kings County Advertiser and Register.
I have fond childhood memories of rhubarb growing up. Tactfully negotiating a stalk from my next-door neighbour’s garden, then sneaking a cup of sugar from my mother’s pantry, I would find myself sitting in the backyard, crunching away with every face-puckering bite.
And now as a chef, I still look forward to rhubarb season; intense acidity (we chef’s like this), crunchy texture, and equally at home in both sweet and savory applications. I have devoured many rhubarb crumbles, tarts and pies in my day; however, I want to explore a savory recipe that makes perfect use of the natural and very abundant acidity and fresh flavour.
We have a fancy ‘chef’ word for a sweet and sour sauce; ”gastrique”. With rhubarb as the main source of acidity, the addition of sugar and some fresh thyme creates a simple sauce for your pan-seared scallops, chicken or pork. The red wine vinegar is added to help adjust the acidity.
And it you are up for it, try it on vanilla ice cream. You won’t be disappointed! Now that is what I call versatile!
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup water
3 cups chopped rhubarb
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt to taste
Combine the sugar, half of the vinegar, water, rhubarb and thyme in a deep saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring often until rhubarb is very soft and mixture thickens.
Remove from heat and let cool for 15 minutes. Remove and discard thyme. Pass mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove fibers.
Season with salt to taste and add additional vinegar, if required, to balance the sweetness.
Can be served hot or cold.