Rhubarb, Ahoy

My rhubarb is taking over its corner of the garden, its leaves hugely extravagant, its stalks brilliant crimson, thick and meaty. This is a problem for a person who doesn’t eat sugar, as rhubarb is one of the sourest things you can put in your mouth and live to tell the tale.

But I remembered reading somewhere that in some culture (guess I didn’t read it very carefully, did I?) they eat sliced raw rhubarb dipped in salt. Hoping against common sense, I tried that, and now I’m here to say: don’t under any circumstances do that yourself. It’s actually a rinse your mouth out right now combination as far as I’m concerned, and that was after just the tiniest nibble.

Undaunted, or at least only partially daunted, I continued to search online for savory rhubarb recipes. And Bingo! I found an Italian recipe for Faraona Brasata con Rabarbero e Cipolle Rosse. Doesn’t that sound mouth-watering? Translated as Braised Guinea Hen with Rhubarb and Red Onions it still sounded good, so I waltzed out to the garden and twisted off a thick stalk of rhubarb. That’s one stalk down, forty to go, but still.

I tweaked the recipe a little to make it even lower carb, and because guinea hen is just plain unavailable in these parts. You can see the original recipe here, and my adaptation follows. It’s a slightly sweet, slightly sour, silky and tender concoction with an intriguing flavor profile. Even Shel, a confirmed rhubarb-hater, thought it was delightful. It’s so good that now that I have discovered this dish I’m going to freeze a lot of my rabarbero so that I can make it all year round. And when I get back to France I’m definitely going to try it with guinea hen, which I find delicious. I can only imagine that made with faraona this dish will be even better than it already is, which is saying quite a lot.

So try it, even if you think it sounds peculiar, surprise yourself.

Chicken With Rhubarb And Red Onion

6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1/2 lb diced rhubarb
salt and pepper
4 T olive oil
5 T butter
1 small red onion, chopped
2/3 cup dry white wine

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pan. Generously salt and pepper the chicken. Brown the chicken in the hot oil until golden brown on both sides. Remove the chicken to a plate and drain the oil from the pan. Do not wash pan.

Melt the butter in the pan, then add the red onion and a pinch of salt. Cook the onions over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft. Pour the wine into the pan and scrape to deglaze any brown bits. Return the chicken to the pan along with any juices accumulated on the plate, reduce heat to low, cover pan, and simmer for 25 minutes, turning chicken pieces once or twice during cooking.

Stir in the rhubarb, add another sprinkle of salt and pepper, cover the pan again, and continue to cook for about 20 more minutes, until the chicken is meltingly tender and the rhubarb is tender but still holding its shape. This makes a lot of delightful sauce, so if you do eat carbs, serve it with mashed potatoes or polenta to soak up the sauce. If not, do as I did and just eat the sauce with a spoon. It’s that good.

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12 Comments on “Rhubarb, Ahoy”

  1. Ujwala Says:

    Sounds delish! Pascal’s two fave pies are rhubarbe-fraise and citron. So this will give me a new way to use rhubarbe, athough the only savoury version I’ve made has been caramelized onions-rhubarbe-capers-goat cheese tartelettes. Thanks Abra!

  2. Patricia Says:

    A hint-pull rhubarb stalks out, don’t twist or cut. They pop out of the main plant with a little umph.

  3. geri Says:

    I prepare beef stew w. ginger & rhubarb that’s delicious.

  4. Abra Bennett Says:

    Geri – that sounds really good, care to share the recipe here?

  5. ana Says:

    Rhubarb is eaten dipped in salt in Iran. It is also turned into stews, pickles and jams… I think the tolerance for sour foods is higher there however.

  6. Abra Bennett Says:

    That’s interesting, Ana, because I do like sour foods, but wow, that rhubarb in salt thing just did me in. I wonder whether Iranian rhubarb might be sweeter than the ones we typically grow here. If you have any rhubarb recipes that don’t include sugar, I’d love to have some!

  7. Robbie Says:

    Sourness is caused by the presence of acid, so you can reduce the sour taste by neutralizing the acid. Baking soda should do it.

  8. Jeremy Newel Says:

    This savory use of rhubarb was new to me, so I immediately tried your recipe. Just fabulous! My husband, who doesn’t like rhubarb, was astonished that it was an ingredient. The only changes I made were to brown the thighs in duck fat (because I had it) and to reduce the first simmer time to 10 or 15 minutes, as I had stabbed each side of the bone à la Jacques Pépin. This is a really, really tasty dish. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

  9. Abra Bennett Says:

    Jeremy – I always have duck fat, so I’m amazed I didn’t think of that myself! What’s the Pepin trick, I don’t know that one, and I’ll bet that other readers would like to know it too.

  10. Jeremy Newel Says:

    This is Pepin’s trick to speed the cooking of chicken thighs: place a thigh skin side down and gently stab with a sharp knife once on each side of the bone, being careful not to break the skin. That’s it! A medium sized thigh is done after about 25 minutes of simmering.

  11. Abra Bennett Says:

    Huh. Normally I think a medium sized thigh is done in 25 minutes anyway.

  12. Jeremy Newel Says:

    Well, the directions for the above recipe have the chicken cooking for considerably more than 25 minutes. The thighs I was cooking were all over the place in size (thank you, Costco) so the small one was slightly over done in 20 minutes, the medium one was done in 22 minutes, and the largest were done in 25 minutes. Does a slow or fast simmer make a difference in the timing? I have never thought to check.

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