Justin took this photo of our first salad this season comprised entirely of our own greens: arugula, salad bowl blend lettuce, and tender, young rainbow chard. The lovely French breakfast radishes came from Treble Ridge Farm. Following their photo shoot, I dressed them lightly with olive oil and salt, mixing them carefully with my hands so as not to crush their delicate leaves. Tasted as good as it looked – just like the first sweet days of summer.
June in Maine means rhubarb. While I love this tangy vegetable, I don’t particularly care for the solution that so many pie recipes take, which is to team it up with a load of sugar, or mushy, cooked strawberries, in order to counter rhubarb’s natural sourness. What’s more, I find the texture of all-rhubarb or strawberry-rhubarb pies to be a little too … well, gelatinous. Luckily, I’ve got rhubarb custard pie to turn to. One of my favorites, my dad and I always demanded that my mom make this pie at the beginning summer, and it’s a tradition I’ve carried over into my own kitchen since returning to Maine.
Although you might debate my gripe against strawberry-rhubarb pie, it’s pretty hard to make a case against custard. Who isn’t looking for an excuse to eat custard? It provides a nice base for the rhubarb to sit up on, and keeps it from disintegrating into a gummy goo. This allows the rhubarb to retain its natural shape and flavor – so you get pure rhubarb tang in each bite. While I must admit the custard in this recipe is sugary, it is balanced by the warmth and sturdiness of egg and nutmeg. Yes, in my book custard is an ideal partner for rhubarb, further made perfect by a lattice-top double crust and a dollop of really good vanilla ice cream.
To be honest, because I can’t say enough about this pie, I’m finding it hard to say anything about it. I recommend you make it. Your loved ones will thank you. Note that the recipe that follows does not include measurements for pie dough; just make your preferred recipe in a double-crust quantity. One thing that I’ve discovered over the years is that this pie does not benefit from a large pie plate; standard 9 or 10 inches is best for ensuring the custard is well-set without sacrificing your crust in extended cooking. Interestingly, this recipe has disappeared from newer versions of the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, which is where my mom originally found it. A bit of an antique, it is well worth dusting off.
Rhubarb Custard Pie
Prepare 5 cups of rhubarb, sliced into one-inch pieces. Set aside.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and make your pie dough. Lay the bottom crust in the pie plate, and roll out the top crust.
MIx up your custard by whisking together 1 1/2 cups sugar (fine organic cane sugar is best), 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, dash of salt, and 3 eggs. Once smooth, add the rhubarb to custard and mix together so the all the rhubarb is coated. Add the mix to your bottom crusted pie plate.
Dot the filling with a tablespoon or two of butter (broken into pea-sized pieces). Cut the pre-rolled upper crust into one-inch wide strips to form your lattice. Weave your lattice over the top of the pie, crimping off the edges. Sprinkle with coarse-grain sugar and bake at 400 degrees for 50 minutes.
I use Mrs. Anderson’s Pie Crust Shield to protect the edges, and allow the pie to stand in the cooling oven when I turn it off after the 50 minutes. Using a standard 9 or 10 inch pie plate, your custard should set up fine!