The best thing about old friends is how easy it is to step right back into the old roles, to immediately know how to be with each other. This was certainly the case this weekend, when I drove up to Connecticut to see a friend I haven’t seen since her wedding, seven years ago. We share a penchant for raunchy humor and silliness, best demonstrated when we slip into our alter egos, a pair of rough talking, ass-kicking, deep-voiced ladies named Billy Jean and Betty Rae whose tagline is a gutteral “huh!”. I don’t remember how these characters were conceived, but they were born approximately 15 years ago in a small college town in Ohio. Maybe we were bored. Or drunk.
I called her the other day to firm up our plans.
And that was all it took to reconnect.
It didn’t hurt that the dinner she had in mind included three of my very favorite things to eat: Rotisserie chicken, corn on the cob, and tomatoes with mozzarella. If that wasn’t enough, we both had second helpings of the strawberry-rhubarb crumble I had brought along.
We had it for breakfast the next morning, too. I knew there was a good reason we were friends.
for the topping:
1 c all-purpose flour
1/4 c sugar
1/4 c light brown sugar, packed
pinch of salt
3 1/4 oz unsalted butter, melted
for the filling:
2 1/2 lbs. rhubarb, ends trimmed and cut into 3/4″ chunks (6-7 c)
1 pint basket (about 10oz) strawberries, stems removed and sliced or quartered.
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 c all-purpose flour
1 1/3 c sugar
pinch of salt
1. Make the topping: In a mixing bowl, thoroughly combine the flour, sugars, and salt. Add the melted butter and stir well to combine, until the butter is absorbed and there are no dry spots. Spread this mixture onto a sheet pan and set it aside, uncovered, until it has dried out, about 1 hour. With your hands, break up the topping into crumbs. If it is not crumbly, it needs to dry more.
2. Preheat the oven to 375° and butter a 10″ round baking dish (see notes)
3. Make the filling: In a large bowl, combine the rhubarb, strawberries, lemon zest and juice. In a small bowl, thoroughly combine the flour, sugar, and salt, then add to the rhubarb mix, tossing gently until the fruit is coated and the dry ingredients are evenly distributed.
4. Dump the filling into the prepared dish, packing and piling in as much as possible (it may seem like too much, but it will reduce during baking). Evenly distribute the topping over the fruit.
5. Put the dish on a sheet tray (lined with parchment or foil for easy clean up if you like) and bake until the filling is very bubbly and the topping is golden brown, 60-75 minutes.
6. Cool the crumble on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature, preferably the same day.
Notes If you don’t have a 10″ round dish, an 8 or 9″ square or similarly sized rectangular dish will work. I like to make a double or triple recipe of the topping, which freezes very well. You can also add cinnamon to the topping, but I don’t like cinnamon with this particular filling. I would serve this with ice cream (vanilla, almond, strawberry…) or crème fraîche. The crumble is best eaten the day it is made. Leftovers can be stored, loosely covered, at room temperature, but the topping will lose its crispness.