When Life Hands You Cold Wet Muddy Rhubarb, Make a Spring Feast

According to my Justin Bieber wall calendar, it’s supposedly spring, and although all the classic signs of spring are here–the tender young leaves bursting forth and proudly unfurling on the maple trees outside my window seem to be doubling in size every day, I see puppies and lovers slobbering all over each other everywhere, the Portland Beavers open the 2010 season next week at PGE Park, and I ordered a J. Crew swimsuit that will without a doubt not fit–I am having trouble believing. Maybe it’s the 90-mile-an-hour winds and the muddy bootprints all over my kitchen floor.

But when life hands you a wet, windy, sorry excuse for spring, make sole meunière and rhubarb galette, my dear little grandmother always used to say, right after she slapped me upside the head for feeding her ancient Schnauzer my first dreaded asparagus stalks of spring. (Of course my tastes have matured since then, and I only feed the dog asparagus when it’s done something to deserve it, like not pee on my basil pot.)

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Molly's sole meunière was prettier than mine, so you get to see hers.

As I’ve said before, I’m not one for toiling over recipe development, I don’t have the patience or instincts really, but I do thrill at poring over and making other people’s recipes. I enjoy Molly Wizenberg’s articles and accompanying recipes in Bon Appetit, and this month she presents a classic sole meunière. You can read the article HERE, and you can admire and perhaps imitate the simple, elegant recipe HERE.

If the last time you had sole meunière was in Paris and you had far too freely indulged in the bistro’s house white wine to properly formulate a solid memory of it, let me remind you that it’s a very basic preparation of a very light and buttery fish. Essentially, the fillet of sole is dredged in flour, pan fried and adorned with lemon, parsley, and butter. Once mastered, it’s quite simple but makes you feel so competent you believe for just a moment that you wouldn’t be laughed out of auditions for Top Chef.

You can then serve the sole with some sort of springy young thing of a vegetable, like asparagus, green beans, or new potatoes. I boiled a pound of pink new potatoes for about 20 minutes until they were tender, then mashed them a few times with a fork, sprinkled them with salt and pepper, and topped them with dollops of fresh Jacobs Creamery créme fraiche.

rhubarbgaletteFor dessert, I baked  a rhubarb galette, which was a hybrid of a few different recipes, including Martha Stewart’s, which features an interesting cornmeal pate brisee, and this one from the new Bon Appetit because it features creme fraiche and créme fraiche makes me happy. Rhubarb induces such a blessed wince that it’s all too often paired with more nectarous fruits like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or oranges, or everyone’s favorite zingy tuber, ginger, but both the above recipes let the pie plant take the stage alone.

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I paired the whole affair with a nice inexpensive Chartron La Fleur White Bordeaux from Little Green Grocer, because it claimed to be “the perfect wine for a false start to spring,” and its amusing and slightly bitter wine notes matched my mood.

Now, after a day of muddy boots and forlorn Martinique vacation package browsing (because I’ve got to have somewhere to wear my ill-fitting new swimsuit, haven’t I?!), a lovely dinner is on the table, and finally, things are looking more spring.