Strawberry and rhubarb seem destined to go together forever. And when a family friend introduced me to this pie, which ties those two seasonal ingredients with a decadent meringue topping, I now think of them as having a third deserving partner.
Dr. Diane Heyman of Paxton made this for my mom as a thank-you for providing a pick-your-own-berry experience in my mom's huge garden. Heyman said she makes it at least once a year, and it's a favorite for sharing with neighbors.
The recipe looks a little daunting, I'll admit. When I tried it, though, I found it to be less work than it seems. The filling itself (which Heyman maintains is good enough to cook on the stove and enjoy) comes together quickly, at least once you have your berries hulled and your rhubarb chopped.
And I'd never made Italian meringue before, but I think the few extra steps are worth it. It held up well for a few days, and sat on top of the slightly sour filling like a sweet, confectionery cloud.
Speaking of sour, I cut the sugar in the filling to 1 cup. If sour isn't your favorite thing, bump it up to 1 1 / 2 cups.
Heyman credits an old "Joy of Cooking" cookbook for this recipe. I definitely plan to make it again.
STRAWBERRY-RHUBARB CUSTARD PIE
1 prepared pie crust
4 cups diced rhubarb
2 cups sliced, hulled strawberries
1 cup sugar
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup flour
3 tablespoons milk (or rhubarb juice if using frozen)
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
For Italian meringue
5 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
Line a pan with prepared pie shell and heat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine and beat rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, egg yolks, flour, milk and nutmeg. Gently spoon mixture into pie shell. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 20 more minutes. You'll likely want to put an empty cookie sheet on the lower rack of your oven to catch any drips.
Let the pie cool for about 30 minutes.
Make meringue by placing sugar and water in a small saucepan and stirring until it boils. Keep cooking, but stop stirring, until it reaches 240 degrees or a soft-ball stage.
In a bowl with clean beaters, beat room-temperature egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks appear. Keep beating while your syrup gets hot enough.
When syrup is done, pour it in thin stream over egg whites. Keep beating until stiff, glossy peaks appear.
Top pie with meringue, sealing it to edges. Egg whites are now cooked, so you can bake in a 375 degree oven until meringue is lightly browned. Or, use a torch to brown meringue. Serve with vanilla ice cream.
Meg Dickinson is a communications professional who spends many waking hours daydreaming about food. To submit a recipe, email firstname.lastname@example.org.