Known best as a pie filling, often paired with strawberries for sweetness, this sweet-tart veggie can also be used in savory dishes, as Timothy Payne, chef and co-owner at Terroir in Longmont, so masterfully showed us. He was undaunted by rhubarb as his challenge ingredient, producing three courses, two savory and one sweet, for us to try.
First out was the chicken rillette with ginger-pickled rhubarb. Like a pâté, the rillette is soft and spreadable, cured in this case with duck fat and served on toast points. The fantastic richness of the chicken was balanced by the bright tart flavors of the cabernet vinegar and rhubarb and the spiciness of the ginger. Pickling is an excellent use of the vegetable: “When it’s pickled, people don’t mind the crunch,” Payne said.
The main course of the day was a succulent duck confit atop a bed of spring risotto with asparagus and crowned with a dollop of beautifully pink rhubarb chutney. Chef Payne first started playing with rhubarb in a savory context for a wine dinner last year, when he made a similar chutney. Again, the slightly sweet tartness of the chutney balanced out the rich fattiness and earthy flavor of the duck perfectly, as well as the bright green, slightly bitter taste of the fresh young asparagus. In a chutney, as well as with most dessert preparations, the rhubarb is cooked down so much that it loses nearly all of its crispy vegetable texture. Truly a gorgeous taste of very early spring.
Finally, and most traditionally, dessert was a stunning deep red strawberry rhubarb crisp, warm from the oven and topped with a velvety scoop of rhubarb gelato. Payne said the gelato reminded him of raspberry, though not quite as cloyingly sweet. The intense sugar of a strawberry in one bite paired playfully against the tartness of the rhubarb in the next is a perennial favorite, and it wouldn’t have seemed right to end a themed meal like this one with anything else.
The duck confit with spring risotto and rhubarb chutney will be available at Terroir through April. Visit terroir-restaurant.com or call 303.651.0630 for reservations and more information.