Look, I’m not proud that I stuffed this crisp full of strawberries and rhubarb that I plucked from the supermarket bins. The strawberries, most larger than golf balls, were caged in a plastic box, rather than nestled in those cute little wooden boxes you might see at the farmers’ market. And the rhubarb stalks were stripped of their leaves and stuffed in the corner, looking so much more lifeless than the crimson beauties that shoot up in a corner of my grandfather’s garden. Still, I couldn’t help myself. At least I’m not the only one. (We Chicagoans, I think, have a hard road to hoe. We deserve some slack.)
And, really, can you blame me? I’m told that it’s spring and, even though the evidence of said spring is scanty (a windblown tulip here, a set of allergy-induced red-rimmed eyes there) I’m ready for it. Maybe in some small way, I hoped that this crisp would help nudge this elusive season along.
Every season, I think, has its crisp. Apples in the fall, pears in the winter, berries in the summer. And this combination—sweet strawberries and tart rhubarb—is spring’s version. The constant, of course, is the buttery, sugary, oat-filled, cinnamon-speckled topping. Piping hot and barely containing the stewed fruit beneath it, this topping is one of my favorite things in the whole world.
It’s good enough to make one forgive the sub-par fruit that it blankets. It’s even good enough to make you forget that it has been Rainy and Gray for Six (!) Straight (!) Days. So it’s got to be good enough to entice spring—real spring, with it’s first readily available local produce—to hurry up already.
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup rolled oats
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, divided
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and diced (plus more for greasing)
4 stalks rhubarb, trimmed and cut in 1/2-inch slices
3 cups strawberries, trimmed and quartered
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons Grand Marnier (or lemon or orange juice)
1 teaspoon lemon or orange zest
Preheat the oven to 375°.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, oats, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and a pinch of kosher salt. Cut in the 6 tablespoons chilled, diced butter using a pastry blender (or, if you don’t have one, rub the butter in with your fingers). Place the mixture in the refrigerator.
Generously butter either four gratin dishes or one 9×9-inch pan. Set aside.
In another medium bowl, combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, Grand Marnier, zest, remaining 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and a pinch of kosher salt. Spoon the mixture into the buttered dish or dishes. Blanket the strawberry-rhubarb mixture with the chilled topping. Bake for 30 minutes.