In this image taken on March 18, 2013, pork tenderloin medallions with rhubarb-orange sauce are shown served on a plate in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
When I informed The Husband that I was going to make pork with a rhubarb sauce, he dismissed the idea out of hand. He does not like sweet in his savory.
I tried to explain that there’s a good reason why any number of classic dishes team up meat and fruit, including duck a l’orange, foie gras with apples, and pork with prunes. Fruit contains acid as well as sugar, and acid has a winning way of cutting through the fatty richness of duck, pork and brisket.
The Husband wasn’t buying it.
I could have added that rhubarb is a vegetable, not a fruit, and that it’s so tart (not sweet) it’s rarely present in a recipe without some kind of sugar added for balance. But I would have been banging my head against a wall. So I rocked on regardless because I love rhubarb.
An import from England, rhubarb was known in 19th century America as “the pie plant” because that was where it usually ended up — in pies, often paired with strawberries. But I think the rhubarb’s acidity makes it a splendid ingredient in savory dishes, too.
Rhubarb looks a lot like celery, except that it’s usually a fetching reddish-purple in color. It comes in long, slender stalks, with strings running from top to bottom. To eliminate the toughness of the strings, some cooks peel their rhubarb before cooking. I deal with the issue by thinly slicing the stalks across the grain of the strings.
Given its high water content, turning rhubarb into a sauce requires little more than cooking it. It breaks down quickly and becomes nice and thick.
In my recipe, it needed some counter-balancing sweetness, so I kept the granulated sugar to a bare minimum in favor of fresh orange juice. In the end, this dish made a believer out of The Husband. He even suggested that the sauce might work wonderfully with duck breasts. I’m sure he’s right.