An Interview with Spago Pastry Chef Sherry Yard + A Strawberry Ice Cream Recipe

Sherry Yard moves at the speed of someone who, for professional reasons, consumes a lot of sugar. But when she's not at the pastry kitchen of Spago or Cut, or overseeing the desserts of Wolfgang Puck's vast and growing empire, or writing cookbooks (her latest, Desserts By the Yard, came out in 2007), you can find her trolling the Wednesday Santa Monica farmers market for Blenheim apricots or, it turns out, eating breakfast. We caught up with her long enough to ask her some questions--and to ask for a recipe. Read to the end of the Q & A, and you'll find Yard's recipe for strawberry ice cream. After all, desserts should come at the end.

Squid Ink: What's your first food memory?

Sherry Yard: Grandma played a taste test game with my sister and me when I was 3 years old. She would blindfold us and have us guess what was on the spoon: the first flavors I got were strawberry--then coffee!

SI: What's your favorite thing to cook or bake when you're not at the restaurant?

SY: Truth is I love to play bartender and assist my husband at the BBQ.

I take fruits I get at the market and make anything from Frozen Pimms Cups, Mango Margaritas, Drunken Peaches with Bourbon, Fraises and Champagne...

SI: What's the most under-rated item in your professional kitchen?

SY: In the old days I said always salt for pastry. Add a bit to chocolate or caramel it livens up the flavor, but now everyone knows the secret. Today I say love: you can pass on recipes and if they are not made with care and love they will not be the same.

SI: What's the most fun you ever had cooking?

SY: Cooking with Lee [Hefter] and Wolf [Puck] for the Iron Chef Competition on the Food Network 7 years ago. We had no time to prepare we went in rogue and won!

SI: What's your favorite cookbook?

SY: La Methode and La Technique, by Jacques Pépin.

SI: Where do you like to eat the most when you're not at work?

SY: I'm big on breakfast. During the week Nate 'n Al's for eggs and onions, or The Griddle for giant banana pancakes. Sunday mornings you can find me at Martha's in Hermosa Beach or at The Local Yolk in Manhattan Beach devouring jalapeño hash.

SI: What's your favorite thing to eat?

SY: Walking through the farmers market tasting just-picked fruit. Or on the decadent side, fresh-baked cookies at Spago. While they're still warm I like to sandwich a chocolate chip cookie with raspberry stracchiatella gelato.

Strawberry Ice Cream

Note: from Spago executive pastry chef Sherry Yard. Adjust the sugar to the sweetness of the berries used.

Makes: 3 cups

1 1/2 pounds ripe strawberries, stems removed

2/3 cup sugar

1 3/4 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

pinch of sea salt, or to taste

1. In a heavy metal saucepan over a medium heat, bring the strawberries, sugar and 1/4 cup water to a boil.

2. Turn flame to low and continue to cook for 5-6 minutes, until the strawberries are translucent.

3. Cool the strawberry mixture, over ice, to 40 degrees F.

4. Once the berries are cool pour into a blender add heavy cream, puree smooth.

5. Add Grand Marnier, and lemon juice, and salt to taste.

6. Place a metal container in the freezer to store ice cream.

7. Freeze in ice cream machine according to manufacture's instructions; once froze, remove pre-frozen container and fill with ice cream.

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