Strawberry-Rhubarb Cream Pie

When Executive Pastry Chef Zac Young reels off his secret ingredients for summer desserts—tarragon, basil, and lemon thyme— you can sense his excitement. Summer is his season, when the greenmarkets teem with fruit that he selects, packs up, and hauls back to his kitchen three times a week. “What’s exciting is to go there not knowing what to expect, and then drag back these treasures and figure out what to do with them all.”

Sorbets and ice cream are made in-house, and Young incorpo- rates various fruits and herbs. He also hand-makes the jams. “Ugly fruit makes good jam,” he says, explaining how “damaged goods” at greenmarkets are perfect for this. “A purveyor might hand me a case of peaches that are a little banged up.” That’s when he can go to town, preserving and canning and having it all year-round.

With a penchant for blueberries—“I’m from Maine. Wild blueberries were my stock growing up”—Young even found a vendor who grows them on her property and brings them down to him as a special treat. He prefers his dishes simple to highlight the incredible bounty of the season. “As the summer progresses and we get all the stone fruits, like cherries and peaches, they are superb in an unadulterated pie—maybe lightly cooked, or berries fresh with a dollop of cream.” He points to savory choices like tarragon and basil as perfect complements to strawberries or peaches. “Chiffonade some basil or tarragon and fold that into
a fruit salad. Right there, you’ve taken something ordinary and made it really exciting.”

1/4 cup blanched almonds, toasted
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp salt

Grind the almonds along with one tablespoon of flour in a food processor until fine. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk, scraping down the sides. Stir together the salt, ground almonds, and remaining flour. Pour the dry mix into the bowl and mix until a smooth dough comes together. Wrap in plastic and regenerate for an hour. Roll the dough into a circle and line a 10-inch removable bottom tart ring with the dough or use a pie pan. Chill the lined shell for 30 minutes. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the inside of the lined tart shell and fill with beans or pie weights. Bake at 375°F for 15 minutes. Remove the beans parchment and bake for another 15 minutes until golden brown. Let cool fully.

4 pounds rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup lime juice
4 cups sugar
2 tbs pectin

Place rhubarb, lime juice, and 3 1/2 cups of the sugar in a large pot. Cook until it reaches a heavy boil, stirring frequently. Whisk the remaining sugar with the pectin and add this to the boiling jam. Cook on medium high heat until the jam has thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

2 cups whole milk
2 vanilla beans, scraped
1/2 cup sugar, separated in half
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tbs unsalted butter
Pinch salt

Warm the milk, vanilla seeds, and 1/4 cup of the sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar, and cornstarch. Once the milk is at a heavy simmer, temper the yolk mix with a little hot milk. Whisk the warm yolk mix into the pot and cook on medium heat for about 2 minutes. Whisk constantly until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Transfer the mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium for a minute then add the butter. Beat 5 more minutes until smooth and slightly cooled.

Wash, dry, and hull 4 pints of strawberries. Slice 2 pints of the strawberries in half from stem to tip. Slice the remaining 2 pints into rounds by laying the strawberries on their sides and slicing them. Pour the slightly warm pastry cream into the shell and arrange the halved strawberries standing up in concentric rings. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes, until the pastry cream is cool and firm. Pipe the warm jam on top of the pastry cream and around the strawberries. Place the strawberry disks standing up into the jam. Refrigerate for an hour or until the jam is firm.

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