About three years ago, Anne and I drove down to LA to visit my friends Justin and Brian in their new Westwood condo. Although we arrived after midnight, they were still wide awake, drinking cosmopolitans and waiting for a batch of ice cream. “Huh?” we said. Justin had just purchased a Cuisinart ice cream maker from Costco so that he could tinker with some of Daniel Boulud’s gelato recipes he read in Elle Decor. The rest of the weekend was spent eating homemade ice cream and drinking cosmopolitans, flirtinis, mimosas, sangria and I don’t remember what else. I think a Ghost of the Robot (don’t ask) show might have been involved.
As soon as we returned to the Bay Area, I hauled myself straight over to Costco and purchased the same ice cream maker. That summer, I turned out many, many different kinds of ice creams and sorbets – chocolate, vanilla, coffee, caramel, orange, chocolate chip, rocky road, strawberry, peach, nectarine, mascarpone, raspberry sorbet, lemon, corn, and even blue cheese. It even got to the point where I purchased a second bowl so I wouldn’t have to wait as long for the first bowl to freeze (it takes about 24 hours)
Nowadays, my ice creams are pretty tame – vanilla, chocolate or raspberry sorbet. I’m usually looking for instant gratification. Okay, two hour gratification. But with all the sour cherries I’d been pitting, I’d been thinking about making noyau ice cream. Noyau is the pale white kernel inside cherries and apricots. You smash the pit with a mallet or use a nutcracker to extract it. Watch out for flying bits of shell. They’re razor sharp, so be sure pick them up off the ground. The kernel imparts a bitter almond flavor, and is the primary flavoring agent for amaretto. In addition, Justin loves almonds, especially almond ice cream, but unfortunately, he’s allergic to them. Noyau ice cream just might be an acceptable substitute. An extremely important note about noyau: surrounding the kernel is an cyanide-like enzyme. Roasting the kernels for about 15 minutes in the oven neutralizes the enzyme. While you probably won’t drop dead if you consume a little bit of raw noyau, it’s generally a good idea roast the kernels first. After I extracted and roasted mine, I ground them into a powder with a mortar and pestle, then heated them with the cream and sugar, and allowed them to steep for about half an hour before adding and tempering the egg yolks. You can use the kernels to flavor any basic ice cream recipe – use about 20 apricot pits or 40 cherry pits for every three cups of cream/milk. It goes especially well with a tart or pie made with the fruit you’ve just pitted. I’m having mine with an apricot galette.