Ignoring high-tech gadgets, a chef lauds the old-fashioned food mill and uses it to make a rustic tomato sauce and creamy onion flans.

March 01, 2004

Today I use a lot of equipment that wasn't available when I was an apprentice. And I wouldn't want to go back to cooking without a rubber spatula, plastic wrap or nonstick pans. Still, one of my favorite tools is an old-fashioned gadget: the food mill. When I make a tomato sauce by cooking and pureeing chunks of unpeeled tomatoes with unpeeled garlic cloves and sprigs of thyme and oregano, my implement of choice is a food mill fitted with the coarse disk; the rustic texture it provides cannot be matched. Likewise, when I make creamy onion flans, I rely on a food mill fitted with the fine disk; onions that have been cooked very gently until sweet and tender become a silky puree that will flavor the custard.

Whether you choose a stainless steel or plastic mill—both are good—select one with sloping, rather than straight, sides and interchangeable disks. My favorite model is the inexpensive Moulinex.