Some chefs stock their kitchens with all kinds of expensive high-tech tools, from sous vide machines to Vitamix blenders.
But even the pros like to rely on time-tested, old-school tools to whip up a risotto or sear off a pork tenderloin.
"We're the bare-bones cooks," said Duskie Estes of Zazu restaurant in Santa Rosa. "What excites me is the ingredients and the person behind the ingredients."
We asked a handful of chefs in Wine Country to share some of their favorite kitchen implements and gadgets that have withstood the test of time.
A few of these tools came from Dehillerin, a famous kitchen store that has supplied Paris since 1820. But most can be found at your favorite hardware or cooking store.
Mortar & Pestle: This primitive tool, consisting of a stone or ceramic bowl with a small club, has been used from Mexico to Malaysia to pound herbs and spices into pestos and chili pastes.
Chef/owner Charlie Palmer of the Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg uses a mortar & pestle, rather than a spice grinder, to grind peppercorns.
"You use small amounts," he said. "And it gives you better control of the grind."
Colleen McGlynn of DaVero Olive Oil in Healdsburg has a collection of mortar & pestles that she uses for making everything from aioli to salsa verde.
Knives: "Everybody likes old knives that they've had forever," said Franco Dunn of One World Sausages in Healdsburg. "Especially the old, carbon-steel ones that sharpen really easily."
John Stewart of Zazu restaurant is fond of the carbon-steel knives he bought at Dehillerin in Paris, as well as his new set of Bob Kramer knives sold at Sur La Table.
Justin Wangler of Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates has a knife from each of his restaurant jobs, including a German Wusthof and a Damascus hand-hammered steel knife. He also likes the new Nenox line of knives from Japan.
Park Avenue Catering founder Bruce Riezenman is fond of his multipurpose cheese knife, which has big holes in it so that it doesn't stick to rind-ripened cheeses. It's also perfect for slicing cheesecakes and gooey, decadent chocolate cakes.
Cast-iron cookware: Hands-down, this is the most popular form of old-school cookware among chefs, and it has made a miraculous comeback in recent years.
"Lodge (cast-iron brand) was literally dying out," Palmer said. "Now it's booming again. They came up with a coating that is rust-resistant."
Cheap, durable and timeless, the heavy cast-iron skillet heats up gradually, conducts heat evenly and holds its heat. As a bonus, the metal handle allows it to slide easily from the stovetop to the oven.
Riezenman has three sizes of cast-iron skillets, which he uses for searing meat and cooking eggs. To wash them, he puts water in the pan, rubs it with a stainless-steel scrubber, cleans it with a paper towel, then puts a dab of olive oil on it and rubs it in.
Stewart claims he owns every piece of cast-iron that's ever been made.
"I coat them with bacon fat," he said. "We make a lot of pancakes and bacon and sausage, and my family is Irish, so we make soda bread in it."
The one drawback, Stewart warns, is that you don't want to cook anything acidic in cast iron, such as wine or tomatoes, because it reacts with the metal, creating an unpleasant metallic taste or damaging the surface of the pan.
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