Food Mills

Tellier Food Mill

In 1947 Frenchman Louis Tellier invented the commercial food mill, and it changed the world of cooking. Hours of labor were changed into a few cranks of a handle–I should add that he also invented the french fry cutter that many people use. If you’re like me, and hate cleaning all the little fiddly parts of a food processor, the manual food mill is an excellent alternative or addition. 

Why this is something of an exotic tool in US kitchens is a mystery, as even the French made food mills are inexpensive and incredibly simple. Put the appropriate milling disk in, pop in the hand cranked milling masher thingy, and go at it. That’s it. Three parts that lead to great food, from mashed or riced potatoes to pie fillings to any puree that you can imagine.

Milling Plates for a Tellier Food Mill

There are things a food mill can’t do that a food processor can, like making bread crumbs, but try getting the seeds out of a tomato or other fruit with a food processor. It also isn’t necessary to go the full commercial route: Moulinex makes an excellent stainless small sized food mill in France. 

Moulinex Food Mill

Food mills are not just for making baby food. Buying one will change the way you cook, and look at food.

Chicken Sauté a la Créole

Great cookbook, or greatest cookbook? The latest reprint is available from Amazon.

I have made the following recipe from this cookbook literally more than a hundred times. Here’s what the Times Picayune had to say about it, when it is made properly:

You will then have a dish for which any old Creole would go on foot from Carrollton to the Barracks, a distance of fifteen miles, merely to get a taste of.

And now this is the modern version, that doesn’t require two whole chickens or two large onions. It’s for two people.

1 Chicken Breast

1/2 Onion

1/2 Sweet Pepper

1 Clove Garlic

1 Tablespoon Peanut Oil

1 Tablespoon Flour

1 Pint of Tomatoes

White Wine for de-glazing

Salt and Pepper

Thyme and Oregano

Heat the oil in a thick cast iron skillet, and add the flour. It’s time to make a roux! That’s what thickens the Creole sauce. I’m channeling Marcelle Bienvenu, who wrote another great cookbook, Who’s Your Mama, Are You Catholic, and Can You Make a Roux?

A “blonde” roux is preferable for this dish, so stir the flour until it browns only slightly. Add the chicken and let it brown nicely. A bone in, skin on, breast is preferred

When the chicken is browned, add the onions and pepper, which should be finely diced. When they are softened, add the garlic. Then de-glaze the pan with white wine.

Now it’s time for a little technique: milling tomatoes, using the finest insert that comes with the food mill. 

Moulinex #1 Food Mill

Truthfully, this step is optional, but the end result is a seed free sauce of superior texture and taste. It doesn’t hurt to have some home canned, locally grown, tomatoes to mill, as pictured. Just crank the tomatoes right over the skillet. I’ll do a deep dive into food mills eventually–they are a French invention, and the best ones are still made there.

Once the tomatoes are milled, season with salt, pepper, and herbs. Once the sauce is simmering, put a lid on the skillet and turn it down to the lowest setting possible, the lower, the better. Just add water or stock as it cooks down. In forty minutes or so, you have a dish worth walking fifteen miles for. And that is just to taste it.

Growing Citrus in the Central South

Key Limes

Key Lime and Meyer Lemon, grown north of Birmingham, Alabama.

Our latitude here may be more or less the same as northern Morocco and Libya, but it still gets nice and cold. The hardiest citrus plants would still survive outside during the winter, but the problem is that the fruit would not. Who wants that? The answer is growing in pots, aka containers.

The advice here is simple: buy the largest size container you can handle, and then get a plant trolley/buggy to wheel them around with. I made my own out of pressure treated pine. We wheel our plants in in November and put them outside in April. The honeybees love the blooms, and can locate them within minutes of putting the plants outside. It’s almost scary.

Our favorite varieties are the Key Lime pictured, Satsuma Mandarin Oranges, and Meyer Lemon. Year in and out the Meyer is the best, though it is really a hybrid between lemons and oranges. Even in a container it has enormous fruit.

You can also underplant your citrus with something like Christmas Cactus, to make it more decorative.