Techniques and Tools

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There are seven ways of cooking: boiling, roasting, broiling, sautéing, frying, stewing, and braising (which means cooking in a closed pan with less liquid than when stewing). So one can endlessly seek utensils to help one master each method. With the proliferation of shops offering intriguing items, one can collect equipment forever. But so far as traditional Provençal cooking is concerned, it requires no more than four pans: an earthenware poêlon, which has a handle; a poêle, or frying pan; a fait-tout, a deep casserole made of cast iron, copper, or earthenware, which can be tightly closed; and a tian for gratin dishes.

There are basically only two techniques in Southern French cuisine: one is sautéing in oil; the other is simmering over a low flame. The first is quick and decisive—meat or vegetables are quickly seared over high heat in order to seal in the juices and therefore the natural flavor. The second method involves slow cooking, which tenderizes the meat and vegetables as they simmer in liquid in a covered pot or pan.
In addition, there are special techniques that I mention elsewhere in the book, such as making pasta, preserves, and so on; I have chosen to describe these in connection with specific recipes.

The equipment to prepare my repertory of dishes is not very extensive. I have a plain functional kitchen which looks and feels like a kitchen. It is honest and practical. My herbs are in glass jars and I never keep them more than a year. Sugar, flour, and rice are in big Pyrex containers on an easy-to-reach shelf above the working counter. I keep vegetables and fruits in wide baskets. The grater, sieve, kitchen shears, Mouli food mill, and wire whisk hang on pegs on the wall. The mortar and pestle are within easy reach. I have an assortment of pretty baskets in which I serve beignets, fresh fruits, fried whitebait. I have cheerful earthenware and bright paper napkins for socca, beignets, snails. I serve wine in glass pitchers, water in earthenware pitchers, and oil and vinegar in individual glass cruets.

The following is a list of the basic equipment in my kitchen—equipment that I use constantly in preparing Niçois and Provençal dishes.

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