Cooks , Chefs , and Kitchen Dabblers # 1

Sep 08


My mind generally generally works as a multi- tasking entity . Food seems to always be one of the participants , along with other subjects and issues. I love the tips , tricks , and new ways to save time that I learn and maybe have a dish taste better as a result.. …and I love to learn :

When I was an apprentice chef at Le Tonneau Restaurant in Corte Madera – Marin County  (across the Golden Gate Bridge ) working under Chef Bernard Epstein , I was exposed to all sorts of time honored European restaurant kitchen traditions and practices. Some were quirky and others practical ; as I learned from Bernard –  I still have a 2 quart crock of sea salt on the counter for cooking and to put out cooking pan fires. Tradition dictates the cook grabs a big pinch of salt in the thumb and first two digits ….this natural  “tool”  now becomes your shaker ! Quick hand motions toward your bubbling pot , or perhaps some sliced vegetables to be seasoned , require one to throw measured amounts of salt until through….of course there is always some left . That salt is tossed back to the ground because what you take from Mother Earth you must always give some back!

Bernard also required that I cook with a dry towel in my left hand or close by (usually over the shoulder ) ; and a sturdy curved- tine large cook’s fork in my right hand . One picked up hot lids , pulled saute pans from the oven or put them in the oven ; generally most tasks used these as safeguards to getting one’s hands burned. A chef with a burned hand is at a major disadvantage . These practices at first were awkward , but in no time it became second nature .  Today in my kitchen at home , I still have to use these ways to cook . If you watch some cooking shows , you will see some of the European trained chefs doing similar things…most notably Wolfgang Puck (always with the towel tucked under his arm or over the shoulder ) and Jacques Pepin. One thing for sure Bernard pounded into my head ; that every pan/pot or utensil as a hot one-use a dry towel and you save your most valuable asset in the kitchen…YOUR HANDS!

Aren’t we the lucky ones ? We usually don’t have to chase down  our chickens for the pot or the frying pan! Just trundle on down to your favorite butcher , farmers market or grocery store -make your choice of a nice golden fat bird…preferably free-range and hormone/additive free. Throughout history this was not the case . Of course , those before us didn’t consider this practice a chore ; aren’t we so spoiled ? Some years past I learned a most handy practice to have chicken on hand at all times to prepare for our favorite dishes. This is especially handy for the busy household . Americans eat more chicken than any other protein…although bacon seems to be edging closer!!! Somewhere I remember this tip came from Martin Yan …. but before giving him full credit , it surely is something that a clever Chinese chef would advocate .

***Take a large pot ( 6-8 quart ) of water and bring to a full rolling boil . Take off the lid , turn off the burner ; then place your whole three to four pound chicken  (having trimmed excess fat and skin before hand ) in the pot , replace the lid and let sit for ONE (1) MINUTE . Remove the lid again, pull out the chicken( being careful to not let hot water run down you arm) and set aside on a plate. Replace the lid, turn burner on high and bring pot back to a full rolling boil . Remove the lid , put the chicken back in the pot…and making sure the water is at a rolling boil again ; replace the lid and TURN OFF THE BURNER! Let the chicken sit in the pot for ONE HOUR. When the hour is up , using tongs , remove the chicken to a plate to cool slightly. When cool enough to handle , you can now separate the meat from the bones and skin. All the meat will be fully cooked (as if by magic ) , and the bones/skin can be discarded . I often recommend to large families , to put the meat in heavy freezer zipper bags (some like to separate dark and light meat ) , press out the air and flatten the bags. The labeled bags now can take up a small amount of space in the freezer . Some folks will pull out one or two bags in the morning , put on a plate to defrost in the refrigerator to be ready for the next meal !  Now a family favorite meal can be prepped in less than one half an hour. Chicken burritos ; meat tossed with pasta , garlic, and some fresh chopped vegetables ;  added to greens and a favorite dressing and you have a delicious  chicken salad. Browned pieces quickly in a very hot cast iron pan with grids , then placed on a toasted french roll , add some shredded Gruyere cheese and maybe some sliced avocados…run it under the broiler to melt –a great toasted sub sandwich is ready to eat!!! USE YOUR IMAGINATION!


WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE QUICKY SNACK FOR BREAKFAST? Belinda Nissen prefers a big slice of COLD PIZZA  or LINGUINE MARINARA ; just about everyone I know loves a big piece of their leftover birthday cake .  I am not a fan , but some relish  digging  into a carton of cold Kung Pao Shrimp ! My roommate in the San Francisco 60’S era would eat anything that was in the refrigerator! COLD, of course ! Not every apartment kitchen came equipped with a microwaves yet. Some would not eat if it wern’t for the ” Radar Range ” . I guess that is cooking…in some form . ( I suppose.)  My favorite as a kid was a big slab of my Mother’s cold Fresh Peach cobbler in my deep cereal bowl…fill with milk- get a spoon and get out of my way!

What is your FAVORITE quick snack for breakfast ? Let me know.






  1. I know you hate mine already. I always have a jar of homemade granola on the counter that I have for breakfast with goat milk yogurt. Yuck!!

    • Don’t hate it Kiddo…just not going to be joining you . Personally , I like granola , but w/out nuts. Goats milk yogurt over sliced nectarines and blueberries drizzled with honey…YUM!

  2. I worked at LeTonneau myself in the cocktail lounge in the late 60’s, early 70’s with Angelo Camillairi and John and was looking up Bernard to see if I could find him anywhere and although I never worked the kitchen, I remember his teachings and your comments brought back old memories. I still use everyday, two oval plates he gave me from the restaurant cabinet. One of them is in the oven now warming up. Small world.

  3. Hi – Late-Just trying to catch up… My favorite is usually traditional eggs, etc.. I know. But I like my eggs- any way you cook them. If I I lived in Portland :-) I would be at La Provence often! :-)

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