Monday, February 28, 2011

Mise, Please

In the past few years as a housewife, I think I have grown to become a pretty competent little home cook. I can chop like a champ, whip like a whiz, and  puree like a pro. The one thing that took the longest to master, though, and that I still mess up every now and then, is timing everything so that it all is finished at the same time. Inevitably, the salmon sits out getting cold or, worse, overcooked, while I wait for the potatoes to bake through.
One strategy I have learned to combat this, is using the technique of mise en place. "Mise en place" is french for "put in place" and refers to "having all the ingredients necessary for a dish prepared and ready to combine up to the point of cooking" (thanks, Epicurious). Like in a cooking show, when the host has everything all chopped and measured in little bowls in front of them, and all they have to do is throw them together. Haven't you always wished you could cook like that? Well, you can!

When you are cooking dinner, even just for yourself, don't just flip on the stove and dive right in. Slow down, take stock of what you'll need, and get everything organized in front of you, so it's all easily reached and ready to go at just the right moment. Dice the herbs, slice the veggies, and measure all the spices into a bowl. Because I work from home, sometimes I will chop the onions or slice the carrots in the middle of the day, and cover and set them aside for dinner. If you invest in a set of small dishes, like these  Pyrex containers with lids, $14, from Amazon.com, you can take things right from the fridge to the stove. You can even lay out the pots and pans you will be using. It may seem like this will produce an unnecessary number of extra dishes, but if you are smart, and combine ingredients that can be added at the same time, and reuse bowls, you'll be surprised at how much work it saves you in the long run. I keep a small bowl of chopped parsley in my fridge at all times- I pull it out and use it over the course of a week, saving myself precious herb-chopping time every week.

You'll be amazed at how much more fun cooking is when you aren't scrambling to mince the garlic before the sauce burns on the stove- you will truly feel like the star of your own cooking show. It's up to you whether you want to narrate your actions into an imaginary camera as you go, like I do. Bam!


Top photo: Ranger Mike Designs

7 comments:

DesertHen said...

I have tried to cook like this for years, but I had never thought of prechopping my herbs and keeping them in containers in the fridge. Great tip! Thanks!

Muffy said...

This is a great idea. While I have been told I'm a terrific cook, nothing upsets me more than biting into a hot meal and finding a side dish cold. UGH! I'll have to try your technique!

Ashley Foote said...

Glad to see you're back! We've missed your tips!

Brittany said...

Yay, a new post! :) Thanks for the tip. I frequently have issues with half the meal hot and ready and the other half cooling down, so this is super relevant. I may have to invest in those Pyrex containers. They sure look handy!

Sarah from 20somethingcupcakes said...

A very good point! I used to get overly excited and dive right in without thinking about my mise en place - it's almost as bad as starting to cook without reading the recipe through. Just discovered you through Bon Appetit, nice to meet you today!

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The Reedy River Recessionista said...

You are so right about this! I have about 15 ramekins in my kitchen which seems a little excessive, but they make my prep and cooking SO much easier! I'm a new follower, and I can't wait to read more posts and get more tips.