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January 16th,
2013
written by Arthur

Mise en place: the French phrase literally meaning “everything in place.”  If you’ve watched Top Chef, Chopped, Iron Chef, or any in the litany of cooking shows out there you’ve heard those words.  Its kitchen and chef talk for what you have when you’ve prepared and arranged all your ingredients for whatever it is you’re going to cook.

A bit back, at a work happy hour, I was talking with some co-workers about cooking and one mentioned that his wife has started “setting everything out before cooking like on the shows.”  When I mentioned I do the same, I got some weird looks and a couple “whys.”  I had to think for a second on the why.

I haven’t always done this, but over time just slowly started.  A few months back, I was able to pick-up, on the cheap, some nested bowls, ranging from a couple of teaspoons to huge, and really got into the preparation.  Over time, I just realized that the setup actually makes the cooking process quicker and easier.  But, most importantly, mise en place forces me to read the recipe through, think about what I’m going to do, and check a recipe for any gaps.

The last point can be critical for new recipes.  A few weeks, I tried a recipe from PinetrestA relatively simple pasta sauce recipe that looked simple to take on.   The problem? The recipe didn’t list retained pasta water in the ingredient list or mention until after I would have discarded it.  I was saved by the mise en place; by looking over the recipe and preparing I was ready for the curve ball thrown at me.

I may not need to worry about my mise en place when I’m making a dish I know and love well, but, when exploring the new or making the complex having everything, in its place is a winning strategy.

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