Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mise En Place

Literally this French term means "things in place" (meese in plas)- the preparation and assembly of ingredients, pans, utensils, and plates or serving dishes needed for a particular dish, or meal period. TPC 8th edition

We focus pretty heavily on the term mise en place in professional kitchens. an unorganized kitchen will go down faster than you can possibly imagine, and all it takes is for one person to not be on their A-game to throw a service into a shambles. i remember long, long ago, i was just a boy helping my mother in the kitchen and we had just started to fry chicken, and i asked her if i should start heating the beans and she explained that one of the hardest things to do as a cook was to time dishes out so everything is done at the same time. i will never forget where i was standing in the kitchen when she told me that. it was if a light went on in my head. at that moment, while i would love to say i decided that my life calling was to cook, it would be a bold lie. i did learn an important lesson, and i was intrigued. suddenly everything in the kitchen took on a new meaning. i was fascinated, asking question after question about which to start first, potatoes or chicken, etc. i realized that cooking at home wasn't as easy as my mother made it out to be. all of this ties into the term mise en place. the preparing of equipment and ingredients is as, if not more important than the cooking of them. meats should be salted and tempered to room temperature before they are cooked, and rested afterward, vegetables should be cleaned, dried, trimmed, and prepped before the pan is on the stove. in a home kitchen as well as in a professional kitchen it is important to look at making a meal with a schedule. take the time to organize yourself. use your best judgment to estimate how long things will take and when your target eating time is, and follow accordingly. if you cook a variety of foods, and do this for a week, you will very soon get a better understanding of the effects of time and temperature.

often the task of feeding multiple people at a banquet falls on my shoulders at work, and if i can focus on my "place" then there isn't a reason that i cant cook for 200 ppl alone (granted i have plenty of help to transport food and do the dishes- the dishes alone would make most grown men cry)it is far less skill then it is organization. i know when meats have to be pulled, i know how long it will take to heat beans i blanched earlier, how long it will take to roast new potatoes, etc. i know exactly when i should be ready to go with the food, and what to do if something goes wrong. luckily it was taught to me at a very early age and is one of those things that stuck with me. in the professional kitchen we have created many tools to help to get our place done and organized. prep lists are made and hung, produce is cleaned and prepped, proteins are trimmed and portioned, starches are steamed, boiled, and roasted. no one wants to hear that we are out of rice at 8 on a Saturday night, cause it means someone dropped the ball. keep your knives sharp and your pencil (for your list) sharper.

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