Sunday, January 18, 2009

Deep Thought: Mise en place


I think that if there is any one thing that distinguishes a happy cook from one who is constantly frazzled (of course there is no one thing) it is in manner in which we approach the act of cooking. A contented cook makes sure that everything is put into place before any real cooking occurs. All of the ingredients are cut, apportioned and arranged in the order in which they will be cooked so that once the cooking commences, everything falls into place at the appropriate moment. It is out of the frisson of order that the joy of cooking occurs. There is no way to find contentment in cooking if its prelude is not orderly.
The photo shows the partial mise en place (total mise en place would include pots, pans etc.) for a meal that I cooked for my family on 1.12.09. The apple is incongruous and was not used in this meal.
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9 comments:

Cd said...

Bob,

Putting a photo of the lovely ingredients and not going into more detail about what you did with them is just wrong.

Your intended point is well taken, but throw us a bone...

-Cd

Andrew said...

Getting the Mise done ahead of starting the dish is vital for the professional. The cook at home also needs to realise that it is vital for them as well if they aren't so confident in the way a dish will progress. Their performance will be greatly improved by spending some time thinking about what needs to be done and when.

I have worked in a few kitchens and love cooking at home so have become very comfortable with the progression of what happens when during the cooking of most things sitting on my stove or in my oven. Trying to get this across to my wife who isn't as happy in the kitchen as me is a struggle sometimes.

The advice to get organised before you start is, for me, as important as having a decent knife to chop with.

By the way, your YouTube link has a trailing '/' that needs to be removed.

Simon said...

I have never worked in a professional kitchen before and never quite understood the whole mise en place thing until a few years ago. I kept reading Bourdain and Rulhman rant on mise en place and finally got it. I like to think I am a decent home cook but before I started organizing my things properly I would always get in trouble, nothing really bad but just enough to spoil the enjoyment of cooking and not getting the results that you wish for. I hosted two dinners at my place this weekend and everything went perfectly because of a good mise en place.

Quick question: I have some scraps of foie gras remaining for the dinners this weekend, perhaps 150 grams of it. Any idea what to do with them? I could freeze them and wait until I have enough scraps to make a torchon but that could take years... Perhaps as an insert in a duck liver terrine? Any other idea?

Bob del Grosso said...

Simon
This is pretty decadent but you could mount the scraps into a sauce. For example: roast a chicken, deglaze the roast pan with wine and stock; strain and degrease; reduce the "fond" until it looks almost rich enough to be sauce; set aside half of the reduction. Lower the heat and whisk in the foie gras (Do not boil!!!!) until an emulsion is produced.

At this point you can loosen it up with more fond, add herbs whatever. (You could make a similar sauce for any meat.)

If that is too fussy, just grill up some steak and put the foie on top just before service. Beurre aux foie gras (compound butter with foie) is another option.

rockandroller said...

I think this was probably one of the first things my Mom drilled into me when I was a little kid watching her cook. I'm certain she's never heard of "mise en place" but from a practicality standpoint for a "seat of the pants" daily home cook, it's essential - if you don't have all the ingredients you need or want to make what you have in mind, you can still find time to go get them, or do something else. I hardly bake, but this past weekend I wanted brownies and got everything out to make them and then realized we were nearly completely out of sugar (who runs out of SUGAR?), I only had about half of what I needed. Weather sucked so instead of going out I decided to just put in some honey instead to make up for it, and they came out just fine and as tasty as ever. As an amateur home cook, that's why getting my mise in order is important.

philintexas said...

Ah Bob Dog! A point well taken re: the physical but what about the mental? Isn't a calm mind needed? Certainly it is desired. For me calm begins with knowing the recipe. I am trying to teach my teenagers to memorize the recipe first. (Any suggestions on teaching teenagers? :) Returning again and again to read a recipe turns cooking into drudgery.--Phil

Bob del Grosso said...

philintexas,
Sorry man, no can do. Teenagers cannot be taught anything by their parents. You might try rewarding them with beer. On second thought, scratch that idea.
The best thing to do is to put an ad out for a teen that knows how to read recipes before cooking and have him teach them.

:-)

Bob del Grosso said...

Cd
Sorry.

I sauteed the salmon (no flouring, just S&P) in grape seed oil, removed it then deglazed the pan with white wine, added the lemon zest, capers, a squeeze of lemon and parsley.

The vegetables were sauteed with olive oil and the potatoes and the potatoes were re-baked. Nothing fancy, just a typical family meal.

Bob del Grosso said...

Andrew,
Could you be more specific about the problem with YouTube. Perhaps you could email me at my gmail address. It's my name at gmail. Thanks!