Mise en Place

Mise en Place

If you go to culinary school one of the first things you’ll learn is something called, “Mise’ en Place.”  This French term, when translated roughly means “everything in place.”  Or, more to the point, “preparation.”  Most of today’s culinary terms and chef lingo are in French because the foundation for modern cooking practices originated in France many years ago.This is by far one of the most important elements to being a successful home cook, never mind a restaurant chef.

Being organized and well prepared will not only increase the odds of pulling off a wicked meal, but it’ll save you a giant headache and an even bigger mess to clean up afterward.

Here are some standard “Mise ‘en Place” things to consider and this doesn’t include the obvious, like thawing your meat in advance.  The first thing I do is write a list of what I’m cooking, including side dishes, gravies, sauces, garnishes… the whole deal.  I write a separate list for what needs to go on the table.  It’s a pain in the ass to have to get up three times during your meal because you “forgot” something like butter, salad dressing or even something simple, like BBQ sauce.All vegetables are washed and sliced, diced or chopped in advance.  Meat is marinating too, if required.

Before you start any cooking, all prep work should be done, so when it comes time to put it all together all you’ll have to do is basic assembly work for the most part.  If you’ll need soft butter while cooking, take a pound out of the refrigerator early enough so you’ll have it when you need it.  And, have it unwrapped and sitting in a dish so it’s easy to work with when you need it.  If you need eggs at room temperature, get them out too.  Writing out lists is the key to all of this preparation.

Once I was making a huge meal of Italian food for twelve guests and as I was getting ready to serve I decided it was time make the garlic bread since it only takes a minute or two.  But, then I realized that I had forgotten to make the garlic butter.  I had forgotten to add it to my list.  So, with everything else pretty much ready to go, I had to soften some more butter (which was rock hard,) peel and chop some garlic, add the dry herbs and then – put it all together and broil the bread.  I even had to slice the ciabatta rolls, which of course should have been done several hours earlier.  Meanwhile, the main dish was sitting around for an extra ten minutes or so.  Luckily it was a dish that “holds” well.  But, this last minute “Oops, I forgot something” bullshit was stupid.

“Pound ‘er down!”

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