Monday, December 01, 2008
Mise En Place
Cooking lessons. Yep, we occassionally take some cooking lessons. Now...I'm a pretty good cook. I just don't like to tell anyone because then they might want to hire me. Working in a professional kitchen is a special kind of hell not covered by Dante. The thing is...well it's two things. Stagg doesn't know how to cook. And...I feel there is always something else to learn. I feel as if no matter how much you practice something or know about it...the day you aren't open-minded to learning is the day you might as well pack it in...this goes for anything, career, hobby, art, housework, cooking etc. I have been teaching Stagg some things about food and food prepration for the last couple of years but it really is great for him to get a different voice. I didn't learn to cook from one person, but rather from so many chefs and restaurants and friends and my grandmother. Franly...I can't see how someone raises a kid without teaching them how to cook...but what do I know? For me cooking and food preparation is something primal...it isn't just about the food. It's a way of learning how to work as a unit, to transmit knowledge and stories, to gain confidence with a basic need within an "ingroup". Food preparation...in my world...shouldn't be something reflecting a dictatorship or heirarchy...it is something we can all do together...especially a family!
When we take these cooking classes subjects and techniques come up that I am so used to I may not have been teaqching Stagg...so the classes are a great way to get reminders and cross checks for him, and for me. I also learn something each time...as every one has their own ways of doing things and their won experience. A cooking class is a great way to spend an afternoon!
We went to a great class last week. It was a "bloody mary brunch" and a lot of fun. Our teacher was Micah and he had a great attitude. He also brought up the concept of mise en place. This is a concept I hadn't brought up with Stagg and it was so cool to have Micah describe the process and reasons behind the concept. When I cook...I set up very special formats for myself. I have favourite kitchen tools and I have a large collection of little glass bowls for holding ingredients. Some of these glass bowls are only an inch in diameter. I usually measure everything and lay it out. For herbs and spices I fill the bowls so there is some room for tasting and adapting. We have a very small kitchen but I still find inventive ways to cook and prepare...and planning ahead with a mise en place is vital for me.
Mise en place (pronounced [miz ɑ̃n plas], literally "put in place") is a French phrase defined by the Culinary Institute of America as "everything in place", as in set up. It is used in professional kitchens to refer to the ingredients, such as cuts of meat, relishes, sauces, par-cooked items, spices, freshly chopped vegetables, and other components that a cook requires for the menu items that they expect to prepare during their shift.[
Recipes are reviewed, to check for necessary ingredients and equipment. Ingredients are measured out, washed, chopped and placed in individual bowls. Equipment such as spatulas and blenders are prepared for use, while ovens are preheated. Preparing the mise en place ahead of time allows the chef to cook without having to stop and assemble items, which is desirable in recipes with time constraints.
It also refers to the preparation and layouts that are set up and used by line cooks at their stations in a commercial or restaurant kitchen.
The concept of having everything in its place as applied to the work in a kitchen is likely to have become a staple around the time of Auguste Escoffier, who is well known for his development of the brigade system of running a kitchen.
Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain has often referred to mise en place as his religion.