As I was making our Saturday morning eggs today, I got to thinking about learning to cook. More specifically, about what I think may be one of the most important things to learn in cooking, something that can take you from being a novice, to being a great cook. Three words: Mise En Place. All mise en place means is “to put in place.” In other words, gather and prepare everything you need. Have you ever started in on a recipe to get part way through and realize you needed to marinate something first or maybe peel the potatoes or maybe you are missing a key ingredient. So now you are stuck hurrying to clean them while you hope whatever you have in the pan doesn’t burn. By prepping ahead of time, you can be much more efficient. Why do you think cooking shows make things look so easy? When you have done all the tedious work ahead of time, you can make any recipe look easy!
I realized this morning that this is something I do now for things as simple as scrambled eggs. It has become a natural step for me. When you have a complicated recipe like beef bourguignon, or an elaborate layer cake, it makes sense to gather all your ingredients, but for eggs? Well, if you have all of your veggies chopped, garlic minced, eggs beaten, when you heat your pan, all you have to do is throw things in. You won’t be running to the fridge (or the store) to grab one more thing you desperately need. I even set up my kitchen in a way that some of my mise en place is always accessible. Things like olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and spices are always close at hand so I can grab them whenever I need them.
This concept also translates really well to prepping for your week. Remember when we talked about menu planning? I often go one step further and prep parts of my dinner recipes for the week. For example, I might slice and marinate my beef for stir fry, cook chicken ahead to throw in salad or tacos, blanch green beans. It is a way of putting parts of your mise en place together before you even need it, making you weeknight cooking much easier! I know when I walk in the door after a long day; I can usually still find a way to pull together a great meal when all I have to do is finish everything. If I don’t prep ahead there is a good chance I will just be grabbing take out on the way home.
Mary has always done this, especially when we know we need to make a bunch of things at once. You can always lay out dry ingredients separate from wet ingredients ahead of time and come back to them later. This is just one more way to make cooking much easier!
Do you have shortcuts that help you in the kitchen?