Now, pls. don't think that I'm just throwing out some fancy French terminology coz I wanna impress everybody. After all, I am a Chef and that's what Chefs do. No, we are your friend and we come in peace...Now, take me to your leader...lol. Anyway, Mis en place, pronounced as MEEZ ahn plahs, means is to have all your ingredients prepared and ready to go before you start cooking. Translation: “to put in place.”
How many times have you opened the fridge and not know what to cook? Although you swear you bought the entire supermarket, still you seem somewhat lost. You’ve always dreaded the question,” What’s for dinner?” But then you've always managed to come up with something, but not after spending hours of labor on a hopefully lovely dinner for you or your family. Then you say to yourself, how is cooking enjoyable when it seems like a trap? Well then, let me enlighten you.
I am such a stickler for being well organized. I believe that the ultimate Mis en Place starts before you hop into your car and drive to the supermarket purchasing just about anything that you can stuff into your refrigerator. Then, you realized that you're only repeating the same problem all over again due to lack of planning. Over all, this can be extremely wasteful and frustrating. My wise professor had put it very well saying, "...you can never underestimate the importance of a mis en place..."
So, the road to an enjoyable cooking is to have a pen and paper and list down the dishes that you plan to cook. It may also help to read some cooking magazines or watch those cooking shows on TV for ideas. You know we have plenty of those. Once you've decided what you have an appetite for, for a week at least, which for me is most ideal, then, BAM! You’ve got yourself an outline of what to write on your shopping list. Did I just say BAM?
Now, let's assume that you've already done your shopping and you're now ready to work in your kitchen. This is the mis en place proper. Here is where you're actually preparing most, if not all of your ingredients for the dishes planned. For instance, if you're thinking of making beef stew. Go ahead and chop those Bell peppers and celeries. Then, neatly store then individually in a plastic container or zipper bags to be refrigerated. This is also a perfect reason to recycle those old empty jars to store your pre-minced garlic. Remember that you may also chop, mince and or julienne some onions for other use later on. Keep in mind that the amount of each of these items to be "prepped" should be in accordance to what you need based on your overall menu. If you think that you'll need three once of "minced" onions for an omelet and five to sauté’ your ingredients for a pureed soup, then you'll have to prepare eight ounces of minced onions and so on. Get the picture?
Mince, chop and cut. The same applies with meat items. If you like buying in bulk, it's always best to portion them accordingly before freezing. It's not a good practice to thaw or defrost the whole tray of meat....or chicken for that matter, then throw the rest back into the freezer. Not only does this give bacterias an opportunity to grow but affects the quality of meat as well.
Wash, portion then pack. Oh, did I also mention recycle earlier? Yeah, those old mayonnaise jars are great containers for make ahead soups like tomato soup. Remember to sterilize and dry them well. Mis en place is how restaurants and those celebrity Chefs do it. Hmmm....! No wonder Martha Stewart don't ever get sweaty. She, of course, has an army of assistant chefs and you'll just have to work harder… (kidding). But that's fine. Don't go crazy changing the way you manage your kitchen in one day. With practice, patience and planning you'll find that your work in the kitchen will become better and more enjoyable.