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Old 08-29-2005, 06:55 AM   #1
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Mise en place - 'getting your mess in place'!

What do you do to prepare a recipe? Some simple hints and preparation can make your cooking experience a lot more pleasurable!

#1 on my list is READ THE RECIPE ALL THE WAY THROUGH!!!! There's nothing like getting halfway through a list or instructions and realizing you've not shopped for an ingredient, or forgot to set the oven temp or chill the bowls. Gather the 'tools' you'll need, including measuring cups and spoons; was looking for a measuring cup once and discovered that DH (!) had taken it to the garage to fill the oil tank in the lawn mower!!

Once you've read the recipe, break it out into sections, especially if it's a complicated one. For instance, if the recipe calls for say, sauteed onions; slice your onions first, get them going over the stove - you don't have to stand over them and watch them caramelize; move on to your other prep. Measure, sift, chop, shred, and have everything ready in premeasured amounts, so you can follow the recipe along.

If it's a really complicated recipe, you might even see what you can prep the day before. If it's a baking recipe, make sure you've gotten your eggs and other dairy out of the fridge to bring it up to room temp before you start.

Cleaning up as you go is a great habit to get into! For instance, while the cake is in the oven, rinse/wash your bowls, and - then - start getting your frosting ready.

If it's a whole dinner you're preparing, especially a 'company' dinner - I like to write down the menu, and break it out into sections; how long will this cook? What sauces/dressings, etc can I make the day before? Then, as you complete each item, cross it out. This is an old cater's tool; I've had prep lists cover an entire wall, and when you're that busy, it's the only way to go! But it works just as well for Thanksgiving dinner, or a great party meal.

What are some of your tips to ensure you've got your 'mess in place'?

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Old 08-29-2005, 09:03 AM   #2
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You mentioned just about everything.

One thing I've done in the past, is in how I type a recipe out. Instead of just listing ingredients, I would list a few, do a double-return, then list some more. I.e., on my recipe for Marchand du Vin, instead of listing:

3 strips bacon, cut into lardons
c chopped green onions
c chopped yellow onions
t minced garlic
c sliced mushrooms
2 T + 2 t flour
1 c beef stock
c red wine
T Worcestershire sauce
1 t thyme
1 T butter
c parsley, chopped

I would list it as:

3 strips bacon, cut into lardons

c chopped green onions
c chopped yellow onions
t minced garlic

c sliced mushrooms

2 T + 2 t flour

1 c beef stock
c red wine
T Worcestershire sauce
1 t thyme

1 T butter
c parsley, chopped

I start is the bacon, when it's done, remove the bacon, and add both onions and the garlic. Then the mushrooms. Flour after that, followed by the stock, wine, Worcestershire, and thyme. Finally, finish off the heat with the butter and parsley.

I did this so that just by looking at the way ingredients were listed, I knew immediately what I could prep and store in the same container.
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Old 08-29-2005, 09:09 AM   #3
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Good tip, Allen. That would be a big help when doing your mise en place.
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Old 08-29-2005, 11:04 AM   #4
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absolutely...especially for a complicated series of dishes for a big meal (thanksgiving) or party.

put your recipes in order of assemblage

do all your choppings etc measureing etc and so forth

the mise en place is such an improtant part of the kitchen scene.
organize and attune your mind to the task

then cook and enjoy your success.
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Old 08-29-2005, 03:47 PM   #5
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Great idea, Allen! Wish I woulda thought of it eons earlier, before I had a zillion recipes on the 'puter!
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Old 08-29-2005, 05:06 PM   #6
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Totally agree with Marmalady about clean as you go.

We have a relatively small kitchen. Before we start cooking we make sure the dishwasher is empty. Then as we use a cutting board, knife, pot, plate, you name it, we give it a quick wash in the sink and put it in the dishwasher.

If we need said item again, we give it another fast but thorough wash and use it again.

If there is a break in the action, and the dishwasher is getting a bit full, we let it run through a cycle and put the clean stuff away before starting again.

Have garbage bags open and ready and are always cleaning while we are cooking.

This method keeps the sink empty and does not leave a major mess when the cooking is done, heck, usually we have little clean up to do.

At least it seems to work for us.
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Old 08-29-2005, 06:49 PM   #7
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Another good thing is to have all your garnishes done ahead next your serving plates or platters all your serving utensils, carving knives etc laid out you dont want to look for anything when you are finally putting the whole thing together.
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Old 08-29-2005, 08:50 PM   #8
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Yup, I put all my serving platters out, and the utensils I need for each dish. I've even seen 'party books' recommend setting the table a day ahead, tho that seems a little impractical in most houses!
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Old 08-30-2005, 12:40 AM   #9
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Thinking ahead is definately the name of the game. As organized as all of you sound..I wish I had all of you working for me!
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Old 08-30-2005, 08:14 AM   #10
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I find reading the recipe multiple times before starting is extremely helpful. I also (at the very least) pull all the ingredients out of the fridge and cupboards before I start. I check all the containers to make sure there is enough in them. It stinks to take a quick glance and see you have a bottle of olive oil only to find out when you start to cook that there is almost nothing left in it
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