Monday, May 07, 2007

Mise En Place

Which means, roughly, "all my stuff in its place" (literally translated it means "setting in place" or "installation in place"). It's a term cooks use for the setup they cook with.

Most experienced cooks develop a layout and a group of seasonings, oils, sauces, spices etc... that they like to have around; preferably in the same spot and same arrangement every time you cook; so that when you need to reach for something quickly, it's immediately to hand.

If you're lucky you can find bottles and jars and a tray that can hold it all conveniently; and can be easily moved around from workstation to workstation.

Now, what's in it... and this is a HIGHLY personal thing to different cooks, some of whom don't want to tell anyone their "secrets", but I really think that's silly.

My mise contains:

  1. Bacon Grease
  2. Tabasco sauce
  3. Franks Red Hot
  4. Soy sauce (natural brewed)
  5. Light olive oil
  6. Cider vinegar
  7. Malt vinegar
  8. Red wine vinegar
  9. Pepper grinder (fresh black peppercorns)
  10. Lemon juice (for when I want to deglaze or summat, and don't want to use fresh)
  11. Steak sauce (I make my own, but I use an A1 base)
  12. BBQ sauce (I make my own with molasses, coffee, maple syrup, tomato paste, brown sugar, franks red hot, mustard, and various spices)
  13. Blended natural wasabi, horseradish, and mustard powder
  14. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  15. Balsamic vinegar
  16. 1lb of softened butter
  17. Onion salt
  18. Cumin
  19. Cracked black mustard seed
  20. Chinese hot mustard (ground)
  21. Celery salt
  22. Chili oil
  23. Dijon mustard
  24. Cayenne powder
  25. Kosher salt
  26. Smoked spanish paprika
  27. Garlic powder
  28. Turmeric
  29. Kosher salt
  30. Oregano (dried)
  31. Basil (dried)
  32. Rosemary (dried)
  33. Rhyme (dried)
  34. Parsley (dried)
  35. Sage (dried)
  36. Crushed red pepper
  37. Pickled peppercorns
At my workstation I of course have my knife, two cutting boards, various measuring cups and spoons, an instant read and a probe thermometer, a bowl of fresh garlic, and a magnetic spice tin rack with the spices and dried herbs

A cooks workstation, is their preparation and cooking area, including their mise, and everything surrounding it, and this is my workstation:

It's a basic four burner hooded range, with a wall oven next to it. Theres a pullout counter under the countertop where the mise tray is sitting.

When I'm cooking, the mise itself sits on the bottom shelf of the cabinet above it; leaving the counter space clear for staging and prep work. I usually have a cutting board there for prep.

Oh, and side towels, lots and lots of side towels. I always tell Mel to buy plain white ones (because they can be bleached), but for some reason she keeps insisting on buying patterns and colors. Ehhh women.

The fridge is off to the right, and the sink, microwave, another work counter, the other wall cabinets, and the stand mixer station are all right behind my primary workplace.

There's a principle in kitchen design called the "work triangle" which is a triangle between your cooking station, your food storage, and your prep station; with easy access to all three, and good lighting. I've got a pretty good work triangle here.

All the small appliances are either on the counter (out of the way of the workspace), or directly under it. All the pans and bowls are in easy reach under the counters.

There is also a walk in pantry with full height wall shelving (actually Ikea Gorm utility shelving, which works great), and a water cooler in it (also the washing machine and dryer, and a space that will hold a chest freezer by the end of next month.).

Overall, it's a good place to work; though a bit smaller than I'd like. The fridge is a bit too small (and not very cold), and I'd also prefer to have a gas range and a double oven. Other than that though, it's a great place to cook.