Monday, September 1, 2008

Alex's Rule of Cooking #1

As you have probably figured out by now, I'm a big nerd who likes to read cookbooks for fun. However, reading through recipes has given me plenty of knowledge when it comes to cooking. The most important thing when trying to cook anything is to be prepared, which leads us to Alex's Rule of Cooking #1: Always have your mise-en-place ready before you start cooking.

What is mise-en-place, you ask? It's French for "everything in place", and its the first step to being an ass-kicking, name-taking home gourmet. Here's how to achieve mise-en-place nirvana:

1) Read through your recipe at least twice, because many recipes have hidden ingredients written into the method that may not necessarily be in the initial list (this is usually water, salt and pepper, but you don't want to be fumbling for a measuring cup of water when your pot is in serious need of deglazing - have the stuff premeasured!).

2) Have all your ingredients measured and prepped and ready to go. I am a sucker for small, stainless-stell prep bowls, and I've got something like 20 of them in various sizes. Not only can your ingredients be measured out and ready to go, but then can be mixed as needed according to your recipe. Here's a picture of my setup for the soboro that I cooked this morning:

In this picture (clockwise, from the left), I've got the ever-tasty meatloaf mix of beef, pork and veal, the Asian trinity of ginger, garlic and scallions, sesame oil, soy sauce & oyster sauce, sake and sugar. Why not put the aromatics in the same bowl if they're all added at the same time? The same goes for the soy and oyster sauces.

3) Have everything within reach, especially if you're doing quick cooking over high heat. There's nothing worse than having to walk away from the skillet to grab a forgotten ingredient, which will lead to a scorched pan, for sure. It also maintains your organization and allows you to focus on the cooking rather than the ingredients.

Trust me, mise-en-place is your friend. Get everything all set before you turn your stove on, and you'll be preparing meals twice as good and twice as fast as you did in the past.


Kristin said...

I'm so glad you have started this blog. It is giving me some good ideas. I told Eric last night that I need prep bowls and now I decided I need a cuisinart.