Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

I just understood the idea of mise en place

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I know about mise en place in general, which in a restaurant means preparing everything ahead of time so that when the order comes, the dish is assembled rather than cooked. Someone orders french fries and a steak. The fries are not only already cut, they are partially cooked so that a brief dip in the hot fat is all that’s required to finish them off. The steak is cooked by sous vide, so it is just slapped on the grill to sear it and heat it some more. A bernaise sauce is already made, ready to be used.

And so in the kitchen I knew about doing the prep work first: getting everything chopped and into bowls, read to go into skillet or pot.

What I had not picked up on is the other part of the restaurant idea: that doing the mise en place is its own job, independent of the last-minute heating and assembly, and so you work on it when you have time—i.e., not when the restaurant is busy, when assembly is what’s happening, but before it opens.

Of course the mise en place in a restaurant must be used for many recipes/dishes. So for example there will be chopped parsley, because surely some order will require it. But at home, my mise en place for a meal means preparing on what I’m actually going to use in that meal.

I have already noticed that I like to start my meals early—getting out the pot, perhaps mincing the garlic. Then later I may just get out of the fridge all that I will need, just so I don’t forget everything. And then the chopping, etc.

Today I was sort of bored, so I went into the kitchen and made Mark Bittman’s “preserved” lemons (which need to sit) and minced the garlic (likewise). And then since this GOPM will include shredded Brussels sprouts, I thought I might as well shred them now, since it takes some time.

I trimmed the ends on all of them, then started slicing them in half lengthwise. (I find it’s more efficient to do one single step on all instances rather than doing all the steps for each instance. For example, if I will be using chapped shallots, rather than cutting the ends off a shallot, peeling it, and chopping it, I instead cut the ends off all the shallots; then I peel all the shallots; and finally I chop all the shallots.) At that point I realized, “I’m doing my mise en place, just like it says.”

Net effect: I will now work on the mise enplace earlier in the day, breaking it free of any attachment to mealtime other than content. Tom Gilb stated in his very good and interesting book Principles of Software Engineering Management the most essential principle: Early. That’s the primary principle (and of course he states it early), and I’ve gradually absorbed it and apply it in many venues. For example, if I get an assignment one day to turn in a report a month later, I will on that very day make an outline of the report, as best I can and however brief, and note in the outline what information I might need and where I might find it. In other words, break the ice immediately. Early is the rule. Apply it. And the outline can grow as you get more information and realize better what should be in the report. (And you can see why I like Workflowy.)

So now that I (finally) get it, I’m going to start work on my mise en place much, much earlier: why not, since if you start early enough you can do it in little bits: work 15 minutes, take a break, etc. (I do understand that it helps to be retired.)

Written by LeisureGuy

8 July 2017 at 3:41 pm

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