It’s a familiar mantra: mise en place saves time. But this advice often comes from professional chefs or TV personalities who have a small army of prep cooks eager to wash and chop the day’s ingredients and place them in tiny bowls. Pete Wells of the New York Times argues that recipes should acknowledge the realities of the amateur cook at home. Is it time to end “the tyranny of mise en place”?
Wells writes that he used to be ashamed of the haphazard nature of his weeknight cooking. Assembling his ingredients before starting is a no-brainer.
But the next step in a proper mise en place — the knife work — trips me up. I run out of space on the cutting board. I run out of patience. I run out of time. I’m hungry and I want everything to move faster. So with only half the chopping done, I start to heat the pan. With that, the train has left the station, and I am swinging by one hand from the back of the caboose.
He turns to cookbook author and former cooking show host Sara Moulton for support. Her new book weaves prepping instructions into the text of the recipes, an unusual but practical approach appreciated by any busy cook who has learned to seed the tomatoes while the meat is browning.
• Read the article: Cooking With Dexter: Prep School - The New York Times
The article made us realize that although mise en place is essential for certain dishes like stir-fries, many of our favorite quick weeknight recipes are so quick because we’ve learned how to maximize cooking time, prepping and cleaning as we go.
What’s your approach? Do you ready all your ingredients before you start or do you sneak in prep while you cook?
Related: Basic Technique: Mise en Place
(Image: Flickr member wickenden licensed under Creative Commons)