Have you ever found yourself in the kitchen and suddenly realized that the heat has been turned up (more than figuratively)?
One minute you’re sipping a glass of wine and casually chopping a few vegetables while some olive oil warms up on the flame, and suddenly you realize your timing is all off and everything needs to hit that oil rightthisminute and you’re completely unprepared.
I’m not a fan of this sort of cooking-induced panic, but fortunately, the French have a solution! We all know I’m a sucker for anything French-inspired, so this should come as no surprise. In fact, this is really a common practice of chefs and good home cooks everywhere, but the French way of saying it sounds far more oh-la-la.
The phrase is “mise en place” (mees ahn plahs), and it translates as “putting in place.” More simply, it’s a fancy way of saying a place for everything and everything in its place. But in the kitchen, it has more to do with prep and pre-flame organization.
It’s the idea that prepping all ingredients before turning on that unforgiving flame will ensure that the cooking process flows smoothly, and that you don’t find yourself knee-deep in a recipe only to realize that you don’t have a crucial ingredient. Not that this sort of thing has ever happened to me, of course.
In most chef’s kitchens, you’ll find “prep bowls” or “mise en place” bowls, and they are extremely handy – not to mention a perfect excuse to buy a bunch of cute bowls! (What can I say, I’m an enabler…)
The perfect scenario for using mise en place is omelette-making, because it moves fast and you’re basically functioning as a short-order cook.
You’ve got to whisk the eggs, pour them in pan, add each omelette-eater’s preferred ingredients in a time-sensitive manner, flip, serve and repeat.
This all goes *much* more smoothly when diced onions, tomatoes, various cheeses, spinach etc. are all conveniently prepped for adding to the eggy dance.
Give it a whirl on your next omelette morning or semi-complex dinner prep. Heck, I find it helpful for my quickie “cheater pasta sauce,” which is a weekday staple at our house.
And if you need a little inspiration for a dreamy, organized kitchen, check out this article from the Kitchn on the most gorgeous mise en place work table ever and this photo of the kitchen at Biltmore Estate from our recent trip… le sigh.
Bonus: having an array of attractive bowls in varying sizes comes in handy for all sorts of kitchen uses, like setting out a smörgåsbord of bread, cheese, nuts, fruit, olives and other treats.
Now… off you go to find some cute new bowls!
P.S. one of my favorite mise en place bowls is a cafe au lait bowl I picked up while living in Dijon, France in the 90s. You can find bowls just like it (as well as miniature versions that are perfect prep bowls) on Amazon! I also like these tiny stainless steel prep bowls and these sturdy, stackable, clear glass bowls. My absolute favorites are the red fluted bowls above – these are similar – but I also love these pinch bowls. Having trouble narrowing it down? Ramekins serve a dual purpose for cute little quiches and flans while doubling as prep bowls!
P.P.S. while writing this post, I came across a book called Work Clean: The life-changing power of mise-en-place to organize your life, work, and mind that is now on my reading list – interesting concept!