Mise en Place

“A place for everything, everything in its place.”  —Benjamin Franklin

There is a cooking practice, called Mise en Place [mizã ‘plas] which means putting each ingredient in place before you begin cooking. This is a classical approach to cooking used by professionals to have every ingredient ready to go at the beginning of service. 28c13-img_7861For example, instead of having a bell pepper on the counter, a chef would prepare a container of bell pepper cut precisely the way she or he prefers. Chef would prepare this before any cooking began. Television cooking shows sometimes do this: every ingredient—even each spice—will be placed out on the counter in darling little bowls. This sort of preparedness and efficiency allows one to enjoy the un-rushed art of focused cooking that can lead to spectacular meals.

Red Black 2To follow “Mise en Place” literally creates a lot of dishes to wash and I have mixed feelings about this.  I do keep some sweet little bowls in my kitchen, because I love them and I have collected them over the years when I see a cute one at a thrift shop.  I don’t cook by recipe though, so I’m not measuring out a teaspoon of this or that and putting it in a lovely tiny bowl – only to empty it into the saute pan in a few moments.  In fact, I enjoy a variation of “Mise en Place” cooking simply by having the lemons, limes, garlic, ginger, and other spices and herbs conveniently located to my cooktop.  In fact, because my kitchen is tiny, everything is already conveniently located – and isn’t that the point of Mise en Place?

Red Black 1The beauty of a tiny kitchen is that you may set it up for efficiency. Everything can be right in its place, and right within reach, not because you got it out of the cabinet to put it there – but because that’s where it lives. The tiny house kitchen has a sort of built in efficiency that guarantees that every ingredient and tool is close at hand. You can still decide to prep ingredients before you begin cooking – such as cutting the vegetables and peeling the shrimp. Efficiency is one of the things I love about cooking in a tiny house kitchen.

49678-img_7877In fact, Xaver and I visited our favorite AirBNB for a working vacation. There is an expansive glorious tricked-out kitchen that is pure perfection in every respect and I love it! I was looking forward to really spreading out and enjoying some cooking and baking in a “real” kitchen after having lived tiny for so long. What surprised me was how frustrating it was to want something that was on the other side of the kitchen and how much time I spent running around gathering up ingredients and equipment – not to mention cleaning it all and putting it back away. I was surprised how much longer it took me to prepare a very simple meal. I was also surprised by how annoying it was to want the plate that was held captive in a dish washer that wouldn’t be done washing for a while. In fact, I was very surprised to find that cooking in a large kitchen equipped with every possible convenience was much more tiring and much less fun than I remembered. Wasn’t this kitchen the holy grail? Surprisingly, no. Not to me. Not anymore.

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Mind you, our entire tiny house could fit inside that kitchen with room to spare – so the scale and proportions are hilarious by contrast.  For many people, a large kitchen is their “normal”. In fact, when we had the restaurant we had an expansive 580 sq ft prep kitchen and a smaller 240 sq ft kitchen where dishes were assembled and plated. I was used to cooking in a tricked-out kitchen… but look how my sense of normal changed after living tiny for a number of years?! Now, I’m perfectly happy to cook a great meal in a very small kitchen where everything is right at hand. In fact, having now tried the various cooking and baking options, I’d have to say that a tiny kitchen is my preference.  I’m as surprised by this as you are.

Shrimp Rohini

Shrimp Rohini, recipe by Carmen Shenk

We tend to think of having a small kitchen as a problem to be dealt with.  We wonder if we will have room to cook our favorite dishes or bake our favorite treats.  We fear running out of space and being frustrated by a confining kitchen. But living tiny has taught me that cooking in a tiny kitchen is a wonderful thing.  Everything is right there.  There are no wasted steps.  There is no needless complexity.  It’s just focused, fun, efficient cooking.  We tend to worry about the space we may lose in a tiny kitchen, but what if we focused instead on the efficiency we gain?

What if the tiny house kitchen was the “holy grail” of cooking and we just didn’t know it?!

That’s something to chew on, isn’t it?!

Signature Tiny House Foodie logoBTW, doesn’t that Shrimp dish look amazing?  The recipe I created for Shrimp Rohini is here… (along with the story of what inspired it) and that’s one dish where cooking in the traditional Mise en Place style is a very good idea!  Enjoy!

The Tiny House Foodie visits The Queen Mary

 

The Austrian and I had a lovely time on board the RMS Queen Mary for a foodie fiction event featuring a novel by Patricia V. Davis and a recipe I created called Shrimp Rohini that was inspired by Patricia’s novel.  Todd Henderson, Executive Chef of the RMS Queen Mary, created my recipe for the crowd along with another recipe from sailing days of the Queen Mary.  I enjoyed meeting so many amazing people on the ship and made a lot of new friends.  It was a spectacular event and we enjoyed our travels from here in Virginia to Baltimore out to LA, then down to Long Beach where the QM is docked.  We loved everything about our stateroom and our time aboard this remarkable vessel.  We continued down the coast to San Diego and enjoyed the sand and surf before our flight home.  It was a remarkable trip, one I’d do again in a heartbeat.  The highlight for me was meeting Patricia in person as we’ve been online friends for years.

I’m going to meet the Queen!

Years ago I sailed right past the RMS Queen Mary and thought how fun it would be to get to go aboard and explore.  That little dream from long ago is coming true this month!  I’m going to meet the QUEEN!  The RMS Queen Mary that is.  I’m totally stoked!

I got to know Patricia V. Davis years back on a blog platform and we became long distance friends.  When her latest book Cooking for Ghosts came out, I was so excited to read it.  It’s not every day that you get to read a book written by a good friend and I knew her work well enough to know that it would be an excellent book, and guess what?  It did not disappoint!

Patricia wrote this book with mouth-watering references to delicious food in the (fictional) Secret Spice Cafe and one dish in particular really stood out.  I gave it some thought and did some experimenting and eventually created a recipe for this fictional dish “Shrimp Rohini” and shared it with Patricia.

Fast forward to July, 2017 and I’ll be leaving the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and hoping a flight to Long Beach, California where I will meet Patricia and a number of our mutual friends on the Queen Mary, where the novel is set.  PLUS, the official Chef of the Queen Mary will be creating my recipe for Shrimp Rohini in front of the audience, and we’ll all get to taste it.  PLUS (as if that weren’t enough) Chef will also create one of the dishes from the early days when the RMS Queen Mary was sailing the high seas.  It’s going to be so much fun and I’m ridiculously excited about the whole thing.

Several of our mutual friends will be along for the event as well, so I know it’s going to be an amazing adventure.  I plan to be tweeting along the way, so be sure to look me up on Twitter as Chef Carmen @tinyhousefoodie for all the details.  Our event is part of the Queen Mary Salon Series and if you are in the neighborhood, please drop by and introduce yourself.  Our first 25 quests will get a free copy of the book!  How cool is that?!  Details here.Shrimp Rohini Event Brightened

THF Meets the Author

Stay Tuned,

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