Make cooking a breeze by putting everything in its place

By / Magazine / June 9th, 2017 / Like

I wish I lived mise en place. That would mean everything in my life was in its proper place. But one quick look at my stuff scattered all over my home from bedroom to living room to basement, and I’m forced to admit my mise is definitely not en place.

For the professional chef, mise en place is not just the way ingredients are organized and prepared prior to firing up the burners. It’s a way of life, from the pots cleaned, dried and hung on the appropriate hook the night before, to the chef’s ability to seize the day the moment the kitchen opens.

And although most of my home looks like I’m in the process of moving out or possibly a tornado has rumbled through it, my kitchen is a sparkling example of how I roll with mise en place — a place for everything and everything in its place. Mirepoix chopped and ready to go. Tomatoes blanched, seeded and peeled. Meat sliced, marinated, dry-rubbed or seasoned. Oil, butter and spices measured out; lemons juiced and zested. Grasping this concept at culinary school was probably one of the single most important lessons I learned. While it takes time to run a ship-shape kitchen, it makes cooking a breeze. Which gives me time to pick up the 15 pairs of shoes hanging out in the hallway.

beef goulash

serves 6

A hearty winter stew from medieval Hungary. Today, there are many versions of goulash throughout central Europe, depending on the cook and the country. This dish is a fairly basic version, excellent served over potato pancakes or buttery noodles.

1 boneless beef chuck roast, cut into cubes (3 lb)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup sweet Hungarian paprika
3 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup flour
3 cups beef broth
1 red bell pepper, diced
Sour cream and minced fresh parsley for garnish

Heat oven to 325˚F.

Pat beef dry. Season with salt and pepper and about 1 tbsp paprika. In a Dutch oven, heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Brown meat in two batches, adding 1 additional tbsp oil for the second batch. Transfer meat to a platter and set aside.

Add remaining tbsp oil to the Dutch oven. Add onions and the remaining paprika. Season with salt to taste. Cook over medium heat until onions soften, about 5–7 minutes.

Stir in garlic and tomato paste. Cook, stirring about 30 seconds. Stir in flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in broth, scraping up browned bits.

Return beef to Dutch oven, with its accumulated juices. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven. Cook 1 hour and 20 minutes. Stir in red peppers.

Cook an additional 40 minutes or until meat is tender. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of minced parsley.

Match: A German or Hungarian lager is a great accompaniment to the goulash.

chicken lo mein

serves 4 to 6

Asian food always calls for some serious mise en place. This recipe uses lo mein noodles, but in a pinch, I’ve used linguine instead. You will make the marinade twice — once as a marinade and once as a sauce. Some cooks simply boil the reserved marinade to use as a sauce but in the interest of food safety, I always start all over again to make a clean, bacteria-free sauce. For the record, I use low-sodium broth and soy sauce. Now get out your chef’s knife and start chopping.

1 cup chicken broth
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
3 boneless chicken fillets, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tbsp canola oil
1 cup chopped broccoli florets
1 cup chopped sweet red or yellow bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 scallions, white part minced (mince and save greens for garnish)
1 package lo mein noodles, cooked according to package directions
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

lo mein sauce

1 cup chicken broth
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp cold water

In a large bowl, whisk broth, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, brown sugar and cornstarch. Add chicken and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes.

In a large wok or skillet, heat oil over high heat. Remove chicken from marinade. Discard marinade. Stir-fry chicken in batches until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from wok and set aside.

Add broccoli, bell pepper, garlic and scallions. Stir-fry until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, for the sauce: in medium saucepan, whisk chicken broth, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil and brown sugar over medium high heat. Whisk in cornstarch/water mixture and bring to boil. Remove from heat when sauce thickens.

Add chicken and sauce to vegetables in wok. Heat through. Toss with lo mein noodles. Garnish with scallion and sesame seeds.

Match: Serve with Gewürtztraminer.

baked eggs and ham

makes 4 servings

This is the quintessential cold-weather dish, fabulous morning, noon or night. This recipe is just a starter. Change it up with bacon, peameal bacon or cooked sausage. Add roasted red or hot peppers, sautéed shallots, mushrooms, chopped cherry tomatoes or chopped Kalamata olives. It’s delicious with shredded smoked gouda, Jarlsberg or provolone cheese. Garnish with fresh minced mixed herbs, if desired.

6 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp dry mustard
2 minced scallions
1 cup diced ham
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 350˚F.

Butter an 8 x 8” baking dish.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs, milk and dry mustard. Pour into prepared dish. Sprinkle onion, ham and cheese over the eggs. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Match: Great with mimosas (equal parts Champagne and orange juice), garnished with a strawberry.

chicken with apples

serves 4

Apples are in season this time of year and nothing is more delicious than baked apples, paired here with chicken thighs in a honey-mustard sauce. Chicken thighs are an economical choice, and often much juicier and tastier than chicken breasts.

8 skin-on bone-in chicken thighs
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, cut into chunks
2 cooking apples, cut into chunks
1 cup chicken broth
3 tbsp honey mustard
2 tsp butter, softened

Heat oven to 450˚F.

Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a large oven-proof skillet, heat olive oil. Add chicken in batches, skin-side down, cooking over medium heat until golden (about 6 minutes).

Flip and cook 3 minutes more. Remove from skillet. Reserve 2 tbsp drippings in skillet. Add onions and apples to skillet, cooking until softened (about 4 minutes).

In a small bowl, mix the broth with the mustard, add to the skillet and bring to a boil. Add chicken. Sprinkle lightly with paprika. Transfer skillet to oven.

Roast until chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 165˚F. Whisk butter into pan juices before serving.

Match: Uncork a Vouvray.


Quench Food Editor, Nancy Johnson, minced, sliced, chopped, sautéed and sipped her way through George Brown College’s culinary program with a focus on food writing and wine. Nancy cooks by the code her Italian grandmother taught her: For the best results, always use the freshest, best ingredients. She writes for Ohio-based Wine Buzz Magazine and recently published a short story in Woman’s World Magazine. She is always on a diet.

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