February 15, 2012

Mise en Place - Cooking the Organized Way

Every year, my cousins host a Valentine's Day pizza party. They order in pizzas, set up a huge salad bar on their counter, and people bring wine and desserts to round out the celebration. Last year, I made heart shaped brownies and although they were good, I wanted to get a bit more creative.

For inspiration, I walked into a store near me called Sugar and Plumm--Purveyors of Yumm and found all types of cool looking confections including pretzel rods decorated with yummy-looking sugary stuff. I thought to myself, "I could make those!" I even had a feeling I owned a recipe for it and lo and behold, I did.

I had a ton of tasks to get done the morning I was making them so I turned to a basic organizing principle to help me accomplish my goal: to create chocolate-dipped and decorated pretzel rods in a short amount of time with a minimal mess in the kitchen. This basic organizing principle I utilized, well known to those in the world of cooking is:

Mise en Place

You may be asking, 'What does the phrase Mise en Place mean?" According to TheReluctantGourmet.com, the phrase is pronounced MEEZ ahn plahs and means 'to have all of your ingredients and cooking tools prepared before you start cooking'. Literally translated, it means,'to put in place.' I think it's French for 'Get your stuff organized before you cook!'

Mise en place takes the stress out of cooking and makes it a more pleasurable task. There's no searching for the garlic press when your oil is hot. There's no such thing as , "Uh, oh--I'm missing an ingredient." Mise en place (or 'meez' as the professionals say) allows you to be focused and prepared for cooking.

Here are the steps I took to Mise en Place--create an organized environment for my pretzel rod project:

1. I read the recipe and made notes as to what ingredients I needed. I added them to my shopping list, purchased them and kept them together in one bag so I they would be in one place when I was ready to make the recipe.

2. I cleared my small counter space and unpacked the pretzel rods, chocolate chips and sprinkles. I set up two bowls for melting the two flavors of chocolate chips, two spatulas (for stirring the chocolate chips and spreading them on the pretzels) and three paper plates for the three pretzel toppings.

3. Next to my counter space, I set up a baking tray covered in wax paper and placed a wire rack on top of it. This is where the pretzel rods would relax while the chocolate was setting.

4. I placed half a bag of each type of chocolate chip into a bowl and put a spatula in each bowl. I placed a half cup of sprinkles and mini chocolate chips into each paper plate.

Now, I was ready to begin! And here is the finished product...

Mise en Place - Cooking the Organized Way:
Chocolate dipped and decorated pretzel rods for Valentine's Day

Here's the recipe I used. Try it--and don't forget the mise en place. It will make creating these decorated pretzel rods so easy, you'll want to make them for every occasion. Green sprinkles for St. Patrick's Day? Pastel sprinkles for Easter? My cousin also hosts Mother's Day. If you have any sprinkle color ideas for that day, I'd love to hear them!

Recipe: Decorated Pretzel Rods

One bag of Rold Gold Pretzel Rods
Half a bag of Nestle Mini Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chip Morsels
Half a bag of Nestle White Chocolate Chip Morsels
Multi-colored sprinkles
Pink and white sprinkles (Tip: sprinkles purchased less expensively in the ice cream aisle rather than the baking aisle...)

Follow mise en place steps 2-4 from above.

1. Melt mini chocolate chips and white chocolate chips in separate microwave safe bowls. Microwave for 30 seconds and stir. Microwave another 30 seconds if necessary and stir until smooth.
2. Start with one flavor of chocolate. Dip pretzel rod in chocolate and spread with spatula. Let any excess chocolate drip off and hold pretzel over plate of sprinkles.
3. Using a spoon or your hands, drop sprinkles onto chocolate part of pretzel rod while turning the pretzel so all chocolate is covered.
4. Place on wire rack to cool and set.
5. Repeat with all toppings until chocolate is finished.
6. Repeat all steps with white chocolate.
7. Taste one to make sure they're OK...
8. Pack carefully to take to someone's home. Yum!


Janet Barclay said...

I love mixing salty and sweet so I'm sure these would be delicious! I've also found cooking to be much more enjoyable when I do all the prep work before I begin the actual cooking, but I didn't know there was a name for it. Merci beaucoup!

Stacey Agin Murray, Professional Organizer said...

Glad you visited my blog and learned something new, Janet! Try the recipe--it's yummy and it's a unique treat to bring to someone's home--especially if there are kids involved.