How to Mise Tip #3: Make life easier, or at least way more fun

September 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

Mise en place isn’t just about saving time — it’s about aligning all the elements in harmony with each other.  Most of the time this means to do the most efficient and simple thing.  Other times it means doing something the right way.

Following are three ways I have been mise-ing (new word!) or will try to mise in the future:

1.  Make your own salad dressing.

For TOO long I’d been paying 3-4 dollars for frou-frou salad dressings in the organic and produce sections.  The Wishbone Italian of my childhood suddenly became puckeringly salty and those bottles with the pretty labels always had a mouthfeel like there was something else in it coating the inside of my mouth and lingering for hours.

Then one day it hit me:  “Actually, genius, salad dressing is usually just made of three things:  an oil, a base and some flavor.”  So instead of hemorrhaging money by the saladful and usually amassing a collection of failed impulses in the refrigerator door (Green Goddess just sounds so promising, doesn’t it?  No?  Ok you’re right, but I had a credit card back then).

So here you go, made to order salad dressing with ingredients you can be 100% sure of:

splash of olive oil (2 tbsp?  3?  You pick how much you need to drizzle)

splash of balsamic vinaigrette (again, your choice, I’m not gonna hold your hand through this)

couple shakes of salt + peppah respectively

(tricky part):  dollop a squirt (small squirt) of mustard in the mix.  I hope you’re doing this in a small bowl.  Then use a whisk to blend all parts.  The mustard is an emulsifier which binds the oil and vinegar.  You could use egg whites, too, if you’re gross.  You don’t have to do this if you like a nice clear dressing.  (this wasn’t actually tricky, admit it!)

So there you go.  That took two minutes and cost 10 cents.  Now don’t you feel like an asshole for buying salad dressing all those years?  Some other variations might include a splash of sesame oil for asian-inspired salads, more mustard and a little honey for honey mustard dressing, apple cider vinegar and lemon instead of balsamic for light summer salads.

2.  Plan your outfit for tomorrow, today.

Not in the silly “everything has to be perfect for school pictures” way, but more in the “I can’t tell exactly what I’m putting on or if it’s right side out through squinted eyes, bumbling around in the dark as I’m dashing around the house in a mad panic before work” way.  Listen!  I get up ten minutes before go-time and I have two cats to feed, lunch to pack and I usually have to do a #2 before I leave…so forget any kind of color coordinating at that hour.  Outfit planning should include socks, bra and undies, too, because we all know that close to laundry day you’re going to end up going Commando because it “took too damn long” to rifle through the hamper and find a pair that were halfway decent!

i'll just hang you here...

...and we'll catch up with each other in the morning.

A side note:  if you work in a place with central air and it’s the summertime also pick out a layer to keep you warm if your boss has decided to create dronsicles in the office that day.

Another side note:  check out that awesome vintage skirt I got from Laura at Find!

3.  Roasting coffee!

I added this one because J. and I did this for the first time yesterday.  It was awesome!  OK, I may have not been 100% sure how to do this and maybe I puked a little afterwards from some serious smoke inhalation, but next time will be way better.  This falls under the “doing something right” category because it’s by no means efficient.  Or safe, really, if you’re doing it for the first time.  But roasting one’s own coffee is a lost art like cooking an entire chicken and using all the parts for meals and broth.  There are definitely people out there who do it, but it’s a dying population and we must resuscitate!  Take pride in your kitchen, guys.

Here are some steps that we did or SHOULD have done:

Step A: Properly ventilate your space.  If you’re doing this outdoors over a campfire, you’re all set (and I’m in love with you).  But if you’re in your kitchen with the door shut to keep the smoke from getting to the smoke detector, you’ll need a fan pointed from inside blowing the smoke OUT the window and a window fan in the window pulling the smoke OUT as well.  Don’t get confused, let me just reiterate, we want the smoke OUT.  (P.S. we didn’t do this step until smoke had filled the kitchen.  Lesson learned.)

Green! Stir stir stir.

Step B: Start off with a pound of green beans.  I’m going to plug Coffee By Design on this one – call up their Washington Ave. roastery an hour in advance and they’ll get them ready for you (207)879-223.  Those of you joining me from cyberspace, they do mail order, too!  Green beans are half off of what roasted beans cost, even though you yield more than that.  Savings, what what?  Put the green beans in a large frying pan, preferably with high sides.  Turn the heat on medium (medium high if you like French roast and a wild ride of popping and cracking)

Stage 2 beans. Stir some more!

Step C: Stir, stir, stir.  This’ll take about 15-20 minutes.  You know what roasted coffee looks like – so just go until it looks like that.  Make sure the beans are somewhat even in color, or discard the orange-y ones when you’re done since they didn’t cook enough and will make your coffee taste like gr(ass).

Ooh our very own dark roast. Notice scary amounts of smoke hovering.

Step D: Sweat.  These suckahs gotta rest to let the oils really do their work.  Once the beans have cooled and you’ve convinced the fire department that no, seriously, everything’s ok up there, put them in a container to sweat in a cool, dark place (not the fridge!  NEVER put coffee in the fridge!  No matter what your Dad does with Folgers!)

Step E: Bottom’s up.  The first few batches might not be what you’re used to but you’ll learn your preferences and change your recipe accordingly.  Then you’ll have the distinction of being the most gourmand family on the block (with the stinkiest, smokiest house!)

So that’s all for now.  September is rife with trying new things.  Photo documentary of most of the will be a fun way for me to feel like I’m not super lazy or spinning my wheels.  Open for suggestions on what to try next!

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