Having your shit together in the kitchen goes a long way towards transforming it from a battleground into a playground.
I often run in to people who claim that they cannot cook, or cannot cook at home. I find that nine times out of ten this is because people make the entire process a lot harder than necessary right off the bat, and therefore a lot more frustrating. We tend to not return to activities that continually frustrate us. So let’s break this down. When you see “TV personalities” with all their ingredients in their little bowls (that some poor intern schlub cut for them, by the way) in front of them.. well, that’s call having your shit together. Or, politely, “Mise En Place” – “Everything in place”. “Meez on plass”. This is learning to tie your shoes. This is learning left from right. In other words, this shit right here is funda-fucking-mental. If you do not learn to practice this methodology, you have already peaked in the kitchen. Maybe you’re some awesome multi-armed savant jacked up on adderall and don’t need the help, I dunno. But most likely the following will help most of you. It seems like common sense, but trust me, if it were that common I wouldn’t be soap-boxing about it.
Mise En Place is a French phrase defined as “everything in place”, as in having all your set up and prepared ingredients, well, uh, prepared. Part of having your shit together when you cook at home is have the recipe easily accessible (if you are using one) before and during the process. Why before? Well, you need to what and how much of it you need — and you need to know if there are any special instructions for ingredient preparation.
So, check the recipe for things like “diced, “chopped”, “julienne”, these are all pretty good indicators you’ve got some foot(knife)work to accomplish before you start applying heat to things. This is also a good time get water started if you need some to boil. This is also a great time to gather up all the utensils and cooking equipment you’re going to need; hunting for things in the middle of cooking isn’t always disastrous — but it will be eventually. Having found all the stuff you need to chop, dice, shred, squeeze, and or extract.. do so. It’s good to keep crappy spare cups and small dishes for this kind of stuff — you can put the ingredients in the bowls and store it in the fridge if you aren’t exactly The Flash with all the choppy choppy.
Once all of that is tackled, you can pretty much proceed. Make sure your cooking area is free of clutter and unintended flammable materials, gather up all your stuff and get it placed in or near your immediate orbit and start cooking. If you are using a recipe, feel free to consult it often. Good habits are formed through practiced repetition that yields positive results. You need to do this every time, until “meez” is habitual for you. If you need to move some stuff around in the kitchen to better facilitate ease of use, use this as an excuse to do it.
Last week I promised Frijoles Borrachos. So.
(Drunken Beans – Red & Black)
Beans and.. Beer? The smells released as the beer boils away with the stock, peppers, bacon, and onions will win you over. Great with enchiladas this is a true Northern Mexico/Southern Texas staple. These beans are easy to prepare but they don’t store too well, probably due to the yeast in your beer of choice. Try to freeze any leftovers within 24-36 hours.
Add some pico de gallo, salsa, or your favorite hot sauce as the muses direct you — stir it on in there while it’s cooking or afterwards.. your beans, do what you want. Scallions or chives on top are a nice addition as well. If you need to omit the bacon I suggest using liquid aminos and maybe a little liquid smoke or mesquite, but just a few drops of each, tossed in towards the end of the cooking time.
Serves 12 (scale it, I taught you how, slack-ass)
- 12 oz favorite beer — I like miller high life for this, but do what you like
- 3 Bay leaves
- 1/2 pound dried kidney beans, picked over and rinsed
- 1/2 pound dried black beans, picked over and rinsed
- 1 Large red onion, chopped
- 1 Red Bell pepper, cored, roughly chopped
- 1/2 pound bacon or salt pork, roughly chopped
- 2 Jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
- 1 Bunch cilantro, stemmed and roughly chopped
- 2 Large tomatoes, diced
- 3 Garlic cloves, peeled, crushed, finely chopped
- 3 Tbs cooking oil
- 5 qt water, or stock of choice
- Salt and pepper to taste
Method of Production
1) Heat a 6 quart stockpot for one minute over medium-high heat. Add oil. Heat for 30 more seconds, then add bacon. Stir bacon around a bit (about another 2 minutes) and then add everything but the stock, beans, garlic, and beer.
2) Stir vigorously for 3 minutes, then reduce heat to medium. Stirring off and on for about 5 minutes, let the veggies sweat until the onion is translucent. Add the beans and beer. Add stock or water to the pot.
3) Add your garlic now. We’re going to be cooking for a while.
4) Bring to a boil, cover with a lid slightly ajar to allow for steam to vent, and reduce heat to a simmer 180 degrees, or so (low-medium, or slightly bubbling) for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the beans are tender.
6) Salt & pepper to taste and serve immediately. Fish out any errant bay leaves.
Next time.. We’ll talk about sauces, their mothers, your mother, and probably some tempeh and polenta enchiladas with ranchero sauce.