Sunday, November 21, 2010

3 Little Words to help you think like a Chef

Alright, here's another old quote for you..."Play like a Champion Today."  Yes, its a football reference, but when it comes to getting ready for Thanksgiving this week, I want you all to go big!  The best way to have a great turkey day is to think like a Chef all week long.  Really, it all comes down to three little words:  
 Mise en place   
Mise en place is a French phrase that means "everything in its place."  Its all set up.  Your menu and your individual dishes are well thought out and you've prepared for each step that you'll need to take to execute.  So, what does mise en place mean for your Thanksgiving? 

It means you can actually watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  You can catch a few quarters of the Lions vs. the Patriots.  It means you won't have an insurmountable pile of dishes before you even eat dinner.  Mise en place is essential in the kitchens at 801...we've got a small space and a tight-knit team, but taking the time to do the essential preparation and planning before every service helps us send great dishes out of the kitchen consistently. 

So, here's a few quick tips to help you think like a Chef this week. 
  • Monday: This is a great day to review your guest count, set the table, clean & iron tablecloths and set out water and wine glasses.  Make sure that your turkey- whether its fresh or frozen, is cozy & comfortably cold in your fridge.   Finally, do you have a meat thermometer?   An instant-read thermometer is essential to help you know when your bird is done.  It should read 180 degrees when inserted deep into the thigh, not touching bone.   We've all got a drawer full of old kitchen gadgets- like thermometers- and wonder if they still work.  You can test your thermometer by bringing water to a rapid boil, and inserting your thermometer. It should read 212 degrees F.   Make your major shopping trip if you haven't done so
  • Tuesday:  Think like a Pastry Chef.   Work ahead and assemble your pie crusts, cheesecake crusts and tackle any other baking prep work that you can.  Are there sauces or fruit coulis you can make in advance?
  • Wednesday:  Do a final review of your shopping list for any last minute items.  Brine the bird and set out your roaster.  Assemble any appetizer platters that can be prepared in advance.  What potatoes and veggies can you clean, trim and prep for their ultimate recipe destination?
  • Thursday: Estimate your turkey's cooking time and remember that it will need to rest for at least 20 minutes after its done roasting.   Work clean as you assemble your dishes;  wash and put away what you can as you go--it's even better to enlist the help of a few younger family members when you can.  That way, you'll only have dinner dishes to deal with after the meal...not a mountain of mess from all of your cooking endeavors!

Finally, and most importantly, enjoy your day. Toast with your family and friends and count your blessings. You're really thinking like a Chef when you're most grateful for the memories created at the table. 


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