I recently read an article (link at Tasteologie) debating the need of mise en place. When I cook at home, I love the idea of the mise en place, having all your ingredients measured and prepped and ready at your finger tips, but it’s not realistic. For a meal that should take 30 minutes to make, getting together a mise en place ahead of time could easily double that. Usually, I prep things as I go, just because it’s a bit more efficient (actually, sometimes I get together a half-ass mise en place because we need to do the prepping inside but the cooking gets done outside). Whether or not mise en place is a good thing depends on the situation: probably a necessity in a restaurant kitchen or when you’re preparing a big elaborate meal, but not so much when you’re just cooking for the family on a normal weeknight.
There are plenty of products out there to help you with your mise en place, but the best thing of all has to be pre-made recipe/spice packets like these:
Destination Dinners prepares recipe kits with everything you need to create an exotic dish. I love the packaging for their Recipe Kits and Dinner Party Kits. And I especially like the idea that each kit comes not only with the ingredients (spices, dry goods, oils/vinegars) and the recipe, but also with a fact card regarding the country of origin. The Dinner Party Kits also come with dishes and utensils to eat with. How fun!!
McCormick has been making these Recipe Inspirations over a year now (I think??). I’ve never tried them out before, but I can see the appeal of having all the spices already measured out for you. It’s also nice for some recipes when you don’t want to buy the “big” jar of spices, but need just a teaspoon for one recipe.
Last on the list is the Epicentre Spice Collection. These kits contain more exotic spices than would be included in the McCormick’s product (read: harder to find, and thus more expensive). However, unlike the Destination Dinner or the Recipe Inspirations, it doesn’t seem like these come with any recipes. I guess if you’re going to shell out the money for hard-to-find exotic spices, you’re already going to know how to use them.
I’m sure there are more recipe or spice kits like this out there, but these are the only ones I’ve heard about.