Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Timing and the one critical component of the dish

No recipes in this post! I was watching "Michael Symon's How to cook like an iron chef" the other evening. I was struck by a few things in his approach. The first is the old adage of, "make sure you have all your ingredients ready" (aka get your mise en place together).

The second is, however much more valuable to me. I realised that for each of the dishes that he demonstrated, there was really only one thing whose timing was really critical. However, the dishes themselves had a lot going on. So that prompted me to think about how we manage time in the kitchen.

I suspect that we all have our own natural rhythms. Sort of instincts about how long it takes us to do certain tasks. Also we probably have an idea how long the critical item will be doing its thing. So, for example, Chef Symon was cooking some skirt steak. He talked about it taking 3 minutes on the first side, and less on the second. So we know that it will be done in 5 minutes, and then perhaps some resting afterwards - maybe another 5 minutes. 10 in all.

We therefore need to ask ourselves, "Is it possible for me to make the accompanying salad, set the table, pour the water,...in that 10 minutes total, recognizing that there are interruptions?" If you are anything like me, the answer is no, so we need to find ways of getting the other tasks done. The goal is for the meat to be perfect - after all it is both the star of the show and the major constraint on readiness. So perhaps you lay the table first, make up the salad dressing, assemble the salad all before you put the meat on to cook. It depends on your rhythms. Some of us like to work fast, almost in a panic - rushing about. Others prefer a more deliberate pace. The key is that you can't base your timing and sequence on what you see someone else doing. You have to decide for yourself and then avoid putting to much pressure on.

1 comment:

Judy said...

Hi Chris, it's wonderful that you keeping track of the blog. Peter and I are in Canada (Niagara Falls) and will be heading with our VW bus towards West in a couple of days. I hope that we will be maybe catch up if we come close to your area! cheers, Judy

P.S. our travel blog: www.toroamarillo.de