Mise en place for the home

First off, mad congratulations are in order for Matt and the rest of the WordPress team for the 1.0 release. I’ll be upgrading this shortly from the post-0.8 CVS to the latest version, but I must say I’m impressed. (And yes, I got off my butt and began writing the Movable Type to WordPress import script, got it sketched out, and decided to get engaged. Fortunately, Matt picked it up and it’s now part of WP.)

Mise en place is a culinary term used to refer to preparing ingredients ahead of time. Things like dicing or chopping onions and carrots, having all the spices out off the spice rack (and possibly pre-measured), peeling potatos, that sort of thing. The idea is that when you start to cook, you’re stopping as little as possible to cut, wash, or otherwise prep ingredients. But what to do when you’re only cooking for one or two?

I don’t often have the luxury of cooking large amounts of food for people. This means that, despite the fact that it seems easier to work with larger quantities, it really doesn’t make sense for me to get up and chop up a few pounds of onions, mince a few heads of garlic, peel a few bunches of carrots, and have that ready – they’d all be dead and rotten by the time I used half of it. If I make risotto for myself for dinner, I need on the order of a quarter of an onion chopped. One friggin’ quarter! What am I supposed to do with the other three quarters of an onion? How long does chopped onion keep – if I chop it all up and throw it in tupperware in the fridge, when does it lose its flavor and oomph?

So, the question here is really two part:

  • What things are the staples that make up your pantry?
  • What do you do (if anything) for mise en place at home?

UPDATE: I should also mention that a large part of my difficulty with this is also that I’m essentially split between two kitchens. I may cook at my place on Monday, Christine’s on Tuesday, eat out Wednesday, cook at Christine’s on Thursday, and cook at my place again on Friday. I’m not guaranteed to be in the same kitchen for any real stretch of time. So, bonus points for tips and ideas that either keep well in the fridge or travel well.