Planning For Chefs

I’m a planner by nature. I don’t have to have everything perfect, but I’ve found that if I spend a little time planning, things will go much smoother, even if I choose to deviate at some point from the plan. In my professional life I run quite a few projects, and like engineers and builders, plans are critical.

This is true in cooking as well. When I take the time to read through the recipe before I start, to prep all the ingredients at the start (including having measured out amounts of ingredients in prep cups standing at the ready), I find I make fewer mistakes and – surprise, surprise – my recipes look and taste better.

My project management side comes out strongest when I have three or more dishes that need to come out at specific times. As so many recipes have multiple steps over short periods of time, I find that if I create one master sheet with all the steps (in the time order they need to be done), I can make them all come ready at the perfect times. My prep sheet for something like Thanksgiving dinner is a beauty to behold.

As for engineers, there is a great site that I found the Ossobucco recipe I use, Cooking for Engineers. They take the ingredient list and the instructions and put them in a format that is both logical and slightly disturbing. Once I used it, I found it pretty effective.

Builders rely on blueprints as a key part of their planning. Stacked dishes, like lasagna, could benefit from a blueprint. You rarely see one in cooking and when you do it is often a decoration in some sandwich shop. You can find an example here.

Fiesta Tortilla Stack

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I could have used a blueprint in constructing this delicious dish.

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All of your typical Mexican ingredients.

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I decided to use chicken thighs as they bring more flavor than breast meat.

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Seasoned chicken.

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Tortillas with a bit of refried beans. Refried beans are like the cement to this building.

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Load it up with peppers, tomatoes, chicken and cheese.

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Stack and repeat.

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Do yourself a favor and cut these in quarters. So much easier to eat that way.

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Great dish and built without aid of a blueprint!

Fiesta Tortilla Stack



  • 1 can refried beans
  • 1 TB plus 1/4 cup sour cream (divided)
  • 1 TB plus 1/2 tsp taco seasoning mix (divided)
  • 2 cups cooked chicken
  • 1 med red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 3/4 cup sliced pitted ripe olives (divided)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro (divided)
  • 5 flour tortillas (10 inch)
  • 8oz mild cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • vegetable oil spray
  • 2 medium plum tomatoes seeded and chopped
  • salsa to garnish- optional


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, combine beans, 2 Tb sour cream and 1 TB of the taco seasoning and mix well. Chop chicken and bell pepper and place in another bowl. Add green onions, 1/2 cup olives and 2 Tb chopped cilantro and mix gently.

Place one tortilla on baking sheet and top with 1/4 of the bean mixture, 1/2 of the chicken/veggie mixture, and 1/4 of the cheese. Stack with another tortilla and repeat layers 3 more times. Top with the remaining tortilla, and spray with vegetable oil.
Bake 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
Mix remaining 1/4 cup sour cream with the 1/2 tsp remaining taco seasoning. Spread evenly over top of warm tortilla stack. Sprinkle with tomato, remaining 1/4 cup olives, and cilantro. Cut into wedges and serve with salsa if desired.
Serves 6

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Cheese3, Chicken2, Lunch3, Main Dish 3, Mexican, Recipes

Author:The Ranting Chef

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2 Comments on “Planning For Chefs”

  1. September 20, 2014 at 2:55 pm #

    Planning is the most essential part of cooking, truly said. Love this step by step awesome tutorial… The recipe looks yummy.


  2. September 21, 2014 at 11:34 pm #

    My son will go nuts over this! I’ve seen that cooking for engineers site before, it’s a hoot. I’m glad you reminded me of it!


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