A Culinary Essential: Mirepoix
Mirepoix is essential to most any soup, sauce, or stew, at least in the traditional Western kitchen, especially in France. Chances are too that you’ve been using it in the kitchen, even if you didn’t know the French word for it. After all, it’s quite simple really: a combo of carrots, onions, and celery.
Pronounced “meer-pwah,” and also known as soffritto in Italy, this trifecta can be prepared in all sorts of ways but it’s purpose remains the same: to flavor a dish. But there’s also other combos of aromatic vegetables and herbs that can be used as a base, depending on the recipe’s country of origins. For one, cajun cuisine is known for using the holy trinity of ingredients, or onion, celery, and green bell pepper. Clearly onion and celery is popular as a base in the Western world, but so is too bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns, and parsley. If you’re looking to the East, and taking part in a Southeast Asia cooking class, you’ll notice the cuisine here is more heavily populated with ginger, green onions, garlic, and warm spices.
But back to mirepoix. The origins of the name ‘mirepoix’ are quite French, considering it’s named after Charles Pierre Gaston Francois de Lévis, or the Duke of Mirepoix from the early 1700s. He wasn’t the one who cooked with celery, onions, and carrots though. His chef de cuisine was the one who made it popular, although he’s not credited with invented it — just perfecting and naming it! Depending on which story you hear, some say the chef named the ingredients after his patron, while others claim the Duke wanted something named after him to leave behind a legacy.
Today the vegetable base can be prepared in all sorts of ways, depending on what the recipe calls for. It can be sautéed, it can be browned. It can even be slowly simmered by tossing it in a crockpot! Even the ratios can vary, although traditionally it’s 50% onion to 25% carrot and 25% celery. And if you want to add meat to the base? It goes by the name mirepoix au gras.
What are some of your favorite ways to use mirepoix?
By Liz Hall
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