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Mirepoix (pronounced meer-pwah) is the classic French blend made from finely diced onion, carrots, and celery, sautéed and simmered (usually with some fat, like butter or olive oil) over low heat or medium-low heat to sweeten and deepen the flavours of a dish.
If you have been suffering from bland sauces, weak stews, and flavourless dishes, you are in luck. There is an ancient trick to infusing your meals with flavour, and it is as simple as sautéeing some aromatics in a pan for anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.
The foundation of many of the world’s most incredible dishes, Mirepoix plays an important role in flavouring soups, stews, casseroles, braised meats, and marinades. Many chefs consider Mirepoix the key ingredient for adding that extra oomph to a dish. It is the secret sauce, the essential ingredient, the reason your food tastes so good.
It is merely a group of un-fancy vegetables that disappear, practically or literally, once they have performed their part. The main secret is slowly cooking these aromatic vegetables. This simple step can take your dish from good to great! Even if you do not follow the listed combinations, it can add a tremendous amount of flavour.
You do not want to brown your vegetables: instead, cook them until they’re soft, fragrant, and translucent. The intention is to intensify the flavour of the vegetables without browning or caramelizing them.
Mirepoix is traditionally used as a flavouring ingredient, which means the vegetables are typically strained out or removed from the final dish before the end of the cooking process. This base is used in the completion of whatever dish you are cooking. They are meant to provide a subtle but pleasant background flavour, support and improve the flavour of the finished dish.
It is the base for almost all your favourite French dishes and classic sauces. Even tossed with a simple pot of pasta, they can add a prominent flavour in just minutes. When your Mirepoix is finished, you’ll have a foundation you can build on with the other ingredients that will flavour your stock or sauce, including stock, herbs, additional vegetables, and proteins.
Almost every cuisine in the world starts with a common, simple, balanced, vegetable and herb aromatic base. There are some distinct groupings of aromatics that are sure to evoke the flavour of certain parts of the globe. It’s safe to say that there are hundreds of cuisines available in the culinary world, and almost all of them have special flavour bases.
Learn about a few of them here.
Also, try our French pinçage (pronounced pin-sahge), which is Mirepoix with tomato paste added.
How to prepare?
It’s super simple. Heat some butter or oil over low heat, add the vegetables, and cook until tender.
The traditional ratio is 2 parts onion, 1 part carrot and 1 part celery – by weight. So, for example, 2 kg (or 2 pounds) of Mirepoix would be
- 1 kg (or 1 pound) of onions
- 500g (or 8 ounces) of carrots
- 500g (or 8 ounces) of celery
Home cooks need not be so precise. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, you can use measuring cups to approximate your ratios: for instance, 2 cups onion, one cup carrots, and one cup celery.
However, don’t feel bad about breaking the rules to fit your personal taste.
When chopping, it helps to be particular about the tiny uniform dice, ensuring even cooking.
Generally, the onions (or leeks) will first be cooked in the fat. What comes next depends on the particular mixture.
If garlic is called for, add it next, but cook carefully, so it doesn’t brown or burn.
Follow by adding the rest of the vegetables. Lastly, add the herbs.
Usually, only “sweating” the mixture is what you want. This would be done on a lower heat just until the vegetables are giving off some of their juices, softening in texture but not browning. If you use this base in a dish such as a soup, stew or pasta sauce, feel free to cook the vegetables until they are almost melted slowly. If you wish to add them to something like a frittata or omelet, you may want to stop cooking before losing all their texture.
Usually, you want to try to avoid browning the vegetables. But if you are going for a more caramelized flavour, you can go ahead and char them a bit!
There are truly countless ways to use the aromatic base mixture. It’s absolutely essential in plenty of soups, broths, stews, and sauces — but it’s also found in hamburgers and casseroles. What is your favourite?
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Mirepoix aromatic base
- 2 tbsp Olive oil - and or butter
- 2 cups Onion - finely chopped
- 1 cup Celery - finely chopped
- 1 cup Carrot - finely chopped
- 1 head Garlic - Optional - peeled and minced
- 2 Bay leaves
- 1 branch Thyme
- 1/2 cup Wine - optional - full-bodied red wine - cabernet sauvignon preferred
- Oregano - dried to taste
- Basil - a handful of fresh basil, finely chopped or 1 tsp dried basil
- Savory - optional to taste
- Dash Red pepper flakes - optional - crushed
- Black pepper - optional to taste
- Salt - to taste
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Prepare your vegetables
- Trim the root ends and tips from the vegetables.
- Rinse and scrub the celery.
- Rinse and peel your carrots and onions.
- Then dry well with a clean cloth.
- Chop the carrot, onion, and celery. In general, the finer you chop the veggies, the quicker the aroma and flavours will be released.
Cook your vegetables
- Heat olive oil to medium in a large pan or Dutch oven.
- Add onions, carrots and celery to the pan. Reduce heat to low or medium-low heat and Sauteé for about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, adjusting heat to keep them from browning until soft and translucent.
- Add minced garlic and continue to cook until fragrant.
- If you want, stir in wine, your favourite herbs and seasonings, salt, and pepper to taste.
- When your Mirepoix is ready, you’ll have a foundation you can build on with the other ingredients that will flavour your stock or sauce, including stock, herbs, other vegetables, and proteins.
What size should I chop my vegetables?Be sure to cut the vegetables relatively uniform in size. The finer you chop the veggies, the quicker the aroma and flavours will be released. The shorter the cooking time of the ultimate dish, the smaller size the pieces should be. For longer times, they can be cut into larger pieces. As a general guideline:
- For sautéed recipes - Use a smaller size - 6-13 mm (¼-inch to ½-inch)
- For soups and stews - medium size - 13-25 mm (½-inch to 1-inch)
- For stock, broth, or blended soups - large - 25-51 mm (1-2 inches)
What comes first, the meat or the vegetables?Proper cooking orders can be super confusing. Should I cook the vegetables and meat separately or together? If you are making a meat dish, it is customary to sear the meat first and then use that fat for cooking the onion, carrots, and celery. Searing the meat first is especially important in stew, roasts, or curries that include beef, pork, or chicken thighs as it creates extra flavour.
Can you use other ingredients?Of course! For example, if you don’t want the Mirepoix to colour your final dish, you could use parsnips instead of carrots or button mushrooms. You could also add a bouquet garni for some added flavour. A bouquet garni is just a little bundle of herbs that you cook along with the other vegetables. It makes it really handy to remove the herbs before serving.
Can you freeze it?Yes, you can freeze uncooked Mirepoix. However, onions and celery do not freeze well. Once thawed, they are mushy and somewhat unappealing. For best results, I recommend using this in soups and stews cooked for a long time or blended, where the texture does not need to be chunky. If you use the trio of vegetables frequently, it might be a smart time-saving move. Just follow a series of simple steps:
- Dice your carrots, onions, and celery. Make a big batch to store in individual freezer bags.
- Divide the mixture into one cup portions, as this is a good amount for most recipes.
- Transfer the frozen veggies to freezer-safe bags labelled with the date.
- Freeze up to six months. For best quality, they should be used up within two months.
What types of dishes can you use Mirepoix in?You can use Mirepoix in lots of different recipes! Usually, it forms the base of soups, stews, sauces, braises, and casseroles. Chicken noodle soup is a classic that utilizes this trio of vegetables. Or you can add tomato paste and prepare this delicious Pinçage.
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