How to make it & when to use it
Another classic French culinary technique.
Like the bouquet garni, it’s another simple way to add flavour and aroma.
It’s one of those little ‘cheffy’ secrets that is actually the basis of their early training.
Earning my stripes
I did a bit of time in a professional kitchen.
No I’m not a chef, I did 6 months as part of my Hotel Trainee Manager job in my early twenties.
And what they tasked me with, a part from general dogs’ body
(you really have to earn your stripes in a busy kitchen)
… was chopping.
I chopped, diced and sliced my heart out and often I was making mirepoix.
And yes… I did earn my stripes in that kitchen, eventually.
They put me through my paces (rightly so) before I could work alongside in service.
But the whole experience gave me a huge insight and appreciation for the passion and dedication chefs put into their craft.
Anyway, I digress.
What is mirepoix?
Mirepoix plays a big role in flavouring soups, stews, casseroles, braised meats, and marinades.
It’s made by lightly cooking onions, celery, and carrots.
By slowly cooking them in butter (or oil) you get the flavours without browning or caramelizing them.
Mirepoix is traditionally strained out before the end of the cooking process.
But I’m not a chef, nor am I in my training kitchen so I just leave it in (unless it’s for a stock or sauce).
Oh, and the actual word mirepoix
It comes from the last name of a French aristocrat, the Duke Charles-Pierre-Gaston François de Lévis, duc de Lévis-Mirepoix.
He got the credit for inventing this little mix of ingredients as a staple in French cooking back in the eighteenth century.
How to make mirepoix & when to use it
The classic mirepoix includes onions, carrots, and celery.
It’s a 2:1:1 ratio i.e. two parts onions, one-part carrots, and one-part celery.
Chop the carrot, onion, and celery roughly.
(If it’s going to be strained out of your final dish, then I wouldn’t bother peeling your carrots.)
The finer you chop the veggies, the quicker the aroma and flavours will be released.
So, for shorter cooking times, chop smaller.
Either way, chop them so they’re roughly the same size so they cook evenly.
Cook in butter over low heat or medium-low heat.
If you’re making a meat dish, usually you sear the meat first and then use that fat to cook the mirepoix in.
Note: You don’t want to brown your vegetables, just cook until soft, fragrant, and translucent.
Et voila! You’ve now made the foundation to build on that will flavour your dish or stock/sauce.
5 mirepoix variations
So, we’ve established the classic French mirepoix of onions, carrots, celery.
But there are a number of variations around the world.
French Pinçage (pronounced pin-sahge)
- A mirepoix with tomato paste added creating a darkened brown mixture called pincage
- Usually used when adding mirepoix to sauces e.g. demi-glace, sauce Espagnole
- Same ingredients as mirepoix but minced rather than diced vegetables
- And is usually cooked in olive oil (not butter) until soft and brown
- Ratio 2:1:1 of onion, carrot, celery
Cajun Holy Trinity
- Used mainly in the American South
- Ingredients: onion, green bell pepper, and celery
- Ratio 2:1:1 of onion, green bell pepper, celery
- A basic Spanish red sauce
- Made up of tomatoes, onions, garlic, bell peppers (and sometimes herbs)
- Ratio 6:1:2:1 of tomatoes, onions, garlic, bell peppers (but recipes will vary depending on the dish)
- Suppengrün means “soup greens” in German
- Made up of carrots, leeks, celery root (celeriac).
- It can also include; parsley, thyme, onions and rutabaga (like a turnip).
So, next time you look at a recipe like a slow cooked beef stew, you may see they tell you to cook carrots, onions and celery.
Now you know, that’s a mirepoix!
Got any other classic French culinary techniques to share. Leave a comment or drop me a line.