With winter comfort food season fast approaching here in the U.S., soups, stews and braises begin to enter our foodie radars, along with thoughts of warm, deeply rich and savory creations.
And with that, I’d like you to meet mirepoix (“meer pwa”), the French mix of diced onions, carrots and celery used at the very beginning of many hearty and flavorful recipes.
Who knew that this humble trio had such a fancy-pants name? Perhaps more commonly known to us as aromatics, mirepoix sauteed in oil or butter creates a flavor base that enhances and heightens the remaining ingredients of any dish.
How to Use Mirepoix:
Start with the onion, use slightly less of carrots, and still slightly less of celery — say, one medium onion, one medium carrot, one or two stalks of celery. Dice the vegetables into similarly sized dices. Heat fat (oil, butter, lard, bacon) in an appropriately sized (for the entire recipe) skillet, pot or dutch oven over medium heat. When the fat is shimmery, add the vegetables. Stir occasionally, cooking until the veggies are soft and glossy. Continue with your recipe. (Now’s a great time to add spices like cumin, coriander, paprika, garlic, ginger, if it suits your recipe. The veggies will absorb the spices’ flavors and help to distribute them throughout the dish.)
Where Do You Find Mirepoix?
Surprisingly, I have yet to find prepackaged mirepoix at the grocery. But, it’s certainly easy enough to make your own, with a little knife work. You can also use your food processor, if it has a fairly light touch and doesn’t liquefy the onions before you can hit the Stop button.
Mirepoix is ridiculously economical when you grow your own. Celery can be a bit tricky (and the seeds can be hard to find), but carrots and onions are a cinch. If you’re up for new gardening adventures, add carrots and onions to next Spring’s list. Onions can be grown in one crop, harvested and then stored for the winter. Carrots are not particularly great storers (it can be done though); however, I do three separate plantings during the summer, the final crop of which will last to the first hard frost, at which I point I preserve about half of that crop for use throughout the winter (clean, slice, blanch and freeze).