“Mirepoix” (pronounced “meer-pwah”) is the classical French culinary term for onions, carrots, and celery diced small and cooked in fat until soft and beginning to brown. Italians call it “soffrito” or “battuto,” and its fun-loving Cajun cousin, the “holy trinity,” swaps out the carrot for bell pepper. Any way you spin it, this humble trio is the foundation of countless dishes, but you’d never even know it was there at all. Restaurant chefs swear by mirepoix’s ability to add untold depth of flavor to anything it touches, and once you start incorporating it into your everyday cooking, you will too! So if you’re wondering why your stir-fries are falling flat, your soups are stuck in a rut, your sauces are lacking depth, and your veggie burgers aren’t anything to write home about, consider inviting mirepoix into your kitchen and letting it teach you a thing or two about how to give your food new life.
How to Make a Mirepoix
The first step to channeling the power of mirepoix is to learn how to make it, and it’s as easy as cooking vegetables in a pan.
Start with finely dicing some carrots, celery, and onion. There isn’t really a standard amount for each vegetable, but the ratio is usually two parts onion, one part celery, one part carrot. If you have more or less of any of these vegetables your mirepoix will not suffer – it’s a forgiving friend. This is also a great opportunity to use those wilting veggies that are rolling around at the bottom of your fridge. Since everything is getting chopped up and cooked down, the physical state of the vegetables isn’t of much importance. If it’s not moldy, you can use it in your mirepoix, and it will still turn out great. So go ahead and chop up that limp celery stalk or soggy carrot!
Once your vegetables are diced (it’s optimal to get the vegetable chunks as small as possible for faster, even cooking), heat up a few tablespoons of oil or vegan butter in a skillet. When the fat is hot, toss in the onions and sauté until translucent and fragrant. At this point, add the carrots and celery and let them cook, stirring occasionally until they begin to release their juices and turn brown. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how caramelized you want your mirepoix to be. The more brown bits that appear on the veggies, the more flavor your mirepoix will contain. However, be careful not to let the brown bits burn and turn black, as that will impart a bitter taste to the mirepoix. If you’re not using the mirepoix right away (such as the base for a soup stock), spoon it into a glass jar and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Mirepoix can be stored in oil for up to three days in the refrigerator.
How Mirepoix Will Revolutionize Your Cooking
Now that you know how to make a mirepoix, how do you actually use it to turn your cooking into something spectacular? If you keep a jar of mirepoix in the fridge, you can easily use a spoonful or two as a shortcut to improving reheated leftovers, jarred pasta sauces, or canned soups. If you’re more of a DIY-er, however, here are some examples of dishes where you can begin to harness mirepoix’s delicious power.
Veggie Burgers, Loafs, and Other Plant-Based Proteins
Adding mirepoix to the base of vegan meatballs, veggie loafs, and burger patties is never a bad idea. Just start with the mirepoix, and then throw in your lentils, rice, or whatever else you’re using into the mix and proceed with the recipe. It’s a great way to add savory flavor and a little extra juiciness in a dish where a hearty, succulent, and “meaty” texture is key.
Soups and Stews
Every great soup or stew should begin with a mirepoix, as it is a time-honored trick to achieving a flavorful broth. If you’ve ever wondered why your grandma’s soups taste so homey and comforting, it’s probably because she knows how to make a good mirepoix! You can try it too, in matzo ball soup, vegetable stew, minestrone, or even this simple potato curry.
Tofu Scrambles, Quiches, and “Egg” Dishes
If your morning scramble needs some waking up, sauté some mirepoix before adding crumbled tofu, spices, and other veggies. For a fancier brunch treat, mirepoix can add more depth and intrigue to even the most humble chickpea quiche or “egg” salad.
Sauces and Gravies
Mirepoix can even spruce up basic sauces like marinara, gravy, and cashew cheese sauce (just blend it in so it’s nice and smooth. This is a wonderful base for mac and cheese!). Even adding a tiny amount will have everyone wondering what crazy kitchen tricks you have up your sleeves. It’s not magic, though – just mirepoix!
Mirepoix can take you on a culinary trip around the world with dishes such as Spanish paella, French “coq” au vin and bourguignon, Italian bolognese and cacciatore, and Louisiana Creole jambalaya, gumbo, and étouffée. No matter what it’s called, mirepoix is the same in every culture!
Mirepoix is perfect in its simplicity, but if you want to jazz things up, here are some variations you can try:
- Throw in a clove or two of minced garlic.
- At the end of cooking, stir in a spoonful of tomato paste.
- Deglaze with a bit of white wine or vermouth before the mirepoix is removed from heat.
- Sauté veggies with a pinch of red pepper flakes for a spicier version.
- Add a dash of soy sauce or tamari for a saltier, smokier flavor.
- Substitute the carrots for red or green bell pepper to achieve the Cajun holy trinity.
- Mushrooms, parsnips, leeks, fennel, and turnips are other aromatic vegetables that can all be used in mirepoix with great success.
We challenge you to try mirepoix and tell us how it has changed your life in the kitchen!
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