What is Mirepoix?

March 8, 2016 | Other Goodies

I am often asked, “What is mirepoix? And why is it so important?”  The answers to these questions are actually quite complex.

What is mirepoix?

Originating in France, and pronounced “meer-pwah”, it is traditionally and typically made up of a mixture of chopped vegetables: two parts onion, one part carrot, and one part celery (by weight).  The size and uniformity of the vegetable cuts depends on what the mirepoix is being used for.  Should the mirepoix be used in stock, it will get strained out, so the exact sizes of the cuts won’t matter. But if the mirepoix is going to be visible, say in a vegetable soup, it is important for the cuts to be completely uniform.  Although it is not always important for the cuts of the mirepoix vegetables to be exactly precise, it is important to make sure they are at least similar in size to ensure even cooking times.

Why is mirepoix so important?

Mirepoix acts as a flavor base for stocks, sauces, soups, and much more.  In the culinary world, anything added to bring important flavors and aromas to a dish is referred to as an “aromatic.” Another example of an aromatic is a “bouquet garni” (pronounced gar-NEE), which is typically a bundle of fresh herbs tied together, then added to a sauce or soup to enhance the flavor (which is removed before serving).

Typically, mirepoix is used at the beginning of a dish, and is sauteed in some kind of fat before other items are added to the dish.  The vegetables can be lightly sauteed and softened, or cooked longer and browned to create an even deeper and heartier flavor profile in dishes like soups; some chefs even prefer not to peel the onion and carrot for even more added flavor and richer color.

Different Varieties of Mirepoix

Throughout the world, different regions and countries have their own version of mirepoix used as an aromatic at the beginning of dishes.  In many parts of Asia, ginger, green onions, and garlic are used.  In Spain, “sofrito” is often used, which contains onions, garlic, tomato, and sometimes bell peppers.  Even in the United States, we have an alternate mirepoix in Southern Cajun and Creole cooking called “The Holy Trinity” which is onion, green bell pepper, and celery.

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