What is a Mirepoix? Learn How a Mirepoix Should Be Prepared
Mirepoix: Carrot, Celery and Onion
What is a mirepoix (mear pwa)? It's actually really simple. A mirepoix is the trio of carrots, celery and onions used in french cooking. If you have ever made a soup, stock, sauce or stew you have likely used a variation of a mirepoix. These three ingredients that make up a mirepoix are essentially the building blocks of hundreds of soup and stock recipes. If you want to learn and understand french cooking you must know how to prepare and cook a mirepoix.
Mirepoix: Things to Consider
As I mentioned above a mirepoix is made up of carrots, onion and celery. Its important that you prepare your vegetables correctly to ensure the flavors can be extracted properly. When preparing your mirepoix you need to consider two things:
- How long will you be cooking the the vegetables?
- Will the mirepoix remain in the final dish?
1. How long will you be cooking the vegetables?
Its important to consider cooking time when you are cutting your vegetables. You want to make sure you are cutting the veggies to an appropriate size for the cooking time. This will help ensure your vegetables won't turn into mush and to ensure that you can extract as much flavor from the vegetables as possible. If you are going to be cooking your mirepoix for several hours you can cut the vegetables into large chunks. If you are only planning on cooking the mirepoix for 20 minutes or so you should dice the veggies into small pieces so that more flavor can be extracted in that short amount of time.
2. Will the mirepoix remain in the final dish?
Many times a mirepoix is only used in the cooking process and is discarded prior to serving the dish. However, some stews are served with the mirepoix in the dish. If you plan to serve a dish with the mirepoix still in the food you will need to think about how you are going to prepare your vegetables. Keep in mind that you still need to consider cooking time, but serving the vegetables makes things a bit more complicated. The largest you should allow your vegetables to be is "bite size". If you plan to cook your dish for a long time, you'll want larger pieces, but try to make the dish easy to eat. You'll also want to make sure that all the vegetables are cooked through. Carrots can sometimes take a surprisingly long time to cook.
Mirepoix: Preparing the Vegetables
Now that you know what you need to consider prior to preparing your vegetables you can now start your vegetable prep. If you are a beginner to cooking, I have explained the basic preparation of carrots, celery and onion below:
- Carrots: You will need to wash and peel the carrots with a peeler. Then cut the carrots into the appropriate size for your dish.
- Celery: Pull the leaves off of the celery and wash the stalk. You may want to cut the wide, white portion of the celery off as well. You can also use the carrot peeler on the celery to remove some of the tough skin, but you don't have to. Then dice the celery so that it is a similar size to the carrots. This will help ensure even cooking.
- Onion: Peal the skin off the outside of the onion and cut the top and bottom off. Then cut the onion into pieces so that they are similar to the carrot and celery pieces.
A traditional mirepoix is made of 1 part carrot, 1 part celery, and 2 parts onion. I like to use a scale and weigh the ingredients, but you can use cups to measure out the mirepoix ratio if you would like.
- To begin you'll want to add about 1 tablespoon of butter or oil to a large pan. Then turn your stove to medium heat and wait for the oil to get hot.
- Once the oil is hot you can add the onion and carrot.
- When the onions begin to brown you can add the celery. If your onions won't brown, its probably because you have too much onion in your pan. You may need to use a larger pan.
- The next step is dependent upon the recipe that you are using. Most recipes will ask for seasoning or a liquid to be added. Often times the recipe will call for a bouquet garni or sachet d'espice.
- Leeks can be used if you would rather not use onions.
- Parsnips are often times used to replace the carrots if you want to create a mirepoix blanc.
- Often times mushroom stalks are used in addition to the trio. They can also be used to replace the carrots for a mirepoix blanc.
- Cajun style food will often times use bell peppers instead of carrots.
- Other common substitutes include garlic, shallots and parsley