A combination of diced onions, celery and carrots, mirepoix (mihr-PWAH) is used in classic French cuisine as the flavor base for a wide range of dishes. Often, these aromatic vegetables are sautéed in butter as the beginning of a dish and are used to flavor stocks, soups, sauces and braises or as a bed for roasting meat or fish.
The technique is common to a wide range of cuisines. Mirepoix is a close cousin to the “holy trinity” of Cajun cuisine (onions, celery and bell pepper). It bears a striking resemblance to the Sofrito of Spain (onions, green peppers and garlic sautéed in pork fat). And the Soffrito of Italy (usually celery, green peppers, onions and garlic sautéed in olive oil). A similar preparation is used in Cuba as the base for picadillo. In Puerto Rico, it’s used to flavor rice and beans.
Traditionally, the ratio for mirepoix is 2 parts onion to 1 part carrot and 1 part celery, but the combination varies according to the dish and individual tastes. Whatever combination you choose, you may want take a cue from line chefs at classic French restaurants and prepare it ahead. Pre-chop the ingredients on a Sunday, store them in the refrigerator or freezer and you’re ready for a week of cooking. You’re on your way to a flavorful soup or a simple braise. Try stewing a chicken in a crock-pot with just mirepoix, a little white wine, and a sprinkling of herbes de Provence.
—By Jo Marshall