“Mirepoix” is the French culinary term for a combination of diced carrots, onions and celery sauteed in butter and used as an aromatic base to flavor sauces, soups and stews. Even a small amount can significantly contribute to the overall flavor of a finished dish.
Recipe for A Basic Mirepoix
The standard mirepoix recipe calls for two parts onion to one part each celery and carrot. A small quantity of tomato paste is often added toward the end of cooking for additional color and flavor when the mirepoix is being used in brown stocks or sauces.
If the mirepoix is being used in a white sauce or light gravy, leeks can be used in place of carrots to make up the sweet component of the trio.
Tips for Making a Mirepoix
- It's important to dice the vegetables as uniformly as possible to ensure even cooking. The size of the dice can vary according to overall cooking time of the dish for which it is intended. The shorter the cooking time the smaller the dice.
- Start your onions and carrots first and cook until they are lightly caramelized.
- Add the celery last and continue cooking until it softens and the color turns a brighter green.
- If desired, stir in a small amount of tomato paste and cook until the entire mixture develops a rich brown color. Your mirepoix is now ready to add to whatever dish you're making.
International Variations on Mirepoix
The little extra time it takes to introduce a base of aromatic vegetables to your finished dishes can make a world of difference in the overall depth of flavor. That's why just about every cuisine has some variation on the French mirepoix.
Here are a few that you might like to try:
- Cajun: The Cajun trinity substitutes green pepper for the carrot and is used to flavor dishes like gumbos and etouffees.
- Italian: The Italians have a similar combination called “soffritto.” They substitute olive oil for the butter and often add garlic and some pancetta or prosciutto to the mix.
- Spanish: A Spanish “sofrito” consists of onions, tomatoes, garlic and parsley cooked in olive oil.
- Indian: Indian dishes start with a combination of onion, garlic, ginger and some variety of hot pepper.
- Thai: In Thailand, curry pastes begin with a combination of lemongrass, shallots and chiles.