Mirepoix (pronounced Meer-Pwah) is one of the first things you learn when you begin tackling the challenges of advanced recipes that professional cooking offers. You have more than likely used one form of a mirepoix or another in your lifetime. Yes, there are variations and it can vary widely based on its intended use or the type of cuisine. As we dive into the various types of mirepoix we will uncover some of the uses and flavor profiles that each type of mirepoix offers.
What is Mirepoix?
The definition of mirepoix in its core is a ratio of three vegetables used in classic French cooking. These vegetables are carrots, celery, and onion. Combined, these three vegetables are used as a flavor base for many classical French dishes as well as modern cuisines. Use this flavor base to enhance your cooking and to provide the foundation for essential recipes such as soups and stocks.
You want to do your best to maintain the mirepoix recipe ratio listed here in order to ensure consistency from one recipe to another. The ratio is intended to be flexible and can be changed based on the recipe or cuisine, so this is more of a guideline than anything.
2 Parts Onion, 1 Part Carrot, 1 Part Celery by weight
You will find that most recipes are defined by weight, and this is because the weight scales up easier than volume. Therefore we highly recommend you pick up a kitchen scale to have on hand.
The 2:1:1 mirepoix definition should be your go-to whenever you need it. You may see a recipe that looks like this:
Mirepoix: 500g (16oz)
In order to determine your amount, you would simply divide the amount by 2 to get your onion amount. To find out the carrot and celery amount, divide the total by 4. In this case, you would need 250g (8oz) onion, 125g (4oz) carrot, 125g (4oz) celery. Simple.
The Holy Trinity or Cajun Trinity
Cajun cooking has always been inspired by classical French cooking and it comes as no surprise that the holy trinity food of Cajun cooking is our first variation of the classic. It is held in such high esteem and is used as a flavor base in Cajun cooking for good reason. The Cajun Trinity is Onion, Celery, Bell Peppers. Creole and Cajun cooking recipes use this as their flavor base. Use the 2:1:1 ratio when using this variation.
In Classical French cooking, a Matignon mirepoix is one that calls for the addition of ham or bacon. This is typically used in soups. It is quite popular in French Canadian cooking, particularly Navy bean soup. The Onion, Carrot, Celery, Ham/Bacon ratio would be 2:1:1:1.
What is a White Mirepoix?
Another variation is called the white mirepoix. Because carrots are a stronger flavor and can color whatever they are used in, they are omitted when used in light colored and/or delicately flavored recipes. This affords the recipe a good flavor base that compliments the desired result. A white mirepoix consists of onion, celery, leeks, parsnips. The suggested ratio would be 1:1.
How Do You Cook Mirepoix?
Mirepoix is used as a flavor base and should not be cooked and stored ahead of time. Doing so will eliminate the flavors it was designed to impart. Prepping is simple and easy and only if cooking in large production batches should it be prepped and stored uncooked ahead of time.
There are some recommendations out there that it be held in a freezer for use ahead of time, but this can damage the flavor and ruin the texture. Always strive for fresh ingredients.
- Always consider cooking time when deciding how large or small to cut the vegetables with. Shorter cooking times should use small dice or cuts, while longer cooking times will require larger dice cuts.
- Diced onions should be the standard. Avoid julienne cuts.
- There is no harm in adding it later to a recipe if you want smaller dice.
- It does not require cooking or sauteing with butter/oil beforehand – it can be added raw
Using Mirepoix in a Soup
For quick soups, use a small dice and sweat in a pan with fat to bring out the flavor before adding the soup base. This allows the soup to absorb the flavor quickly.
If you are making longer cooking soups, consider adding the mirepoix later on. It is a robust ingredient and can hold up to cooking quite well without becoming too mushy.