One of the first skills a professional chef will learn is the production of ‘Mirepoix’.
It’s correctly pronounced ‘meer-pwa’ because the ‘x’ is silent. I can’t help but smile when someone pronounces it ‘miri-pocks’.
Mirepoix is a French term used to describe a mixture of aromatic vegetables which impart their flavour into stocks, sauces, stews or braises.
Vegetables, such as onions, carrots and celery are roughly cut up and slowly cooked into a recipe to improve its flavour. They are often strained out and discarded prior to serving the dish.
However, there is also a myriad of other aromatics that may sometimes find their way into a Mirepoix, such as leeks, garlic, ginger, tomato and mushrooms. Ultimately it’s the desired flavour profile that dictates which aromatic vegetables are chosen.
The cooking time also plays a role in the size of the mirepoix. A smaller cut of mirepoix will impart its flavour faster in a dish that requires shorter cooking time (e.g. braises) and a larger cut is less likely to disintegrate over a longer cooking time (e.g. beef stock).
Also, the colour of the mirepoix is important. A white stock or sauce wouldn’t contain any carrots or dark green celery, whereas brown gravy would.
Mirepoix provides an important depth of flavour to savoury dishes – and I consider it the culinary ‘X’ Factor in any recipe.