By Peggy Crum, RD, Health4U Nutritionist
“First, make a mirepoix.” It’s the opening line—the “once upon a time”—for classic French cuisine. And it’s simple, really. Mirepoix (pronounced “meer-pwaw”) is a combination of chopped onion, carrot and celery fried gently in butter or olive oil. Cooking over low heat allows the vegetables to release their flavors to become the aromatic foundation for the rest of the dish.
The story begins a little differently for every culture’s cuisine. For instance,
- soffritto, the flavor base for Italian cuisine, is onion, garlic and fennel cooked in olive oil, butter or fat rendered from prosciutto or pancetta.
- sofregit, Spanish for “to underfry” or to fry lightly, starts with onion and tomato gently fried in olive oil, the basis of Catalan cuisine.
- bumbu, the foundation of Indonesian cooking, uses shallot, garlic and chiles cooked in coconut oil.
- refogado, the cornerstone of Portugal’s fare, combines onion, garlic, tomato and hot or mild peppers cooked in lard or olive oil.
- the Cajun trinity, the foundation of Louisiana Cajun and Creole cuisine, uses onion, bell pepper and celery cooked in butter or bacon fat.
You may have noticed that mirepoix and its counterparts each include at least one member of the Allium (onion) family. A traditional mirepoix is half onion (2 parts) in combination with equal parts carrot (1 part) and celery (1 part). Long slow cooking transforms onion’s distinctive flavor from a sulfurous sting to a savory sweetness.
The size you cut the vegetables should be determined by how long the mirepoix will cook. For a quick-cooking sauce, finely diced vegetables are best for releasing their flavors during the short cooking time. A medium-size cut is good for soups and braises whereas mirepoix for a long cooking stock or stew can be chunks of vegetables.
Herbs and spices, or simply salt and pepper, are the signature of each cuisine (or cook)—and make the story memorable.
Michigan Bean Stew Recipe
Michigan Bean Stew will be served for lunch at The Gallery at Snyder/Phillips, Brody Square and Riverwalk Market at Owen Hall on Wednesday, March 21. Join us in the Brody Square demonstration kitchen at 12:10 p.m. on March 21.