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Apr 15, 2010 05:19 AM

Mirepoix - what's the point?

So, upon years of thought, I've decided to ask the question: what does a Mirepoix actually add to a recipe?

I get the onions. That's easy. The carrots? Sure, why not? Celery? No. No, I do not understand. It tastes of little and, in any recipe calling for a Mirepoix, stews and whatnot, that delicate flavour is easily lost. So, then, I ask, what is the point of it? Fibre? Surely not.

Members of this board: please enlighten me.

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  1. it definitely adds a grassy note. try cooking 2 pots of the same dish, one with and one without. they will not be exactly the same

    4 Replies
    1. re: thew

      Oddly enough, I just used some mirepoix tonight that I made about 6 months ago and froze without ever trying it. I made a soup with just a few ingredients: homemade chicken stock, chopped Black Forest ham, cauliflower and green onions. I thickened it with a simple roux of flour and water, a dab of cream and about 1/2 cup of mirepoix. Without the mirepoix it would have been fairly bland, but the mirepoix gave it a wonderful depth of flavor that was truly amazing. My husband almost jumped out of his chair, it was so rich and delicious. I'm sure it would also be wonderful added to a beef stew. It was definitely worth the work of making it.

      1. re: feghoot

        Was your frozen mirepoix raw, uncooked, or had you cooked a large batch, then frozen it? Did you add your mirepoix at the end of the recipe (you imply you did, because you say you thickened the soup with mirepoix), or did you start your soup with mirepoix, as is more traditional?

        Sounds like a good, simple, yet flavorful soup.

        1. re: foreverhungry

          I had cooked quite a bit and then froze it. I simmered the cauliflower and green onions in the chicken broth for a few minutes, then added the mirepoix and simmered some more. I then made the roux and stirred that in until it was thickened a bit and then just let it simmer on very low heat for about 1/2 hour to "marry" the flavors. No recipe, just guessing!

    2. Mirepoix is an aromatic and I believe the proper ratio is 2 parts onion, 1 part carrots, 1 part celery. It's as basic to cooking as salt and pepper. Celery definitely has a unique flavor profile and if anything I might not notice the carrots. Even in stews I can taste a hint of the mirepoix.
      If you were to make a basic chicken stock what would you use?

      38 Replies
      1. re: monku

        Well, in fairness, not every stew or braise requires a Mirepoix. Most Indian, for example.

        As taught, I would use a basic Mirepoix to make a stock, but one must question that which doesn't make sense. Because it's always been the case doesn't make it necessary. Is this application still useful?

        Without meaning to cause offense, monku, I very much disbelieve you, or anyone else, can taste the celery. Or the carrots, for that matter, but the celery is my main point. They just seem to add a certain physical girth to the recipe, and as such, can easily be discarded.

        1. re: Leibowitz

          No offense taken.
          Maybe you can't taste celery.

          1. re: monku

            I can definitely taste celery. Serve me a dish with it and I know as soon as I put it in my mouth.

            1. re: monku

              i can always taste the celery. the carrot adds a touch of sweetness. but its the combo of the three that adds a base of rich flavor

            2. re: Leibowitz

              Doesn't the carrot at a touch of sweetness to the stock?

              1. re: viperlush

                Making chicken broth/stock/soup doesn't require a "mirepoix", you do use the same ingredients - I have made broth without celery and with celery - I could most definitely taste the difference! I hate cooked celery - but I like the flavor that it gives to the soup - it is kind of grassy as thew said above.

                1. re: harryharry

                  Yes, if I'm making stock I wouldn't bother with a mirepoix - I just stick in onion, carrot and celery (branch celery or celeriac). I use it more for stews and braised dishes.

                  1. re: lagatta

                    Whereas I put NOTHING in the pot other than chicken "parts" and water. I like my stock to be totally plain so I can take it anywhere I want :)

                    1. re: c oliver

                      Oh, I do that too. It depends on what I'm using it for.

                      1. re: lagatta

                        I make a couple of gallons at a time and then freeze so it's just easier for me to have all of it plain.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          That would be impossible for me to do, as my fridge and freezer are very small (and deliberately so; no point in huge equipment for one middle-aged person and one elderly cat), and I make most of my broth or stock in a small crockpot (almost the original one, but with a removable, really washable ceramic liner). There is some simmering right now and I did do it with celery, a carrot and an onion. Duck bones, smoked turkey leg bone, and a few chicken legs that are already fully cooked, bones stripped, bones and skin back in the pot.

                          All will be skimmed and stored tomorrow morning. In Montréal, even though it is a mild night, not much problem cooling the stock for the freezer!

                          1. re: lagatta

                            I put two cups each in zipping bags and freeze them lying flat. Then I stand them up in a box in the freezer. It's an itty-bitty upright that I use mostly for stock(s) and LARGE hunks of meat. Only two of us. We can't put anything outside cause the should-be-hibernating bears are out and about cause it's so warm :(

                            1. re: lagatta

                              I would love some time with a beloved cat and something simmering in a crockpot. Sounds lovely.

                  2. re: Leibowitz

                    so now everyone else has the same tastebuds as you do? do you also seriously doubt that people like music you don't like?

                    if you can't taste it, fine. calling me a liar for saying i do taste it? not fine.

                    again - cook 2 stocks , one w/ one w/out.. and see

                    1. re: thew

                      With all apologies necessary, I did not call you a liar.

                      1. re: Leibowitz

                        if i say i can taste it (and i did) and your response is :".... I very much disbelieve you, or anyone else, can taste the celery." it pretty much amounts to exactly that.

                        1. re: thew

                          For what it's worth, sensing this sort of thing is more the job of the nose than the mouth. Unlike the mouth, which only has a few kinds of receptors that sense different chemicals, the nose has thousands, each of which is coded for by a different gene. Everybody has most, but not all, of these genes, which means that everybody has scents that they can't smell. If you sit around for long enough with vials of individual scent compounds, you can figure out what your own blind spots are. Leibowitz may not be able to smell the (fairly subtle) compounds from the celery, although most people can 'taste' them if they're paying attention.

                          1. re: GilaB

                            That's my point. Celery has a very subtle flavour, easily overwhelmed in the most popular applications of French Mirepoix.

                            1. re: Leibowitz

                              I don't think celery's flavor is particularly subtle.

                              1. re: Leibowitz

                                really? to me celery has a very distinct, sharp and green flavor. not subtle at all.

                                ETA Oh jeez, just realized how old this is. that's what i get for reading CH on my phone.

                            2. re: thew

                              thew, I was not even responding to your comment. Again, all necessary apologies for any misunderstanding.

                        2. re: Leibowitz

                          I can taste it, because I didn't used to like celery in anything when I was younger, and now I do. There is definitely a difference. As for the assertion that one can't taste the carrots -- well, YMMV, but to me that's just c-r-a-z-y! I find carrots have a very strong flavor and a definite, sometimes overpowering sweetness.

                          Another thought: could it be you're using very old celery? Celery that is greener and fresher has a much stronger flavor than packaged white celery. Just a thought. In any case, if you cannot taste a difference, just omit the ingredients you don't need. But I'll continue to use my carrots and celery!

                          1. re: visciole

                            I was thinking it was old celery, too. Fresh celery has a heady smell, to me, and adds a nice flavor but often what you buy in grocery stores isn't fresh. If you drive by a celery field, you'll get a big whiff of it.

                            1. re: chowser

                              How lucky you are to have driven past a celery field and gotten a big whiff! Where was/is this?

                              1. re: blue room

                                Salinas, Ca. I worked for a couple of large agricultural companies and it was the first time I appreciated celery--being driven by the fields and then given a piece fresh out of the field. It's why, when people put down celery, I think they probably haven't had it fresh from the field. That and brussel sprouts.

                                1. re: chowser

                                  Nobody has!! Same with iceberg lettuce, it tastes unbelievable when you've had it fresh from the fields.....

                                  Best Whopper I ever had was in Salinas, and it no doubt was the lettuce and tomato they used.

                                  1. re: chowser

                                    Fresh brussels sprouts are lovely. It is sad how many people have experienced them, as overaged, overcooked sadness.

                                      1. re: sr44

                                        I thought brussels sprouts were one of those vegetables that actually benefitted from a frost. I've seen stalks still in snow-covered gardens in Germany waiting to be harvested.

                                        1. re: nemo

                                          they are -- they get sweeter after a frost, as do parsnips

                                    1. re: chowser

                                      And even - eek- broccoli. But with broccoli it helps that the field is in a colder climate than California or Arizona

                                  2. re: chowser

                                    Fresh is better in most enterprises, but I am a simple cook. So I say: Celery, even old, dried up celery that has languished at the bottom of the crisper drawer is better than no celery at all. I have made stocks and sauces that prefer celery without it because it was too late in the day (or I was too lazy to go to the store to get some) and, when I have done that, I could tell it was missing. I don't care for the taste or smell of celery as a stand alone but I hate to be without it; sorta like I hate the smell and price of gasoline, but I would not want to drive without it.

                                    1. re: fiatlander

                                      I so totally disagree.

                                      I've been unable to find any celery in Sri Lanka or Singapore that wasn't disgustingly bitter. Awful, awful flavour! I won't go near it with a ten foot pole. I'll do without instead.

                                2. re: Leibowitz

                                  Celery has a very definite taste, and celery leaves have even more flavor. I think maybe you just don't taste them, but perhaps this is because you are making spicy foods? You mentioned Indian, which offers fabulous variations of stews with spices, but sometimes heat can mask basic flavors.

                                  Have you tried using Trinity for some recipes (onion, celery, bell pepper)? Not as delicate, but you can definitely taste it more than its French cousin in some dishes. Bell pepper may not be appropriate for some things, but perhaps this combination may be more flavorful to you.

                                3. re: monku

                                  As basic as salt and pepper? That's taking it a bit too far. A mire poix is nowhere near at that level of ubiquity.

                                  I make my chicken stock with chicken. If I want a chicken noodle soup, I'll add celery carrots and onion when I'm actually making the soup.

                                  1. re: joonjoon

                                    And if I want an Asian soup then I can add those flavors and would definitely not want the mirepoix flavors.

                                4. I believe the point of mirepoix is the underlying complexity that it lends to the stock. The point isn't to be able to pick out each flavor, but to have a broth with more depth.

                                  It's like so many other things where you're going for layers of flavor...I like to add a few shakes of a few different hot sauces when I make chili, for example, and while I can't pick out any one of them in particular, the overall flavor of the chili is more interesting.

                                  I have made stock with the full trinity of onions/carrots/celery and also just onions, and to my taste buds, using all three tastes significantly better. I play with other veggies too, sometimes adding leeks or garlic to the mirepoix.

                                  1. A sautéed vegetable mix like this is common through out the world, but the exact choice varies. This combination of onion, carrot and celery is basically French.
                                    From the wiki article:
                                    "Similar combinations, both in and out of the French culinary repertoire, may include leeks, parsnips, garlic, tomatoes, shallots, mushrooms, bell peppers, chilies, and ginger, according to the requirements of the regional cuisine or the instructions of the particular chef or recipe. The analagous soffritto (frequently containing parsley) is the basis for many traditional dishes in classic Italian cuisine, and the sofrito serves a similar purpose in Spanish cuisines. In Cajun cuisine, a mirepoix or (jocularly so-called) "holy trinity" is a combination of onions, celery and bell peppers."

                                    1. I sometimes make "All Purpose Gravy"--a 2003 recipe from Cook's Illustrated, from canned broth/stock and a mirepoix mix. It's not a disappointing substitute for "real" gravy at all.