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Revisiting the mirepoix

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Up til now, I have been sloppy with my mirepoix--I couldn't understand why I was using celery, and I HATE HATE HATE cooked carrots. However, in reading a few past threads, I now understand that REAL celery (ie, not from a grocery store) actually has an incredible grassy flavor and provides sodium which was a good alternative to taxed-salt in olden times, and that carrots add sweetness and color.

So, I am going to stop at the farm tomorrow and see if I can't get fresh celery and carrots.

Questions:

1. The last time I picked up carrots (organic from Wegmans) they weren't sweet at all. Nor were the carrots that I grew myself. How can I ensure that I get sweet carrots? Also, if I chop them super-fine will they really melt away so I don't have to eat them?

2. Can I use the celery leaves in the cheesecloth-wrapped bouquet-garni?

And not related to this thread topic...I have some chocolate mint that smells divine. Would a sprig of it in the bouquet be disgusting in my beef burgundy?

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  1. Carrots lose their sweetness over time in storage so, IMO, you've gotten some carrots that were less than fresh. Yes, you can use celery leaves in bouquet-garni.

    1. Don't use the leaves - they will convey significant celery taste to the point of making whatever it is you're doing inedible.

      Most of the big chunky carrots I've had aren't sweet either, unless you cook them. I have cut mirepoix into fine dice (slightly larger than brunoise) and cooked it down slowly to where it was about 1/3-1/2 of the starting volume. It's dark at this point and provides a lot of resulting flavor. And no, it doesn't melt away so if you don't want to eat the vegetables strain the liquid.

      5 Replies
      1. re: wattacetti

        I use leaves all the time. I like them chopped in soups. Haven't made anything inedible yet. I don't use more than a small bunch though.

        1. re: Jen76

          I use the leaves too...especially when making stuffing or bread dumplings for a stew.
          I hate it when the markets trim the leafy tops off of the celery!!!

          1. re: The Professor

            Okay - I guess you and Jen76 like a stronger celery taste than I do.

            1. re: wattacetti

              I suspect it may be a matter of the amount of celery leaves used. I agree that they're often quite strong and that you don't need too many in a bouquet garni but I do like the hint of celery in some soups, stews and sauces so I do use the leaves.

              1. re: wattacetti

                I find celery leaves to be milder and sweeter than the stalks and like to include the former in salads and soups. Celery has a lot of salt, whether you are talking leaves or stalks.

                Avoid carrots with cracks. They tend to have woody cores and to be bitter. I agree that "baby carrots" are sweeter, although that's a misnomer as they are really cut from larger, fatter carrots. I think the difference is that they probably are not cut from the core of the carrot.

                I'd recommend tasting the finished dish with celery and carrot included. If you really hate the way they taste after cooking with the other ingredients, put your liquid through
                a colander or strainer. Don't press on the solids, though, or you'll be putting them back into the dish. If you are making something like soup stock, you can put them in it in big pieces, which will be easy to remove. Slice the carrot in half lengthwise to expose plenty of surface area, then cut into several pieces crosswise. Cut celery stalks crosswise into 3-4 pieces.

        2. I love carrots but sometimes just grate them. Same with onion (and collect the resulting juices). They are wonderful added this way to so many things including one of my favourites, meatloaf.

          1. I do not understand your comment about REAL CELERY....what do you mean?

            1. I find that baby carrots (or those packaged as baby carrots) are generally sweeter than large carrots - you might try buying those. I too hate cooked carrots, but I find that they do sweeten significantly when cooked down in a mirepoix, and definitely disappear into a sauce if cooked sufficiently and chopped VERY FINELY - I use my food processor and buzz the hell out of them. Same goes for celery - I HATE it if I can detect its texture, but if I buzz it finely enough in the food processor, it's ok.

              1 Reply
              1. re: biondanonima

                I also danged near puree cooked carrots & celery: Mr. Pine is often veggie averse (well, to cooked veggies, anyway), so, as if he was a toddler, I "hide" cooked veggies by pureeing. sheesh.

              2. You don't have to eat the mirepoix, but that depends upon the dish you're making.

                For example, the mirepoix in a long braised pot roast will become really mushy. When the meat is done, I strain out the mushy veggies and add fresh veggies to complete dish.

                1. Re the chocolate mint: It can be delicious, but not in beef burgundy. Try it in a more dessert-y setting, or in dishes where mint is already called for (middle eastern cooking, e.g.), or make a simple syrup with it and use for drinks... Chocolate mint is a form of peppermint, where most mint called for in cooking is spearmint.

                  1. Is this particular trio used much outside of classic French cooking?

                    Speaking of variations, of late I've been buying Chinese celery, which has thinner stalks (ribs), and more leaves. I also use the tougher parts of fennel instead of celery.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: paulj

                      Carrot/celery/onion mirepoix is common throughout northern Europe and North America, possibly because of the pre-eminence of French cooking over several centuries. It's certainly the standard sauce/stockmaking combo for vast numbers of home cooks who've never heard the word "mirepoix". Of course there are other bases, like sofrito, recaito, and the trinity.