Tuesday, August 3, 2010

mirepoix...learn it, use it, love it!

On behalf of my menu for tomorrow night, I have decided to explain what a mirepoix (mihr-PWAH) is. Now, i know its not Thanksgiving or Christmas (or any other holiday) but i have decided to make turkey and dressing. My husband and I have had a rough couple of days, and to help us get over this week and to enjoy our "humpday" I am going to make some comfort food. This particular post is going to have lots of explanation and may seem boring to some. But if you are truly interested in getting the best flavors in your dishes...they should all start with this one simple formula.

A mirepoix is made by sauteing vegetables-one part celery, one part carrots, and two parts onions-in butter. Some chefs add smoked meats, such as ham bacon or fish, to darken and enrich the aroma. Adding a mirepoix to your dish makes a strong impact. Cooking a simple mirepoix in a pan before braising meats or fish yields a surprisingly complex flavor. It is used to flavor stocks and soups. Tomato paste or puree is often included if you want to make a brown stock, gravy or stew.

The one I have just explained in the basic formula, but can be altered with other aromatic ingredients depending on the type of dish you are creating. Leeks, parsnips, garlic, tomatoes, shallots, mushrooms, peppers and ginger are among the ingredients commonly referred to as aromatics. They can be used in various combinations depending on the type of cuisine. If you needed Asian aromatics you could use ginger, garlic and green onion. Also commonly used is the Cajun Trinity-onion, green pepper and celery.

Side note for basic formula: Simply start by sweating or browning your onions in just enough fat (butter or oil) to coat the bottom of the pan. Then add your carrots, and finally the celery. Cooking it on low heat until the veggies start to give off their own juices is known as "sweating. If a lid is used to cover the pot as the aromatics are sweating, this is known as smothering. A mirepoix can cook until it turns a deep rich brown, preferred to as caramelized, either on the stove top or in the oven.

Now that you have been introduced to the elements of a mirepoix, I can explain why it is going to be in my dish. I start out making my dressing from boiling a chicken in water. Now you can easily just salt and pepper your chicken and boil it in water alone and use the water infused with the chicken flavor for, but as stated before...a mirepoix works like magic! I am going to start my broth by making a mirepoix, then pouring water into my pot after i have extracted the flavors from the vegetables. I will then add my chicken and cook like normal. After my chicken is cooked, I remove it from the broth, let it cool and debone. then add the meat back to the pot. VOILA!!! I have my basis for my dressing. Now just add cornbread, biscuits, eggs, or whatever else you might use in your dressing recipe. The flavor created by this one simple addition and start to your dishes will BLOW YOUR MIND!!!

I really hope that you will try this out the next time you are going to make a soup or stock. Even for browning meats or fish...even using it as the start to a spaghetti sauce will add so much flavor and aroma to your meal.

I hope you enjoyed this little lesson, and until next time...

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