Humble Beginnings with Onions, Carrots, and Celery
We like to encourage people to keep their pantries stocked with good quality basics so you can easily reach for ingredients you need to make a nutritious meal. Among the vegetables on our pantry list that we always keep on hand are onions, carrots, and celery. This trio of vegetables forms a backbone of flavor for many dishes including broths, soups, stews, and sauces.
There is a fancy French term for this particular trio of veggies; Mirepoix (pronounced meer-pwah). The traditional ratio of Mirepoix is 2 parts onion to 1 part celery and 1 part carrot. There is a fudge factor here so a few more carrots or stalks of celery will be fine. You can substitute leeks for the onion and celery root for the celery.
This workhorse veggie trio comes from a category of vegetables and herbs called aromatics. Mirepoix vegetables are often finely chopped and sautéed, where they will melt into a dish and offer a quiet backdrop of flavor, but they can just as easily be used whole or roughly chopped in slow-simmered stocks or braises.
So many wonderful soups including bean, cream-based, meat, tomato, vegetable, and other soups begin their flavor journey by sweating or sautéing a pile of onions, carrots and celery in a little fat before moving on to other ingredients.
For stews or braises, you cut them in large, uniform chunks, up to 1 inch size. For slow roasted meats, cut them in 3 inch chunks so they hold up over the long cooking and still have flavor to offer. For soups, ½ inch to ¾ inch is a good size.
If you are making broth, either a meat or veggie broth, cut them into 1 or 2 inch pieces. After a 2 hour simmer they will give up their flavor and you will compost them when the broth is finished. You can lightly oil and roast the veggies until they start to brown up before dumping them into the pot, and this will give the broth an even deeper, more complex flavor.
If you haven’t been in the habit of starting out your dishes with onions, celery and carrots, give it a try next time and see how it elevates things to the next level and will make a French chef proud.