Mirepoix: The Key to Delicious Fall Soups

Summer may not be over yet, but the days are growing shorter and the nights are getting cooler. It won’t be long before the leaves make their annual transition from green to reds, yellows, and oranges. Yes, we have to face it; autumn is on its way.

That doesn’t have to be a hang-your-head-low moment, though. Fall means a lot of fun things too: those beautiful leaves, pumpkin patches, football, apple cider, and soups and stews. Cooking in Oregon in the fall is the perfect time for soup. And if you’re planning on some homemade soups and stews this fall, then you need to know about mirepoix. Don’t worry. While the word mirepoix is French, you don’t have to be pursuing an education at a culinary institute to use it in your cooking.

It’s All About the Aromatics

Prounounced  “Meer –pwah,” Mirepoix is a combination of onions, celery, and carrots that form the base for sauces, soups, stews, and stocks. The ratio of ingredients is 2 parts onion to 1 part celery to 1 part carrots by weight. In this ratio, these ingredients provide a rich and earthy flavor that helps to make French cooking so delicious.

Mirepoix may have been named after a chef who is credited for finalizing the balance of the 2:1:1 ratio or a small town in the Pyrenees; but either way, the use of onions, celery, and carrots as foundational ingredients surely predates both. Home cooks can bring their cooking up to par as a culinary institute graduate simply by adding this trio to their recipes.

Delicious Uses for Mirepoix

Mirepoix is versatile and at the heart of hundreds of French and French-inspired dishes. Many French recipes will call for it and a bouquet garni – a bundle of herbs in a pouch – as the foundation. Here are a few ways to mirepoix in your every day cooking.

  • Try stewing a chicken in a slow cooker or Crock Pot with just mirepoix and a sprinkle of Herbes de Provence
  • Use mirepoix to deglaze a pan after cooking pork chops. Pour the mixture over the top of the chops and serve
  • Roast veal bones and mirepoix in an oven until browned, then put the mixture into a stock pot, cover with water, and simmer (not boil!) for an hour. This makes indispensable stock that can be used in many, many dishes

The Power of Three

Whether you’re talking religion, comedy, or cooking, there is power in threes. Many cultures around the world use three ingredients as a base for numerous other dishes.

Spanish cuisine uses sofrito – garlic, onions, and tomatoes sautéed in olive oil – as a base for many dishes. Italian cuisine has its own soffritto that is similar to the Spanish, but it may also include fennel, leek, or other herbs for enhanced flavored. And here in the U.S., Cajun and Creole cooks use their “holy trinity”, which includes onions, carrots, and bell pepper.

Cooking in Oregon: Making Mirepoix

Whether making a mirepoix for soups or stocks, everything begins with a good dicing. Dice onions, carrots, and celery evenly. About a ½ inch dice will do. If you are making a white stock or are making a soup where the mirepoix will be an ingredient, you might want to go with a smaller dice. About ¼ inch will do.

As written earlier, the ratio (by weight) is 2:1:1, onion: celery: carrots. Making your own stock typically requires one pound of mirepoix to every gallon of stock so an easy mirepoix recipe is:

  • 8 oz onion
  • 4 oz celery
  • 4 oz carrot

As you can see, creating a mirepoix is an easy but essential part of cooking, especially those fall soups that will keep those chills away.  Cooking in Oregon is delicious when you know about mirepoix.

This article is presented by Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Portland. Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Portland offers culinary arts and pâtisserie and baking training programs in the Portland, Oregon area. To learn more about the class offerings, please visit Chefs.edu/Portland for more information.

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