Wednesday, November 4, 2015


I like to cook from scratch, but some days I simply want to assemble previously cooked ingredients.

The solution is to have a selection of "subassembly" ingredients in the freezer. I've written about one of these ingredients: stock. Another is mirepoix.

Mirepoix is the "holy trinity" of two parts onion and one part each of carrot and celery. I use this aromatic mix to lay down the background flavor in dishes like soups, stuffings, and pot pies.
A quick soup can be as simple as:
stock + mirepoix
If I want a creamy soup, I use an immersion blender directly in the pot. If I want a richer soup, I might add:
Umami (savory); e.g., a spoonful of tomato paste or a slice of ham hock.
Nutrition; e.g., torn kale leaves.
These are ingredients I keep in the freezer. I might add herbs, spices, or a squeeze of lemon, but eventually the soup can become confused.
I have to be in the right state of mind to make a bulk supply of mirepoix. It's probably cold or wet outside, I have "unlimited" time, and just want to do something that sets my mind free. Zen practitioners probably make the best mirepoix.

I prefer to use a knife and cutting board rather than the food processor. This takes longer, but it gives me better control over the chop size and consistency. I go for a fairly small dice, which takes even longer, but it's the most versatile in the dishes I prepare.
I sweat the vegetables in small batches using a dash of canola oil rather than the traditional butter or olive oil. The flavor of canola is neutral; I can choose to add butter or olive oil to dishes when I prepare them.

I stop the cooking as soon as the vegetables start releasing their juices. At this point, the mix is still al dente.

Once cooled I spoon the mirepoix into small bags, ready for freezing.
Tip: If I buy too much celery, I make Braised Celery.
Note: I don't peel the carrots: they're organic, and it would be a shame to waste the nutrition.