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preparing mirepoix for adding liquid

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
Just a quick question.

Note: I've edited to rephrase.

When preparing veg in mirepoix as a base for stock etc. When do you decide it's time to stop sauteing/sweating and add the liquid?
post #2 of 8
When you start to get some caramelization on the veg and the onions are transparent.

Of course it is depending on what kind of a sauce you are making. If you are making a clear stock you don't want to brown the vegetables.

Some chefs, like Paul Prudhomme, will tell you that vegetables will impart a different flavor profile at different stages of cooking, so he adds them at different times while building the sauce.

Break a Spoon!
Michael
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Michael
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post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 
Thanks Unichef, I mostly go for a softening and try to avoid caramelising the vegetables at all, which is not to argue against your technique, as it is to state mine.

The reason I do that is partly based in this post by Luc H

http://www.cheftalk.com/forums/239613-post14.html

It just happened that I had the time to play the other day and was preparing a mirepoix on quite a low heat, when I wondered how completely the liquid could be replaced by the medium used for sautéing/sweating - which in my case was oil.

I took it way past the point at which I normally would, massively reducing the volume of the ingredients, but still avoiding any obvious caramelising - although there was some evidence of catching on the bottom of the pan due to inattention and/or lateness in adding some more oil when needed.

Certainly the stock was darker than usual, possibly sweeter - although I'm not very good at identifying differences from memory and didn't have a direct comparison stock to hand.

The whole thing raised the question of to what degree if at all an experienced hand might finesse the ingredients at this stage to get the most from them? Possibly even making a deliberate choice to deliberately stop at a point in order to avoid releasing an excess of one or more aspects (like sweetness) of the mirepoix.

I lack the palette to usefully make these judgements as I go, but I am interested to know if these adjustments are part of the toolkit of the experienced chef - or is this stage of the mirepoix more function than art, and not something that should be given too much weight - with any adjustments left to the later stages of the intended dish.
post #4 of 8
Hello Andydude,

If using the technique I described in that post, you can stop when you noticed that the oil has changed colour either getting greener (if using olive oil) or getting orange. In either case, this means that the vegetables tissue has brokendown enough to leach their oil soluble pigments (orange from carrots and green from the celery).

The other point, which is reached later, is when the veggies do not sizzle as much or no more meaning all the water is basically out of the veggies.

Anything longer will increase sweetness.

Hope this heps?
Luc H.
I eat science everyday, do you?
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I eat science everyday, do you?
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post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 
Yes, I definitely reached the stage at which the greenish tint was being shared by the celery and onions.

Thanks luc. I find I am oddly able to find lots of interest in this simple base - playing with it has just caught my imagination for some reason. I wonder if the majority of chef/cooks out there have a particular flavour/value that they try and reproduce each time - or just want to produce something that falls within the field of acceptability.

I know there are different types of mirepoix, but within each type, are there various chefly discussions about the best type of carrots, onions, parsnips, peppers etc? .... and if so, have they led to any general agreements about preferred varieties of ingredients to achieve particular aims?

To the experienced palette, does the quality of veg at this point have an impact on the dish later on - or are a balanced mix of collected kitchen scraps just as capable of producing a good base?

It might seem a little sad to you guys that this stuff interests me - but I find I actually like that I find these basic building blocks interesting.:)
post #6 of 8
The reason I make mirepoix this way is because the end result is a mixture of reactive sugars. When these reactive sugars are combined with proteins (i.e. chicken for making chicken broth) it results in the production of free amino acids. Free amino acids give umami (savoury) notes to dishes. One very potent flavour enhancing amino acid is glutamic acid which converts to monosodium glutamate AKA MSG. A well made mirepoix will enhance any meats and dish.

The probable original intention of mirepoix (a very old recipe) was exactly that to enhance the taste of food in a simple way using scraps and without using very expensive herbs or salt.

When you think about it when making soffrito for chilli using the mirepoix technique helps to enhance flavours when the garlic and onions are slowly cooked this way. (That's is the secret to my chili at least)

Meat based dishes that are cooked for a very long time (like stew or pulled pork) are very tasty because proportionally speaking more MSG is created during the cooking process because meat contain more of that particular amino acid.

To answer your question, I would say that the individual type of vegetable in the combo (carrot, celery, onion) does not necessary matter in the final taste. It is the amount of sugar they contain that would make the difference and the duration of cooking (avoiding caramelization obviously) be it scraps or whole veggies.

I'll add that every mirepoix I have made was different in combination because of what was available (like green onions versus spanish or yellow, parsnips versus carrots, etc) but the resulting broth was always good meaning it tasted bland but when combined in a dish it would make the flavours bloom.

I can go on for much longer but I will spare you on more details....

Luc H.
I eat science everyday, do you?
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I eat science everyday, do you?
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post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 
Thanks ever so much Luc_H, I'm sure it's all old hat to you guys, but it's all gold to me.
post #8 of 8
It is not old hat because not many understand the complexities of the mirepoix and many chemical reactions are still unknown in everyday cooking.

By the way, I forgot to add that if you let your mirepoix veggies caramelize that means that the rective sugars are being destroyed hence you will be missing these key ingredients to react with the proteins when you make the broth or dish later.

Luc H.
I eat science everyday, do you?
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I eat science everyday, do you?
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