The Simple Shortcut Every Chef Learns in Culinary School

You might already be doing this!

For even the most humble home cooks, it’s time to bask in the glory of knowing you probably do something chefs learn in culinary school: making and using mirepoix. It’s pronounced meer-PWAH and it’s every chef’s secret to quick and savory cooking. It’s also part of what makes your best one-dish dinners so delectable that your family’s always demanding seconds!

What exactly IS mirepoix?

It’s a simple mixture of three or more chopped vegetables, including onion, carrots and celery. Sautéed slowly (and without browning) in butter or oil to gently coax out its flavors, mirepoix forms the aromatic base for a wide variety of savory dishes. It’s a staple for cooking hearty and comforting meals like chili and Chicken Noodle Soup.

It’s not always called mirepoix, though. Sometimes a recipe–for example, this Slow Cooker Beef Stew–will ask you to start with onions, carrots and celery, but won’t refer to the mixture as mirepoix. Your aromatic base might also include garlic, peppercorns, bell peppers, herbs and even bacon, depending on the recipe.

Prep mirepoix like a chef

Keep carrots, celery and onion on hand–and chop ’em all before you start cooking. This simple technique, called mise en place, helps chefs (and home cooks) make sure they have everything they need before the stove is turned on.

See 15 more things chefs learn at culinary school.

You can also store pre-chopped mirepoix in plastic bags (or on a sheet pan like Ree Drummond), and you’ll be ready to go any time you want to cook a delectable, savory stew, soup or casserole.

How to improvise with mirepoix

While we generally recommend following recipes (at least the first time you make a dish), as the top chef in your own kitchen, it can be fun to improvise. Mirepoix lets you do that easily. For example, feel like an easy roast chicken dinner tonight? Try this easy mirexpoix/chicken improv:

Sauté large chunks of carrots, celery and onion (throw in chunks of potato for good measure) in a cast iron skillet, then top with a quartered chicken (skin on for more intense flavor), and bake at 350° until the vegetables are sweetly roasted and the chicken is 165° F (or the juices run clear).

Serve with a slice of homemade bread and butter for the perfect Sunday supper!

Use mirepoix in these classic soups
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Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly in The Huffington Post as well as a variety of other publications since 2008 on such topics as life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. She is also a writer of crime fiction; her first full-length manuscript, The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.