The Miracle of Mirepoix

Last night I made my second-ever mirepoix, as an experiment to go with chicken hearts. I cooked it a little differently from my original go-round based on Michael Pollan’s book. I still cooked the dice slowly, but I used less oil and I turned up the heat a bit once the vegetables were well-softened. I admit I still don’t have the patience to brown every vegetable, but I got a respectable caramelization on my panful. I also browned my chicken hearts. Truthfully, they smelled a bit repulsive, somehow remininiscent of liver.

Once my mirepoix and hearts were browned, I put them in a pot, with braising liquid of beef broth (since heart tastes somewhat like steak), two bay leaves, some shakes of Worcestershire sauce (for umami), and a small glug of apple cider vinegar since that is supposed to help cut the blood taste of heart. Two hours at 250 F, two hours at 325 F. The final result smelled surprisingly like barbecue sauce, and was similarly sweet. The chicken hearts had relaxed (though could have used more time, I think) and reminded me of slow-cooked stew beef. My guest liked the final result, but also found it sweet.

I would not have expected those ingredients to give me a dish so sweet that my guest thought I might have added sugar. It must be the mirepoix, with the natural sugars in the vegetables released through slow cooking. And here is where my newbie cooking skills fall down, as I have no idea how to fix that sweetness. My guest suggested salt when I gave him a taste, and I added both salt and pepper to our bowls, but it hardly dented the sweetness. Jamie Oliver’s videos have helped me understand that a dish ideally has a balance of sweet, sour, bitter, salt and umami, but my palate isn’t educated enough to know what the fix should have been.

Both my mirepoix dishes have been very sweet, though I think the tomatoes helped save the first braise, of lamb. Pollan’s mentor recommended salting the meat well in advance, so I will need to plan better going forward in order to do that. But I don’t know how to balance the flavour profile. I guess I need to find a real chef to ask!

I love my organic vegetables, though I couldn’t find organic celery this time of year, but who knew that all that flavour would turn into such sweetness if cooked the right way? The triumvirate of onion, carrot and celery make a wonderful soup, but in soup you cook them for less than half an hour, to prevent them from tasting sour. Maybe some additional veggies added that have not been slow-cooked would help; I need a way to bulk out the meal without carbs. But mirepoix still seems like a miracle to me.




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