Jamie Simpson, chef at the Culinary Vegetable Institute, just walked us through how to use dried vegetables to make a marvelous mirepoix—and, in this post, we’re including both a video about how to make mirepoix and answers to questions we’ve asked him in recent conversations about dried vegetables and their mirepoix uses.
TCG: What is mirepoix, really?
JS: A mirepoix is traditionally celery, carrots, onions, sometimes leeks, sometimes not, sometimes peppers. It depends on what region you’re working with. But mirepoix in general is the vegetal contribution to stocks and broths and sauces.
TCG: What role does dried vegetables play in your mirepoix?
JS: By drying vegetables, we’re able to bring more vegetables into the broth, which is more aroma, which is more sugar, it’s more texture, and it’s a beautiful finish. How is this possible? How can we make so much flavor from so little weight? From such little volume? Dehydration is the answer.
TCG: What has been your inspiration for this?
JS: Back in the 2015 Roots Conference, we had a guest chef that came. Her name is Chef Courtney Burns, and she was at what was once called Bar Tartine, a beacon for preservation and fermentation. She brought with her a small carry-on bag, and in that bag was filled with shaved, dehydrated vegetables. Vegetables that would hydrate this brioche and become this aromatic broth to feed 200 people.
TCG: So, this was a light bulb moment?
JS: Definitely. This is what spelled out the idea that you don’t need to always have fresh vegetables in a mirepoix broth to build flavor.
TCG: How does using dried vegetables play into the idea of minimal-waste kitchens?
JS: Effective use of scraps can become highly aromatic contributions to dishes tomorrow, next week, next month, next year. Someone once said to us at the Institute, “The weight of your garbage can is the difference between profit and loss.” We are not a restaurant, but we are a kitchen, and every day is different. Preservation is the key and core of who we are and what we do.
TCG: What else do you like about using dried vegetables in this context?
JS: First, before you use the dried vegetables, they can be vacuum sealed and compressed to take up very little space on a shelf. This is very convenient for us, for any chef. Then, when it’s time to make the mirepoix, you can dump a ton of ingredients into a small pot. Mirepoix using fresh vegetables, meanwhile, takes up much more space.
TCG: What are some of the mirepoix uses?
JS: Any of the trims that ultimately go into our dried mirepoix mix can then be used into any soup, any broth, any sauce, an easy contribution to flavor.
TCG: What mirepoix recipe are you working on now?
JS: The dish we’re exploring here is a potato dumpling poached in a broth of dried mirepoix and picked up with petite carrots, watercress, kale, and chervil.