Touching base with mirepoix 

Touching base with mirepoix.

Today I will discuss using mirepoix to enhance two easy soup recipes. Cheater's Chicken Soup makes use of one of my favorite ingredients: rotisserie chicken. The other recipe, Haut Ramen (that's "Top Ramen" in French, for the unfrozen cavemen in the crowd) employs mirepoix in the preparation of packaged Ramen noodle soup.

Since both recipes include the part where you have to make the mirepoix, let's review that step.

Trim and mince equal parts onion, carrot, and celery (or celery root, aka celeriac). If using celery stalks, include the leaves. Cut it all into consistently sized chunks, large or small as the recipe calls for. The Haut Ramen recipe requires a brunoise, which is French for "finely diced." Making brunoise is a technique that's more effectively shown than described, so check it out on YouTube.

click to enlarge mirepoix - ARI LEVAUX
  • Ari Levaux
  • mirepoix

Cheater's Chicken Soup

One cook's value-added product is another's raw material. Rotisserie chicken, cooked long and slowly enough that the bones are almost spoon-tender, can make a really good soup.

Ingredients

• Rotisserie chicken, whole or partial

• Mirepoix (larger chunks)

• Tomato, canned or frozen

• Spicy things (optional; my preference is pickled jalapeños)

• Salt, soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic powder, herbs, and other flavorings

• Olive oil or butter

Procedure

Gain control of the remains of the chicken, pull it into pieces, and remove the bones. Snip the bones and tendons into small pieces with cooking scissors, and place them into a pasta basket or similar arrangement that can be submerged in boiling water, along with its contents, and can just as easily be removed from the water. One could also put the chicken skin in the pasta boiler to make the soup more oily, if that's your thing. Heat the water and simmer the bones while you get the rest of your mise en place, which is French for arranging your cooking materials.

The next step is to cut the mirepoix and sauté it gently in olive oil, allowing a mild brown to develop.

While the mirepoix is browning and the bones are simmering, cut or pull the chicken meat apart to the consistency you wish, and add the meat to the browning mirepoix, allowing it all to cook together for a moment. This would be a good time to play around with herbs and spices. I like thyme, but you could go ginger/lemongrass, or my mom's favorite: dill.

The soup can be taken in many directions at this point. Remove the pasta basket with bones inside, add the mirepoix and chicken to the pot, and replace the basket of bones back in the pot. At this point, I add some frozen tomatoes from last summer's stash to the basket, so the tomato skins can be removed along with the bones and skin. I also add a pickled jalapeño or two, allowing it to contribute gentle heat and acidity to the pot without getting lost and giving someone a hot surprise.

The soup will be ready as soon as the carrots are soft enough to eat. But if possible, take a little extra time and let everything cook together for an hour or so. As it cooks, tweak the seasonings as necessary: a little salt here, a bit of garlic powder there, a lil' soy sauce, a squirt of fish sauce, squeeze of lime, until it tastes right. Then drop a dollop of mayo on that masterpiece, and you've got some evidence in hand that sometimes cheaters do win.

Haut Ramen

While it's true that a good mirepoix elevates the ingredients around it, there's no reason to literally use Top Ramen brand when there are others to be had, like Sapporo Ichiban, or pretty much any other random brand you might find, that will be better in quality.

Ingredients

• One package of ramen (preferably the good stuff)

• One cup mirepoix, equal parts carrot, celery and onion, chopped into brunoise

• Sesame oil

• Seaweed (a ripped-up sheet of nori, or furikake seasoning)

• Egg (optional)

Procedure

Heat the water. Add brunoise mirepoix and flavor packet. When the water returns to a boil, add the noodles. When the noodles are done, add your egg, if using. Wait a moment, then turn off the heat. Leave the egg whole, or give it a minimal stir with a fork, depending on how you like your yolk, then put the lid on for two or so minutes. Remove the lid. If egg is done to your liking, sprinkle with seaweed, drizzle with sesame oil, and start slurping.

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