Thursdays or Fridays, depending on how our week is going, are generally days to take inventory and go through the drawers in the refrigerator to see what must be used up to make space for fresh ingredients. There was a time when I emptied old vegetables into the bin but experience has taught me that if I get to the odd vegetable bits before they soften and begin to rot I can easily use them up by turning them into mirepoix, which can be a base for sauces, soups, meatballs/loaf, or almost anything I'm whipping up over the weekend. I clean up all my vegetable bits and then I put my food processor to good use.
This particular batch could have been chopped in there instead of ground to make coleslaw a la Kentucky Fried Chicken, but meatballs were on the menu that evening, so I went for a fine grind. While the vegetables were processing I set an iron skillet over low heat to warm. When they were done I coated the bottom with olive oil and tipped the vegetables into the pan with some salt. They slowly softened and caramelized into a tender vegetable base.
I also found some white mushrooms in the back of the fridge and ground them while the vegetables were cooking. When the mirepoix was soft and aromatic, I added the mushrooms, because mushrooms in the meatballs seemed like a no-brainer. They added an earthy richness to the blend, rounding out the sweetness of the vegetables.
I added them to the pan with salt and a generous splash of soy sauce and continued to cook the mixture, stirring occasionally until it was almost dry and homogenous, another 15-20 minutes. Once it cooled Alex folded some of the mirepoix into his meatball mixture and we saved the rest to use over the weekend. Yes, we still have the vegetables in our fridge but they are fully prepped and ready to go. It's a lot easier to toss a spoonful of cooked mirepoix into your pasta sauce or braise at the last minute to give it depth and savor, along with some extra texture, than it is to see a bunch of raw vegetables waiting for inspiration. A good pantry is priceless.
April 2, 2005