27 October 2010

Use up the celery and save dinner prep time: make-ahead mirepoix

Herb-keeper Who else routinely uses 1-2 ribs of celery, then, a week later, opens the fridge to find a sad, floppy bunch destined for the compost pile? My solution: mirepoix. Mirepoix is the French term for the finely chopped onion-carrot-celery mixture that forms the base of many soups and sauces. Chances are you've got some carrots and onions sitting around. With a food processor, a few freezer containers and five minutes, you can use up your bunch of celery and have a few batches of mirepoix ready for the next time you need it.

The traditional ratio is 2:1:1; two parts onion, 1 part celery, one part carrot, but I improvise based on what I have on hand. Generally that works out to an onion (peeled) + 1 good-sized carrot (peeled or scrubbed) or a handful of baby carrots + 1 rib of celery (peeled). I use my food processor to roughly chop the carrot, then add the onion and celery (which chop more quickly), give a few pulses, and I'm done.

I store the mirepoix in containers in the freezer where it waits until the next time I make a soup, sauce, or stew. With the bulk of the chopping work already done, I can throw together a decent meal in no time.

If you want to keep your celery crisp for snacks (celery and peanut butter! celery and cream cheese! celery and a string cheese!), a Cuisipro Herb Keeper does a good job. This tall, clear plastic container keeps a small amount of water in the bottom and seals at the top to keep moisture locked in. Good for bunches of cilantro or parsley, too. If your kids are older and breakage isn't as much of an issue, just store your celery in the fridge in a tall, stable glass vase sealed with plastic wrap.

Related: 20 minute dinner: Chicken Dumpling Soup

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I'm glad you posted this; I wasn't sure how celery would fare in the freezer.

thanks for the tip! I'm always throwing away wilted produce!

When I have celery that I want to keep fresh in the fridge, I cut it into about 1 1/2" stalks, and put it into a tuperware and cover the celery with water. I change the water out once a week. Typically the celery will stay crisp for about 3 weeks this way.

The texture goes soft, but since a) you saute it anyway and b) it's there as an aromatic, it's fine. Not good when you want the celery mainly for crunch (salads, etc.).

Great tip! I just tweeted it and mentioned it on the PH Facebook page. Thank you, A. L.

The celery in my fridge says "thank you". I cook all the time and but celery for a recipe and then feel badly that the rest rots. I will do the whole stalk next time. And, I often save the leafy tops to make stock- I toss things like that frozen in a bag until we get around to making the stock- we even toss bones in.

Um, or you could just buy as much celery as you need. Celery is generally priced by the pound; just snap off as many ribs as you need and put the rest back.

Celery is sold by the bag in the grocery stores where I shop (and I assume it's the same as many others). You could look for a smaller head (is that the right word?), but you take the whole bag, not just a part of it.

I just chop up the celery, carrot and onion - and anything else that might be good in soup - and put it in a gallon ziplock. No need to get a food processor dirty and it's fine to have big chunks in soup.

This is similar to the Latin sauce base called Sofrito. It too is a flavouring agent you can make or buy jarred that forms the basis of sauces, enhances soups, rice, etc.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sofrito

You might try asking a produce guy the next time you see one. I have asked at a few supermarkets and they have all said you can just pull off the little sleeve and take what you need.

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Another tip for leftover celery is to wrap stalks in a paper towel and then tightly wrap in aluminum foil. It stays crisp for at least a month in the fridge this way.

Brilliant idea. I never know what to do with my leftover celery!

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