For great flavor, it’s a requirement to start with a great base and understanding is going to go a long way to making a great dish.
In France, it’s starts with mirepoix: celery, onions and carrots. In Latin America, Spain and Italy, it’s soffrito which is similar but even differs among those reasons. Head to Louisiana and there it’s onion, celery and sweet peppers.
There are two ways to add flavors from cooking vegetables as your base. Low and slow with a lid is going to sweat the vegetables, removing a lot of the water and concentrating that flavor. Raise the heat a little and you not only get flavor concentration but also flavors from the browning reaction. This can make a big difference in the case of onions where that browning reaction actually brings out a sweet quality.
Here are three bases to get you started…..
Mirepoix: Combine equal parts finely diced carrot, onion and celery. Cook gently in butter. After several minutes, add thyme. Cook until vegetables are tender, not browned.
Soffritto: Combine equal parts finely chopped onion, carrot and celery (or fennel). Cook gently in olive oil. When onion’s translucent, add some finely minced garlic. Cook until garlic is golden.
Sofrito: Combine equal parts finely chopped onion and bell pepper. Cook gently in olive oil. Add finely minced garlic and, depending on the dish, tomatoes.