Mirepoix, Charles-Pierre-Gaston-François de Lévis, Duke of

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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Mirepoix was ‘an incompetent and mediocre individual’, writes Pierre Larousse at the end of the 19th century, ‘who owed his vast fortune to the affection Louis XV felt toward his wife’. This same author informs us that the unfortunate Mirepoix had one claim to fame: he gave his name to ‘a sauce made of all kinds of meat and a variety of seasonings’.

grimod de la Reynière (1808) confirms the gastronomic pretensions of the hapless Duke when he cites a quail dish à la Mirepoix and claims that it was the invention of the deceased Maréchal. But what exactly, in the 18th century, constituted a dish à la Mirepoix? The answer is hard to supply since it is not until the 19th century that the term is encountered regularly in French culinary texts. Beauvilliers, for instance, in 1814, gives a short recipe for a Sauce à la Mirepoix which is buttery, wine-laced stock garnished with an aromatic mixture of carrots, onions, and a bouquet garni. carême, in the 1830s, gives a similar recipe calling it simply Mire-poix and, by the mid-19th century, gouffé refers to a Mirepoix as ‘a term in use for such a long time that I do not hesitate to use it here’. His mirepoix is listed among ‘essences’ and, indeed, is a meaty concoction (laced with two bottles of Madeira!) which, like all other essences, was used to enrich many a classic sauce.