Possibly the first real French recipe I ever made on my own. This dish won my heart and I made it over and over again all summer long. During that first experiment I mis-read the recipe book and prepared peas (petits pois) instead of green beans (haricots vert). A still make it with peas over a decade later!
My friends and I decided to get together and make a 'nice' meal. I toted my french cookbook first to the grocery then to my friend's house with a large paper grocery bag in tow.
I lined up all of my ingredients and I started to chop. Ah! that calming repetitive action. One by one releasing the fragrance of each vegetable.
For me this dish is the essence of traditional French cuisine. Delicate and hardy, subtle and fragrant, simple and memorable. It stands alone as a main dish accompanied by fresh warm crusty Italian bread loaded generously with soft unsalted butter in stark contrast with the chilled dry white wine.
The peas can still be replaced by parboiled green beans sliced cross wise into 1/4 inch (6mm) lengths. Or they could equally be substituted by rapidly sautéed baby artichokes or baby asparagus.
As the Mirepoix begins to simmer the luscious scent wafts throughout the neighborhood making all the neighbors jealous. The smell of celery and onion alway reminds me of my mom's homemade stuffing. That glorious smell of home, of warmth, of love.
The Mirepoix is an aromatic base for many dishes.
Warm 1 tbsp (1 càs) olive oil in a heavy saucepan over low heat.
Add a carrot finely chopped, an onion finely chopped, a small celery stalk finely chopped, and a pinch of herbes de provence.
Cover and simmer stirring occasionally.
2 cups (300g) Arborio rice (rizotto)
4 cups (1 L) broth, boiling
1 cup (100g) fresh peas (or frozen)
1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter
1/4 cup (60g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Prepare the Mirepoix in a heavy saucepan. Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon over low heat until all the grains are coated with oil and opaque.
Over medium heat, add the broth and stir constantly until the rice is tender, 20 min. Stir the peas into the rice. The rice should be almost liquid but not quite pourable. It is usually necessary to add a little more liquid before removing it from the heat to achieve this consistency.
Off the heat, stir in the butter and then the cheese. Serve in a deep soup plate.