Many of my recipes reference classic French culinary terminology. I have collected many of the commonly used culinary phrases and definitions here so that you can quickly look them up while reading the recipe (before you start cooking). This page is also admittedly self serving in that I prefer not to write the same definitions in every recipe.
Pronounced “all dent-tay.” Still slightly firm when bitten. This phrase is most often used to described perfectly cooked pasta, but can also be used to describe rizotto (which is actually rice) or blanched vegetables.
Pronounced “oh-sec.” To reduce a liquid in a skillet until the pan is nearly dry.
Pronounced “shif-a-nod.” Method of finely cutting leaf vegetables or fresh herbs into very thin strips. Stack the leaves of the vegetables or herbs, roll them up into a small tube and make 1/8 inch cuts or smaller across the width of the tube.
Pronounced “per-si-yod.” A mixture of herbs and fat used as a topping or garnish. Minced parsley, minced garlic and melted butter make up the most common flavor combination for a persillade. I often add breadcrumb and grated parmesan to this mixture to top a gratin.
You can substitute olive oil for the butter, add other fresh herbs such as oregano or thyme, or add red or white wine vinegar depending on the flavor profile you are looking to create.
Prounounced “gra-ton.”Technique of topping a dish with a brown crust such as a persillade, breadcrumb, egg or butter.
Pronounced “roo.” Mixture of equal parts flour to fat which is cooked to varying degrees and used as a thickening agent. The three most commonly used stages of roux are white, blond, or brown. As the roux darkens in color it loses it’s thickening capability. However, a dark rough adds a deep rich flavor to soups and stews, such as Cajun Gumbo.
Pronounced “lar-don.” Small strips of salt cured pork or pork fat used as a garnish for salads or other dishes or rendered with onions and used as a base for stews and pasta sauces. Bacon can be substituted if salt cured pork is difficult to find.
Pronounced “meer-pwa.” Roughly chopped vegetable combination, gently sauted or sweated and used as a base for many cooking applications. Classic French cuisine uses a combination of onions, celery, and carrots. The Cajun vegetable combination (sometimes called “the trinity”) uses onions, celery, and green bell pepper. Italian cooks often use onions the same combination as French (onions, celery, carrots) and sometimes add flat leaf parsley, garlic, fennel, or diced cured pork. This is referred to it as a “Battuto.” The Spanish version, known as Sofrito, uses onions, garlic, and tomatoes.
Process of cooking vegetables seasoned with salt and pepper until soft with some browning.
Process of gently cooking vegetables seasoned with salt and pepper until soft and translucent, but with no browning or color.
The process of browning meat over very high heat to create a maillard reaction.
Named for the French chemist, Camille Maillard, who first described it, a maillard reaction is a chemical reaction that occurs between amino acids and sugars when food begins to brown. This reaction is what gives browned food a rich, deep flavor.
Mise en place
Pronounced “mees-en-plaus.” Literally translated as “put in place.” In culinary terms, this means to set up and prepare your station for service (i.e. the dinner rush in the restaurant industry). Home cooks can benefit from preparing their mise en place before beginning to cook. This can mean gathering all of your ingredients, but it can also refer to preheating your over, blancing vegetables, and chopping all of your necessary vegetables so that everythi,g is in place and ready to go.
Mixture of two or more liquids that are normally immiscible (cannot be mixed) such as oil and vinegar. An emulsifier can be used to stabilize and bind the immiscible ingredients. Some commonly used emulsifiers are egg yolks and mustard.
The process of slowly bringing an ingredient up to the necessary temperature whisking small amounts of the hot liquid it will be added to into the substance to be tempered. This is most commonly done when adding eggs to a hot liquid to keep the eggs from coagulating, but can also be done to other delicate ingredients to keep them from breaking.
Montée au beurre
Pronounced “montae-oh-ber.” Translates as “mount with butter.” The process of quickly stirring or whisking butter into a sauce just before serving to give a sheen and smooth mouth feel to sauces.
Pronounced “Nap-pae.” Nappe refers to the consistency of a sauce when it reaches a viscosity that allows it to coat the back of a spoon and holds the shape when you swipe your finger across the spoon.
Pronounced “Syook.” Accumulated brown bits at the bottom of a pot or pan when cooking with dry heat methods (Ex. saute). This is delicious, heavenly, caramelized sugars, carbohydrates and proteins (a.k.a. goodness given to us by the food gods).
A method of cooking in which a food product (most often a vegetable) is cooked very quickly in rapidly boiling water then immediately submerged into ice water to stop the cooking process.