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Glossary of Terms

So I tell this super cutie I spoke French. Problem is, I don't really speak French. But it seemed like a good thing to say at the time. Until she told me it was her minor in college.


  • Al-dente. Italian term, applied to cooking pasta, rice or vegetables, meaning that there is some resistance to the bite. Easily done by cooking it slightly less time than you would normally. If only everything we shortchanged in life had a cool Italian name.....

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  • Baking Powder. A leavening agent that interacts both with heat and liquid.
  • Baking Soda. A leavening agent that interacts with acidic liquids. Think elementary school volcanoes of vinegar and baking soda.
  • Béarnaise. A classic sauce which is essentially a variation of hollandaise sauce with tarragon herb and shallots.
  • Blanch. To place in boiling water for a very short period, then put in very cold or ice water. Similar to parboiling, but this is used mostly to whiten nuts.
  • Bourbon. Corn whiskey made in Bourbon County, Kentucky.
  • Braise. A method of slow cooking in a tightly covered pot with a small amt of liquid(such as water, stock, wine or a combination of) over low heat. Usually this is done after searing/browning meats and vegetables with a little fat. Either stove-top or in the oven, a better way to cook tougher cuts of meat. Alternately, if you were to completely immerse the food in liquid, it would be stewing.
  • Broil. Aka: grilling. To cook by direct radiant heat, usually under an oven element.
  • Beurre manie. A butter and flour mixture used as a thickening agent. Basically uncooked roux, beurre manie is better used to thicken sweets, custards, etc.

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  • Clarify. When applied to cooking(and not tap-dancing your way out of an argument), usually means to remove milk solids from butter by slowly heating over low heat. First, skim off any foam on top with a paper towel, then carefully pour off the clear butter after it has melted. Much better stuff for baking. Also, when used for cooking, it generally doesn't brown.
  • Compote. Cooked, sweetened fruit. This can be made in a pan or stewed in a pot. Great topping or filling.
  • Cognac. Brandy made in the Cognac region of France to certain specifications.
  • Crème fraiche. A thickened cream similar to sour cream or yogurt, used in sauces, soups and desserts. Making your own involves utilizing cream and a little buttermilk and letting stand at room temperature for about 12-24 hrs, depending on the desired thickness.

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  • De-glazing. First, get your mind out of the gutter. This is a process of removing the drippings and solids stuck to a pot or pan after searing or pan-frying by using a liquid....could be water, wine, liquor, or stock. Use this to flavor sauces.
  • Demi-glaze. A sauce made typically from stock and reduced by evaporation to a heavy consistency. Can be used alone or as a base for other sauces.

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  • Eau de vie. Literally, French for "water of life", it is a 70% alcohol fermentation(Cooter would be proud), usually of grapes. Used to make brandy and cognac.

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  • Folding. Usually in baking, to gently mix ingredients when you need to maintain air content, such as whipped egg whites or cream. Best done with a spatula.

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  • Giblets. The heart, liver and gizzard of poultry. Kinda like what you lost in your last relationship.

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  • Hollandaise. A rich classic sauce comprised of butter, egg yolk and a bit of white wine and/or lemon juice. Nothing says "I love your body just the way it is" quite like hollandaise sauce.

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  • Infusion. The resultant liquid from steeping herbs, zest, and/or spices in a liquid.

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  • Julienne. To cut into small pieces, similar to what you see in french-fried potatoes. Oh, excuse me....."freedom fries."

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  • Kneading. A mixing method to prepare doughs for baking, making the dough smooth, elastic and resilient. This is best done by hand by simply working the dough on a hard surface with your palms.

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  • Maraschino. An Italian cordial, used in drinks and as a dessert topping, that started life as a cherry and has undergone heavy processing. The Pamela Anderson of cherries.
  • Marinate. To let food sit in a mixture of various ingredients for flavoring and tenderizing.
  • Marscapone. An Italian cream cheese. Great for use in desserts, it can be found in most gourmet stores. You might try substituting Neufchatel for Marscapone, a similar cheese, that is made by Philadelphia as it is found much more commonly.
  • Mirepoix. A mix of vegetables, usually onions, celery and carrots, that is pan seared and used for flavoring in stocks, soups and sauces.
  • Mousse. Usually as a dessert, a whipped combination of cream, sugar, and eggs with flavoring.  **Note: very smearable.

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  • Parboil. Partially cooking a food, usually vegetables, by boiling, then immersing in cold water. Used to prepare foods to reduce cooking time at final preparation.
  • Poaching. A cooking method. To cook in a hot, but not boiling, liquid. Typically the item cooked is not completely immersed in the liquid. Also, in some parts of the South, an accepted hunting method for deer or alligator.
  • Polenta. Formed yellow cornmeal mush, essentially. Baked or grilled with cheese or other toppings, makes a great appetizer or side dish. Say Polenta loudly multiple times with a heavy New York accent and it makes for hours of family entertainment fun.
  • Porterhouse. A real man's steak. Consists of a cut of the loin that includes part Filet Mignon and New York Strip. Buy it huge, buy it thick.

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  • Quiche. Not even going there.......

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  • Ragout. Essentially a thick, heavy stew.
  • Reduce. One way of thickening a liquid, either by slow simmering or by boiling, until a certain amount of liquid has been removed by evaporation.
  • Render. To cook meat in a pan or skillet until the fat is melted off, most common with bacon.
  • Roe. Fish eggs. Spend a paycheck and you get to call it caviar.
  • Roux. A cooked mix of butter and flour used as a thickening agent. If it is cooked together in a pan, then it is a roux. If it is simply mixed and left uncooked, then it would be a beurre manie, but both are essentially the same thing. Knowing the difference, though, invites some level of ridicule.

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  • Sabayon. An Italian dessert of white wine, sugar, and egg yolk. Say it and make it right and it won't be the only thing on the dessert menu.....
  • Saute. Essentially pan-frying with a very thin layer of oil or fat. Think mushrooms or vegetables.
  • Scald. To heat a liquid just to below boiling until a skin has formed on the surface.
  • Searing. Kind of a catch all term for using high temp direct heat to brown the outside of meat, usually in a pan with some oil, butter or fat, although they aren't necessary. You might also call this pan-broiling.
  • Season. The process of treating a cast-iron piece of cookware with fats to produce a somewhat hardened and non-stick surface or to add salt to food. OR, when set to music, makes a nice folk song.
  • Shallots. A type of onion, it has a mellower flavor. Is a perfect substitute for regular onions when making many sauces when you don't want such a robust onion flavor.
  • Sifting. Putting dry ingredients through a strainer or sifter to remove lumps and better mix the ingredients.
  • Simple Syrup.  Half water, half sugar, boiled for about 5 minutes.  Used in several dessert preparations.  Yeah, there's a reason they call it "simple"
  • Stewing. A method of cooking where the food is immersed completely in liquid and cooked slowly over low heat. This can be used for meat, vegetables, and even fruit(note: stewed prunes are illegal to make under the age of 60 in most states).
  • Stock. Essentially, a liquid concentration usually having the appearance of clear soup....made from meat, fish, poultry, and/or vegetables. Used to make sauces and soups.

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  • Tofu. Soybean curd. Good protein substitute when you've had the bad judgment to offer to cook for a vegetarian.
  • Truss. To tie up food, such as poultry, with string so that it holds together when cooked. Oh, the fun you can have with trussing.......

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  • Whipping cream. A must have in the kitchen. Especially by the third date(fifth if she's a keeper).

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  • Zabaglione. Similar to Sabayon, an Italian dessert made with Marsala wine,  egg yolks, and sugar.
  • Zest. The rind of a citrus fruit, excellent for using in dessert infusions and in poultry rubs.

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