Monday, December 1, 2008

Culinary Definitions and Pronunciations

Thought it might be an idea to build a dictionary of some of our cooking terms as I go. I'm also including a listing of recipe ingredients that are common here in the U.S. but might not be well known elsewhere.


Chorizo - Mexican chorizo sausage is a raw sausage that is stuffed into a casing. Spanish chorizo and Portugese chorizo are cured sausages - more like the smoked sausages we are all familiar with.

Half and Half - When you see me refer to half and half in a recipe, it is a product we have available here in the United States that contains a mixture of equal parts whole milk and heavy cream. You can mix up equal parts of milk and cream, or simply substitute heavy cream. Half and half is mostly used in place of full fat, heavy cream to reduce some of the fat in a recipe.

Culinary Terms and Other Southernisms:

Bain-Marie - (bahn-mah-REE) The process of cooking one container in a larger container surrounded by hot water. Typically used for egg custards.

Beurre Manie - (burr-mahn-nhey) - A combination of equal parts of softened butter and four, whisked together until smooth and added to a liquid such as soups, stews and sauces for thickening. Similar to a roux, but uncooked.

Deglaze - To add liquid to the fond in a skillet after browning meat, in order to scrape up the bits of browned meat left behind, so that you can use them to flavor a pan sauce or gravy.

Fond - This is a French term that refers to the caramelized, browned bits that remain in the pan when browning meats. The fond is what you want to scrape up when deglazing a pan to make a pan sauce, as in when you remove a holiday turkey from the oven and scrape up the bits from the bottom of the roasting pan in order to make a gravy, or when making a pan sauce after sauteing meat or chicken in a skillet. Fond also refers to the bits on the bottom of a pot when you turn over jambalaya. This is also called Gratons in Cajun cooking.

Gremolata or gremolada - A chopped herb condiment usually made from the zest of lemon with garlic, and parsley.

Lagniappe - (LAN-yap) This term derives from New World Spanish la ñapa, “the gift,” and ultimately from Quechua yapay, “to give more.” The word came into the rich Creole dialect mixture of New Orleans and there acquired a French spelling. It is still used in the Gulf states, especially southern Louisiana, to denote a little bonus that a friendly shopkeeper might add to a purchase. By extension, it may mean “an extra or unexpected gift or benefit.

To Macerate or Mascerate - (MAS-uh-rayt) To soak food, in syrup, alcohol, liqueur or other liquid, in order to flavor it. Salt and sugar maceration is done when there is a need to draw out moisture from the food such as to draw moisture out of tomatoes for a tart or pie, or with eggpant. Sometimes sugars are added to create a syrup, such as with berries.

Making Groceries - Faire son marché, “to do one’s market shopping.” (Faire meaning “to do” or “to make.”), a phrase used in and around the New Orleans and other south Louisiana areas to describe not merely the act of going to the store to buy groceries, but more a process - beginning with deciding what one would be cooking, and all the way to the actual process of cooking it, with the trip to the grocery store simply a single step in the middle. This description perfectly explains why I love to browse the shelves of our local Louisiana owned Rouse's Supermarket, just like I used to at Schwegmann's Grocery in New Orleans. Makin' groceries is an entire experience, not just an errand.

Mise en place - (meez-ahn-plahs) A French term for "putting in place," and that refers to gathering of all the cooking ingredients needed to cook a recipe or dish prior to starting. Everything in one place, and always a good idea to do anytime you are going to cook something, lest you discover you are missing a key ingredient!

Mirepoix - (meer-PWAH) A mixture, usually but not always, of two parts of onion to one part each of celery and carrots. A white mirepoix uses leeks in place of the carrots. Cajun mirepoix is most often known as The Trinity and replaces the carrots with green bell pepper.

Pince - (PEEN-say) Tomato paste, browned in fat, often following The Trinity and usually in the making of a brown roux, though sometimes also with a Creole red tomato gravy. It helps to extract more flavor from the paste, imparting a unique richness to the dish.

Roux - A mixture of fat (butter, pan drippings, shortening, canola) mixed with flour and cooked slowly over fairly high heat to reach the desired color and thickness for soups, stews, gumbo, gravy and sauces. The lighter color and less time that a roux is cooked, the more thickening power it has; the longer it cooks it gains flavor, but loses the ability to thicken. A white roux (white sauce) is cooked with butter, but only just enough to cook the flour. A blond colored roux is also generally made with butter but cooked until it reaches a light golden brown in color. The darker roux is generally made using oil, since butter is difficult to cook at that high temperature for that long of a period of time without burning.

The Trinity - A mixture, sometimes in equal parts but not always, of chopped onion, celery and green bell pepper. Used as a base seasoning in many Cajun and Creole dishes.

What exactly is...

A stalk of celery? While technically speaking a "stalk" is a whole head of celery and the individual pieces of it are considered ribs, a single rib of celery is most commonly called a stalk of celery in many recipes. Just apply the rule of common sense when you see it in a recipe. If the celery appears to be intended as a flavoring to a recipe - such as in the classic Trinity mentioned above - it would be rare to see more than one or two stalks (ribs) called for. On the other hand, if it's a recipe for a cream of celery soup, celery would be much more central to the recipe. A stalk of celery is equal to about 1/2 cup of chopped celery.

How Do You Say It?

1.   Bruschetta (broo-SKEH-tah)
2.   Gnocchi (NYOH-kee)
3.   Gyro (YEER-oh)
4.   Huitlacoche (wheet-lah-KOH-chay)
5.   Pouilly-Fuisse (poo-yee fwee-SAY)
6.   Mole (MOH-lay)
7.   Paczki (POONCH-key)
8.   Pho (fuh)
9.   Prosciutto (proh-SHOO-toe)
10. Sake (SAH-kay)
11.  Courtbouillon (COO-bee-YON)

How Do You Say It is courtesy in part of Chicago Tribune

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