The following words or cooking terms are seen in recipes. We all need to know what they mean to successfully prepare recipes. And The Goddess doesn’t want you learning these on the street. Who knows what could happen to you?
Acid: having a sour or sharp flavor, generally citrus juices, vinegar, wines, other fruit juices fall into the acid category. Acids can be used to balance flavor; they have a pH of less than 7.
Al Dente: meaning “to the bite”. This is a term used to describe the degree of doneness for pasta (and vegetables). Pasta should retain a slight resistance when you bite into it and be just slightly chewy, but should not have a hard center.
Baste: To moisten food with liquid or drippings during baking or roasting.
Beat: Using a wooden spoon, or fork, (possibly a whisk) to incorporate air and make a smooth batter or sauce. Not as vigorous as whipping.
Beurre Manie: Combining flour and butter until you have a smooth paste. Made and added in small amounts, to thicken sauces or stews, without clumping. Must be cooked for a few minutes after adding to remove the raw flour taste.
Blanching: Cooking, usually vegetables, in boiling water until just barely tender, but not quit done, then plunging them into an ice water bath to stop the cooking. Drain well and store or freeze, as desired.
Blend: Combining ingredients evenly with a spoon, food processor, whisk or blender (duh!).
Boil: Heating liquid until bubble break the surface. Water, at sea level, boils at 212°F. Boiling is used to reduce liquids in reduction sauces.
Boning: Removing the bones for chicken, beef, pork, etc. There is a special knife, with a slightly curved, thin blade that makes this process easier.
Bouquet-Garnie: A small bunch of herbs, usually fresh, tied together and added to soups or stews. The “bouquet” is usually intended to be removed at the end of cooking. The bouquet may consist of bay leaf, parsley and thyme sprigs. If dried herbs are used, they are placed in a muslin bag or better yet, a tea ball!
Braise: Cooking slowly (covered) in small amount of liquid either in the oven or on top of the stove. Braising is an ideal way to prepare less-tender cuts of meat (pot roast), firm fleshed fish and vegetables. Brown the meat first, in a bit of fat to caramelize the sugars; this helps protect the meat and adds flavor.
Brine: Solution of salt and liquid (water and vinegar for pickling and preserving) such as water, wine, apple cider or other juice, sometimes some spices and/or herbs into which meat or poultry is submerged and refrigerated in order to flavor and promote juiciness.
Brown: Cook food quickly on top the stove (in fat or without fat) (under the broiler) to develop a richly browned, flavorful surface and help seal in the natural juices. This is done with meat, poultry and vegetables. Browning food is not intended to cook the food, but just to flavor the end product by caramelizing the exterior sugars.
Brulé: The act of caramelizing sugar on top of something, usually a custard…very French.
Butterfly: To cut something, many times chicken breasts or meat, through the center (horizontally), but not all the way through, thus opening the meat flat like a book, or butterfly.
Caramelize: To heat sugar until it melts and turns a deep, golden brown. When browning meat, the sugars on the surface of the meat caramelize and brown.
Chiffonade: This is a French word, meaning “made of rags.” God, French can even make rags sound sexy! Extremely finely cut thin strips of fresh herbs or lettuce. Very commonly done with fresh basil.
Clarifying: French method of removing the water from butte through heating and filtering OR using a beaten egg white to prepare a clear broth, consommé or jellies.
Compound Butter: Creaming butter with added things like herbs, fruit, spices, nuts, etc. Compound butters are used to flavor cooked meats and vegetables or baked goods.
Core: To remove the hard center (like my heart!) from peppers, apples, pears and pineapples…there are probably more, but I just can’t think of any right now.
Cream: To beat room temperature butter until softened; used when making compound butters. Also, beating butter and sugar together until light and fluffy; method used in baking.
Deep-Fry: Cooking food until it is crisp in enough hot fat or oil to cover the food, usually by a couple of inches. Maintaining the oil temperature is essential to having crisp, non-greasy food.
Deglaze: Adding water, broth, wine or juice/cider to a pan in which food has been cooked (usually fried or sautéed), stirring and scraping up and dissolving the brown bits (fond) from the bottom of the pan. This liquid can then be reduced or made into gravy.
Drain: To pour water off of food. A sieve or colander works very well for this. It’s also the thing in the bottom of the sink that let’s the water out and sometimes when the kitchen gnomes are behaving badly, get clogged.
Dredge: To coat food before (or after) cooking with dry ingredients like cornmeal, flour, bread crumbs, etc. To avoid confusion, “drudge” is a sink-full of dirty dishes at the end of a long day.
Dutch Oven: A deep, heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid; used for stews, pot roasts, etc. Get one that can be used on top of the stove or in the oven.
Emulsify: The act of combining things that don’t naturally or easily come together and form a suspension, like oil and water. Egg yolks have a natural emulsifier that, when cooked, allows them to bind and thicken sauces (Hollandaise). Mustard also has some emulsifying properties (vinaigrettes and gravies). In order to maintain a suspension, oil must be added very slowly while beating like a crazed Goddess until the mixture comes together in creamy bliss, as in homemade mayonnaise.
Fry: To cook food in a hot cooking oil or fat, usually a nice crisp, brown crust forms. See pan-fry and deep-fry. To oven fry is to cook food in a hot oven, using a small amount of fat to produce a healthier product.
Frost: To apply a topping, which is soft enough to spread but firm enough to hold its shape. The topping can be cooked or uncooked and we usually think of this in terms of baking, but really you can frost anything. Second meaning: Frosted: The annoyance you feel when you’ve iced the cake and someone (who will remain nameless) sticks their finger in the icing, leaving a tell-tale mark, i.e., “That really frosted me!”
Julienne: To cut into strips or match-like sticks, from coarser to very, very fine strips.
Kitchen Gnomes: The creatures that live under the sink that wreak havoc in the kitchen, from time to time. They are whom we blame kitchen disasters on and will be mentioned from time to time. Of course I know they are imaginary. Did you think I was totally whacked?
Marinade: The liquid in which you marinate food. It usually contains highly flavored ingredients, which includes some acid and oil.
Marinate: Let food “soak” in liquid to add flavor and/or tenderize. NOTE: Do not marinate in a metal pan, as the acid can react with the metal giving food an off taste. Freezer weight plastic bags work quite well to marinate things in. It is best to put the marinade bag in another pan just in case the bag leaks (see Kitchen Gnomes).
Pan-Fry: Cooking food, which may have a very light breading or coating, in a skillet in a small amount of hot fat or oil, usually less than 1/2-inch.
Pare: To remove the skin, with a vegetable peeler or small knife, from fruit and vegetables.
Poach: Cooking in a small amount of barely simmering water. Commonly used with fish and chicken.
Proof: Allowing yeast dough to rise before baking (“proving” that the yeast works) and allowing some yeast to rehydrate. In another vein, also indicates the amount of alcohol in a distilled liquor.
Reduce: Decreasing the volume of liquid by boiling it rapidly until it thickens and intensifies in flavor. In other words, you are evaporating the water off. The remaining richly flavored liquid, is called a reduction; it can be used as a sauce or as the base of a sauce. When reducing liquids, remember that the larger the surface area of the pan the more quickly the liquid will evaporate. Always add salt at the end of reducing the liquid.
Rind: The thin outer layer of citrus fruit, (sometimes meats). In the case of citrus, it can be removed with a vegetable peeler or small knife, leaving the bitter, white pith behind. Also referred to as zest.
Roast: (Noun) A large piece of meat or poultry that’s usually cooked by roasting or braising.
Roast(ing): (Verb) A dry-heat cooking method used to cook foods, usually uncovered, in an oven. Tender pieces of meat or poultry work best for roasting. Salmon can be slow-roasted, i.e. cooked in a 250°F degree oven for 25-30 minutes…it’s yummy!
Roux: (pronounced “roo”) is used to thicken sauces. Stir 2 parts of flour, to 1 part melted fat (butter, oil, bacon grease, rendered fat from meats, schmaltz [chicken fat], etc.). Cook together, to remove the starchy taste, before adding liquid. This will take anywhere from 5 minutes for a “blond” roux (light like a béchamel) or up to 30 minutes for a “brunette” roux (darker and toastier flavor, for gumbo). A cast iron skillet works well for the latter and a whisk is really essential to either.
Sauté: Cook food quickly over high heat, in a small amount of oil. This requires a good, heavy pan. If referring to the technique of preparing “a sauté”, one dredges meat in flour, then sears it in a small amount of fat in a reasonably hot skillet. This is different from pan-frying in so much that you use much less fat.
Scald: To heat liquid, usually milk, to just below the boiling point. NOTE: It is no longer necessary to scald milk when making bread. This is a hold-over from the pre-pasteurization-of-milk-days; you will still see this in recipes. You may ignore it.
Sear: To cook over high heat to brown quickly and seal in juices; again with the caramelization thing. A heavy pan works well with this process.
Shallow-Frying: Cooking food, usually breaded or coated with batter, in about an inch of hot fat or oil, think eggplant for eggplant parmesan.
Simmer: Cook liquid almost to the boiling point; the water should “vibrate” rather than bubble. Essential to the braising and poaching processes.
Slow-Roasted: A dry-heat cooking method used to cook foods, usually uncovered, in an oven, as low temperatures. This works well for salmon, but can also for pork butts and beef chuck roasts, i.e. tougher pieces of meat.
Sweating: Cooking aromatic vegetables such as onions, carrots, and celery, over very low heat in a small amount of fat. Usually the pan or pot is covered and the vegetables are cooked before adding other ingredients.
Whip: To beat extremely fast in order to maximize the incorporation of air into a batter or heavy cream. Whipping if much faster than beating and produces light, fluffy products.
Zest: The outer layer citrus fruit, which can be very finely grated or removed from the fruit with a peeler. This is the colored part only; not the bitter, white layer between the zest and the fruit. Sometimes referred to as rind.