Here are some words, with their definitions, that you may come across in recipes. A list of measurement equivalents and abbreviations is at the bottom of the page. Both are listed alphabetically.
AL DENTE – an Italian term used to describe pasta that is cooked until it offers a slight resistance to the bite (dente means tooth).
AMANDINE – dishes made with, or garnished with almonds.
ANTIPASTO – an Italian term meaning “before the meal” referring to the traditional first course of a formal Italian meal. usually including such things as cured meats, olives, pepperoncini, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, cheeses (such as provolone or mozzarella), and vegetables in oil or vinegar.
APERITIF – a drink taken before a meal to stimulate the appetite.
ASPIC – jellied meat, fish or poultry stock or vegetable liquid often used for molding meat, fish, poultry or vegetables.
AU GRATIN – Gratin is from the French word for “crust” and can refer to any oven-baked dish, usually cooked in a shallow oval gratin dish, that has a golden brown crust from cheese, a creamy sauce and/or bread crumbs.
AU JUS – “Jus” means ‘juice’ in French and refers to un-thickened natural juices that develop during roasting meat. For example, au jus is served with a French Dip Sandwich for dipping.
AU LAIT – a French term meaning served with milk.
BARBECUE – We generally use this term to refer to cooking done outdoors over a grill or an open charcoal or wood fire, but technically, barbecue refers to long, slow direct heat cooking and does not necessarily include a barbecue sauce.
BASTE – to moisten foods during cooking with pan drippings, marinade, sauce, or butter in order to add flavor and prevent drying.
BEAT – to mix rapidly in order to make a mixture smooth and light by incorporating as much air as possible.
BISQUE – a thick cream soup.
BLANCH – to immerse briefly in rapidly boiling water in order to cook just slightly, often followed by immediate cooling in ice cold water.
BOIL – to heat a liquid until bubbles break continually on the surface.
BRAISE – a cooking method that uses moist heat. Typically, the food is first seared at a high temperature, then finished in a covered pot at a lower temperature while sitting in liquid that does not cover the food.
BROIL – to cook under strong, direct heat, as in an oven broiler.
CANAPE or CANAPÉ – plain or toasted bread or crackers topped with a savory mixture, served as an appetizer or with cocktails.
CARAMELIZE – to heat sugar, or foods with sugar added, in order to brown and give it a unique taste.
CHUTNEY – a highly seasoned relish of fruits, herbs and spices.
CLARIFY – to separate and remove solids from a liquid, thus making it clear.
CONSOMMÉ – a type of clear soup made from richly flavored stock or bouillon that has been clarified.
CREAM (as a verb) – to soften a fat, especially butter, by beating it at room temperature. Butter and sugar are often creamed together to make a smooth, soft paste.
CREPE – a thin, delicate pancake.
CRUDITÉS – an assortment of raw vegetables, i.e., carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, served as an hors d’oeuvre, often accompanied by a dip.
DEGLAZE – to dissolve the thin glaze of juices and brown bits left in a pan where food has been fried, sautéed, or roasted. To do this, add liquid and stir and scrape over high heat, thereby adding flavor to the liquid for use as a sauce.
DEGREASE – to remove fat from the surface of stews, soups, or stock, usually cooled in the refrigerator so that fat hardens and is easily removed.
DICE – to cut food into quite small cubes of uniform size and shape.
DREDGE – to sprinkle or coat with flour or similar substance.
ENTRÉE – the main course.
FILLET – as a verb, to remove the bones from meat or fish. As a noun, a fillet (or filet) is the piece of flesh after it has been boned.
FILO (or phyllo) – tissue-thin sheets of pastry dough used throughout the Middle East as crisp wrappers for savory or sweet fillings.
FLAMBE‘ – to flame foods by dousing in some form of potable alcohol and setting on fire.
FOLD – to incorporate a delicate substance, such as whipped cream or beaten egg whites, into another substance without releasing air bubbles. Cut down through the middle of the mixture with a spoon or spatula; go across bottom of bowl, up and over, close to surface. The process is repeated, while slowing rotating the bowl, until the ingredients are thoroughly blended.
FRICASSEE – a method of cooking meat which is cut up, sautéed and braised, and served with its sauce, traditionally a white sauce.
FRY – to cook in hot fat.
GRATIN – from the French word for “crust,” it is a term used to describe any oven-baked dish, usually cooked in a shallow oval gratin dish, which has a golden brown crust formed of of bread crumbs, cheese or a creamy sauce.
GRILL – to cook on a grill over intense heat, as over a fire or a gas, or charcoal, grill.
HORS D’OEUVRE (hors d’œuvre) – Small, savory foods used as appetizers before the main course of a meal. The phrase literally means outside of (hors) the main ‘work’ (oeuvres) of a meal.
JULIENNE – To cut vegetables, fruits, or cheeses into very thin strips.
KNEAD – to work and press dough with the palms of the hands (or mechanically) to develop the gluten in the flour.
LUKEWARM – neither cool nor warm; approximately body temperature.
MARINADE – a mixture of oil and/or wine with seasoning used to soak foods (marinate) to impart flavor and moisturize.
MARINATE – to flavor and moisturize foods by soaking them in, or brushing them with, a liquid mixture of seasonings known as a marinade.
MERINGUE – refers either to a mixture of stiffly beaten egg whites and sugar, or the same mixture cooked to a “hard” mixture, as a dessert shell.
MEUNIERE – dredged with flour and sautéed in butter.
MINCE – to cut or chop food into extremely small pieces.
MOUSSE – a cold dessert made fluffy by whipped cream or beaten egg whites.
PAN-BROIL – to cook uncovered in a hot fry pan, pouring off fat as it accumulates.
PARBOIL – to boil until partially cooked; to blanch.
PARE– to remove the outermost skin of a fruit or vegetable.
PARFAIT – a dish made in layers, usually of fruit, syrup, ice cream and/or whipped cream or beaten egg whites, and usually a dessert.
PEEL – to remove the peel from a vegetable or fruit.
PETIT FOUR – a small decorated sweet or savory appetizer.
POLENTA – a very thick mush usually made from cornmeal or farina, used in main dishes or as accompaniment.
POTAGE – a soup.
PROFITEROLE – a tiny cream puff, filled with sweet or savory mixtures, served as dessert or appetizer.
PROSCIUTO – Italian-style cured and spiced ham which is served sliced paper thin.
PICKLE – to preserve meats, vegetables, and fruits in brine.
PINCH – a pinch is the very small amount you can hold between your thumb and forefinger.
PLANKED – cooked on a thick hardwood plank.
POACH – to cook very gently in hot liquid kept just below the boiling point.
PURÉE – to mash or chop foods until perfectly smooth, either by hand, by rubbing through a sieve or food mill, or by whirling in a blender or food processor.
QUICHE – a savory one-crust egg-and-cream main dish pie.
RADICCHIO – a leafy vegetable related to Belgian endive. The most common variety has reddish purple leaves with creamy white ribs, and a mildly bitter flavor. It is served raw in salads or cooked, usually by grilling.
REDUCE – to boil down to reduce the volume of liquid.
RENDER – to make solid fat into liquid by melting it slowly.
ROAST – to cook by dry heat in an oven.
ROUX – a mixture of melted fat and flour, the basis for a sauce or gravy.
RUB (as a noun) – a dry mixture composed of various herbs and/or spices used to flavor meat, poultry or seafood by rubbing it into the surface of the meat.
SAUTÉE – to cook and/or brown food quickly in a small amount of hot fat.
SAVORY – having a pleasant taste or smell that is spicy or salty, without being sweet.
SCALD – to bring to a temperature just below the boiling point.
SCALLOP – to bake a food, usually in a casserole, with a sauce or other liquid. Crumbs often are sprinkled over.
SCORE – to cut narrow grooves or gashes partway through the outer surface of food.
SEAR – to brown very quickly by intense heat. This method increases shrinkage but holds in moisture, develops flavor, and improves appearance by browning.
SIMMER – to cook slowly in liquid over low heat at a temperature of about 180°F. The surface of the liquid should be barely moving, broken from time to time by slowly rising bubbles.
SKIM – to remove impurities, whether scum or fat, from the surface of a liquid during cooking, thereby resulting in a clearer, cleaner-tasting final produce.
SMILE – to bring to a temperature just below the boiling point.
SOUFFLÉ – from the French verb souffler, which means “to breathe” or “to puff”, refers to a baked dish made with egg yolks and beaten egg whites combined with various other ingredients and served as a savory main dish or sweetened as a dessert. NOTE: Some dishes called “soufflés” are made with whipped cream, rather than baked egg whites.
STEAM – to cook over steam in a double boiler or steamer basket or rack in a pot with a tight cover over a small amount of boiling water.
STEEP – to extract color, flavor, or other qualities from a substance by leaving it in water just below the boiling point.
STOCK – flavorful liquid derived from slowly simmering chicken, meat, fish or vegetables in water, along with herbs and aromatic vegetables. Used as the primary cooking liquid or moistening and flavoring agent in many recipes, especially soup and stew.
SURIMI – A Japanese word, literally meaning “ground meat”, which refers to a paste made from fish or other meat, often used to mimic the texture and color of the meat of crab,lobster, and other shellfish.
TAJINE or TAGINE – a North African Berber dish that is named after the earthenware pot in which it is cooked. Traditionally, the tajine is placed over coals and can be compared to stewing.
TAPENADE – a French dish consisting of puréed or finely chopped olives, capers, anchovies and olive oil. It is generally eaten as an hors d’œuvre, spread on bread. Sometimes it is also used to stuff poultry for a main course.
TRUSS – to secure poultry with string or skewers, to hold its shape while cooking.
WHIP – to beat rapidly to incorporate air and produce expansion, as in heavy cream or egg whites.
WHISK – to beat rapidly with a whisk or fork in order to blend ingredients, or to incorporate air.