Haven't the faintest what "mince" means? No idea how to poach an egg? Ever wondered how long you can actually keep shellfish in the fridge? TESopedia is a section devoted to translating all the convoluting culinary terms that have you scratching your head when reading that recipe.
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Absinthe -- spirit derived from wormwood previously drunk as a hard liquor and used to flavor some beers in the Middle Ages in Europe; usually combined with extracted fennel to produce a slightly green hued drink, earning the name The Green Fairy; found to be nasty and make people crazy, so outlawed in the U.S. in early 20th century; still produced and sold in Europe (France, Swizterland, Spain) today.
Acoutraments -- garnishes.
Adobo -- Mexican seasoning made by combining ground chiles, herbs, vinegar and oil into a concentrated paste that is then used as a base to flavor marinating meats; ex) Chicken Adobo; my favorite way to work with adobo is to add red wine, fresh garlic, and sliced onions to it and marinate flank steak (Argentinian style).
Agave -- leafy bush that looks like aloe whose "heart" is used to make tequila.
A la mode -- serving a cold scoop of ice cream on top of or on the side of a hot dessert; ex) Apple Pie a la mode; honestly, who doesn't love anything a la mode?
Aioili -- garlic mayonnaise popular in France; made by first pureeing garlic into a paste, then very slowly whisking olive oil into the paste and vigorously whisking air into, adding volume; often served as a condiment to vegetables; in the United States, it is often erroneously reffered to as a flavored mayonnaise (i.e., adding chopped garlic to store-bought mayo) but it's ok if you do that as well...I won't tell on you.
Albumen -- egg white.
Al dente -- Italian meaning "to the tooth," whereby you cook an item so it still has a chewy "bite" to it; often describes pasta; between undercooked and over done.
Alfredo sauce -- white bechamel (see below) with garlic and parmesan cheese, traditionally served over fettucine noodles.
Amaretto -- almond flavored liquor made from apricot pitts; popular in Italy and used to flavor desserts; popular for cocktails.
Ancho chile -- dried poblano chile; often reconstituted in its dried form to produce dishes with smoky undertones; also ground into powder and used often in Mexican, Latin, and Southwestern flavor profiles for both flavor and color; very little to no heat, the ancho chile is used more for color and smoky flavor than for heat and is popular in chilis, stews and bbq rubs.
Ancho chile powder is to be distinguished from spices labeled "chile powder" -- the ancho is distinct as it is a dried poblano; regular chile powders can be any chile pepper so for the distinct flavor and color of the ancho, make sure you find the ancho chile powder.
Andouille -- a type of smoked sausage usually heavily flavored with herbs and cayenne pepper; originating in France but since used as a staple ingredient in Cajun and Creole cuisine; main ingredient in most gumbos and jambalayas; can be eaten raw (as it is cooked by way of smoking) or cooked; it actually retains little fat in comparison to other sausages; ex) Chicken and Andouille Gumbo.
Angus beef -- used to distinguish beef raised from the Angus cattle in Scotland; usually prized as a higher-quality beef.
Anise -- seed whose flavor tastes like licorice; common spice in Chinese 5 Spice blend.
Antipasto -- no, it does not mean "anti-pasta" but rather simple "first course"; pasta is often the second course in Italian meals so this simply refers to the course of food prior to the pasta course; often includes a platter of various cured meats, cheeses, olives, grilled or marinated vegetables, and a little bread with olive oil and vinegar and condiments.
Arborio rice -- short grain rice favored for its richness in starch, it yields a very creamy texture while still retaining a bite to it (or al dente) and keeping form; preferred rice for dishes such as risotto or paella.
Arrowroot -- root of a leafy plant that is ground up into a superfine powder used to thicken liquids; often used in place of cornstarch or flour for its clearer finish in dishes; can also be used in place of flour for baked goods, breads, cookies, etc; named as such for its healing properties as used by Native Americans to treat arrow wounds (hence the name); very expensive so hardly used.
Aspic -- gelatinous jelly made with combining clarified meat stock and gelatin, often housing various meat "parts"; very popular dishes in Medieval Europe, especially France, as a way of preserving meats for days rather than hours due to no refrigeration; often colored and combined with other aspics and placed in orante molds to create decorative dishes for table presentation.
Au Gratin -- dish (usually vegetable) topped with breadcrumbs and cheese, then baked until golden brown; ex) Potato Gratin with scalloped potatoes, cream sauce, and topped with grated Gruyere cheese.
Au Jus -- meats (usually beef, pork, or chicken) served with their natural juices, unthickened, on the side; ex) French Dip Sandwich.
Bacon -- usually pork belly that is first cured (see below) and then usually smoked (see below) or even dry-aged; strong flavor of smoke from whatever wood they used to smoke the bacon; often very salty; used to flavor dishes as well as eaten on its own; American style has more meat than its fattier European counterparts.
Bain Marie -- aka "water bath"; process by which food is placed in containers, then these containers are placed in one larger container filled with water and then baked in the oven; the water will yield a gentler cooking process for the food as opposed to the direct heat in the oven; a technique often used for cooking cheesecakes and custards.
Baking Powder: leavening agent used in baking that reacts when introduced to liquid.
Baking Soda: leavening agent used in baking that reacts when introduced to acid -- sour cream, buttermilk, lemon juice, molasses, yogurt.
Baste -- process of pouring fat or liquid (stock or juice) over something that's roasting; effect is the moisture in the fat or liquid is replenishing the moisture that's being lost during the roasting process, as well as helping to achieve a desiralbe overall golden color; turkeys are often basted when roasted to help them get golden all over as well as distributing that liquid fat to ensure a moist bird.
Baster -- not an asshole (that's called a bastard); an instrument used to baste.
Bearnaise -- a sauce with Hollandaise base (see below) and tarragon added; used to top steaks in French cuisine.
Bechamel -- a thick white sauce made from roux (see blow) and cream or whole milk added; often used in lasagnas and when garlic and parmesan cheese is added, makes Alfredo sauce.
Beurre Blanc -- means "white butter" in French; a sauce involving melted butter and white wine and seasoned with salt, pepper, and sometimes garlic and maybe a small pinch of fresh herbs; often used with chicken and fish dishes.
Blind Bake -- technique where you par-bake or half-bake a pastry shell as is pie, by placing the pastry dough in the baking dish, piercing it with a fork many times, then lining the pastry dough with aluminum foil and then weighting it down with dry beans or rice so the pastry can bake half-way through without puffing up; called "blind" baking because you're covering the pastry with the foil so you it can't see you;
Bitters -- a flavoring liquor made of ground cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, dried fruits, rum, and other herbs; used in cocktails and drinks.
Bittersweet chocolate -- see Semisweet chocolate.
Blanching -- the process of submerging vegetables or fruits into boiling water for the purpose of partially cooking them; can be as little as 30 seconds to easily remove skins of tomatoes or stone fruits or up to 5 minutes to cook tougher vegetables like broccoli; usually inovles shocking these right after (see below).
Bouquet Garnis -- a bunch of herbs; usually a combination of thyme, rosemary, sage that are tied together with string and submerged in soup or stock to help flavor it; the intention of the bunching is so that the herbs can be easily removed after boiling.
Braising -- a cooking process where you can achieve tenderness out of typically tough cuts of meat; first you brown the meat in fat and then add the rest of the ingredients (usually vegetables and onions of some combination, herbs, seasonings) and liquid (usually stock, wine, beer, or some type of liquid) and then cook it on the stovetop or in the oven for hours keeping it tightly covered the entire time; common braised dishes include braised pork shoulder, osso bucco, and beef stews.
Brown sugar -- sugar with molasses added to it; the more molasses makes it light or dark brown sugar; used in baking and bbq rubs for its rounded sweet flavor; used in baking for its ability to yield a chewier texture (like chocolate chip cookies).
Bulgar -- no, it's not something ugly; it's par-cooked wheat that's used in Middle Eastern cooking for salads; most common example is tabbouleh.
Cafe -- "coffee" in French; also used to describe establishments that specialize in serving coffee, along with various sandwiches, baked goods, and pastries.
Cafe au lait -- "coffee with milk" in French; drink whereby strongly brewed black coffee (not espresso) is used as a base, then hot milk is added; in America steamed milk is often used in place of simply heated milk as is the traditional cafe au lait in France and Europe; larger quantity than a capuccino (see below)
Canadian bacon -- from the pork loin, cured and smoked meat that is considerably leaner than it's smoked counterpart, bacon; less fat and calories than traditional bacon (see above) although prepared the same way.
Canape -- a style of appetizer where the food item is small and served atop a small piece of toast; ex: smoked salmon canape (smoked salmon mousse piped on toasted bread slice cut out with a shaped cookie cutter); classic appetizer
Cappucino -- shot of espresso with steamed milk added; Italian; different than a cafe au lait (see above)
Caramelize -- process of slowly drawing out the natural sugars in a food by way of saute (see below) so that the overall flavor is concentrated sweetness and gives a caramel colored hue; onions are classic examples of something that can be caramelized.
Caramelized Sugar -- white granulated sugar that is cooked until a caramel color is achieved; often used in desserts both as an ingredient and as a garnish.
Carpaccio -- thinly sliced raw food item (usually beef or fish) that is traditionall served with something acidic; beef, fish, vegetables and fruits have been served "carpaccio style" but the traditional and first one is beef; ex: beef carpaccio -- thinly sliced raw beef drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice, seasoned with salt and pepper and served with dressed arugala and shaved parmesan cheese.
Caster sugar -- superfine sugar; white granulated sugar that is processed even more finely; not to be confused with powdered sugar or confectioner's sugar (see below).
Celeriac -- celery root; used to flavor soups and stews; common ingredient used in European cooking; can be roasted and eaten on its own or smashed with potatoes.
Chayote -- like a cross between a pear and potato; common ingredient used in Mesoamerican cooking; can be eaten raw or cooked and used in everything from jams and purees to salads and stew and stirfry dishes; the roots and sprouts can be eaten as well; founds its way into Europe and Asia by way of explorers to America; still a staple in Costa Rican cuisine.
Chicharrones -- fried pork fat; pieces of pork fat with small amount of lean meat (usually "scraps" from other pieces or dishes) that are chopped small and fried until the fat is rendered and leaves a crispy little bacon type "bite" that's then heavily salted; served hot or at room temperature often with strong liquor.
Chicory -- ground roots of herbs (most often endive and radicchio, also referred to as "chicory") that are roasted and used to flavor coffee; originally used by Germans as a coffee substitute since they did not like the caffeine found in coffee; most notably used by those in New Orleans to flavor coffee and give a strong, sweet bitterness to their black coffee; chicory coffee makes an excellent base for cafe au lait; can also refer to the actual endive, radicchio, frisee and similar leaf lettuce family
Chiffonade -- thin strips of something; often a technique used to cut leafy herbs such as basil for garnish; achieves by piling the leaves on top of each other in a neat pile, rolling them all at once into one log, then cutting horizontally creating "ribbons."
Chile -- in reference to the pepper, not the country; various members of the capsicum family such as red, green, orange, yellow; ranges from sweet (aka bell pepper) to spicy (such as jalapeno); also spelled "chili" (see below).
Chili -- in reference to the pepper (see "chile" or "pepper"); also a dish made with peppers and meat, usually spicy, with garlic, onions, and flavored with spices such as cumin and chile powder; some variations include beans or made completely vegetarian with other beans and vegetables; traditional acoutraments include cheese and chopped onions.
Chile con queso -- chili (usually beef) with cheese melted in; served as a dip for an appetizer; popular in Tex-Mex cuisine.
Chipotle -- smoked dried jalapeno pepper; distinctive smoky and spicy taste; used in Latin cuisines as a base for sauces and stews; when combined with vinegar and other spices and blended into a puree, it's called adobo (see above)
Chorizo -- highly seasoned pork sausage using smoked paprika and salt; can be raw or smoked (smoked can be sliced and eaten; raw needs to be cooked first before consumed); used as a flavoring base in Spanish and Latin American cuisines; extremely popular in Portugese cooking; different variations exist with regional influences; often used cut whole in rice dishes such as paella or in stews such as portugese stew; popular tapas item when sliced thinly and served with cheese and wine.
Chinese Parsley -- see Cilantro (below).
Chutney -- chunky fruit condiment popular in Indian cuisine; the texture looks like really chunky fruit jam; often uses fruits and spices for the main part, sometimes including nuts also; ranges from very mild to extremely spicy; used as a condiment; ex) mango chutney; sometimes used as a base for salad dressings and added as finishers to sauces such as some chicken curries.
Cilantro -- aka Coriander (see below) or Chinese Parsley; flat leaves resemble parsley but have a distinct flavor like orange and anise; used in Latin American cuisines and Asia as an herb; eaten raw and chopped fine as a garnish or whole; can also be fried; seeds are also edible.
Coriander -- aka Cilantro or Chinese Parsley; seeds are used whole, crushed, or powdered to flavor dishes in Latin cultures to Middle Eastern; gives off a very strong aromatic orange-anise flavor and smell.
Clove -- hard, dried buds of an evergreen plant; very strong aroma and flavor used to flavor foods; popular in both savory and sweet dishes; also used religiously in Medieval Europe; used most often ground as powder for desserts like apple pie or whole for apple cider and other mulled drinks; one of the base flavors in Caribbean cuisine; most popular in fall and winter for dishes and drinks.
Cocoa -- the basis of all things wonderful; commonly refers to the beans which are fermented and who's fat is extracted (cocoa butter) to make chocolate; refered to by the Mayan's as "the food of the gods" which it is indeed.
Cocoa Powder (American) -- ground cocoa beans with the cocoa butter removed; ground finely into a powder that is used for baking and flavoring; most common use is for hot chocolate and chocolate cake.
Cocoa Powder (Dutch Process) -- super fine ground cocoa powder that has a small amount of bakind soda added (alkali) to neutralize the acidity; this yields a richer tasting and deeper colored powder; used most often for hot chocolate and is the prefered form of cocoa powder for baking and confections.
Coddling -- cooking just before boiling point.
Condensed Milk -- milk whose water has evaporated and has had a lot of sugar added to it, resulting in a super concentrated sweet milk taste; popular in wartime England; can be reconstituted into sweet milk by adding water back in; often used today to flavor drinks (such as a Thai Iced Tea) and desserts (such as key lime pie) for it's super concentrated sweetness and milky texture.
Confectioner's Sugar -- see powdered sugar.
Cornmeal -- yellow or white degermed corn kernals that is ground up into a fine powder; basis for common dishes such as polenta and tamales; can be manipulated to be sweet or savory, although savor is most common.
Cornstarch -- starch extracted from the corn that is ground extremely finely; used to thicken liquids immediately; needs to be dissolved in cold liquid before being added to something hot or else will clump up instantly and not smooth out; flavorless and often used to thicken soups and sauces at the last minute.
Coulis -- a puree of fruit that is sweetened with sugar and thinned out into a sauce consistency; used often as a garnish for desserts but can also be used in savory dishes (such as red pepper coulis); most common fruit used is raspberry.
Creme of Tartar -- byproduct from wine-making that is used as a stablizer; used most often in conjunction to stablize beaten egg whites (this lets them keep their firm peaks like for a meringe); major ingredient in baking soda.
Creme de Cassis -- black currant liquor; used to flavor cocktails and some desserts.
Creme Fraiche -- thick cream that is thicker than sour cream but not as thick as marscapone or cream cheese; it has a sligthly tangy flavor more reminiscent of buttermilk than of sour cream; often used as a finisher for soups or dishes such as canapes and potato pancakes because it can hold its shape longer than sour cream and doesn't curdle if introduced to heat.
Cremini -- a type of wild mushroom known for its high Vitamin D.
Crepes -- very thin "pancake" that is a popular French dessert; can be sweet or savory -- the sweet often topped with powdered sugar and served with fruits and the savory often stuffed with a mixture of sauteed vegetables and meat and topped with a cream sauce.
Cured -- ancient process of preserving foods; using a combinatin of salt, sugar, spices, and nitrates to preserve or "cure" a food; the salt and nitrates "kill" the bacteria and suspend the food item so it slows down the decomposition process; often used in conjunction with smoking (see below) as a method of "cooking" the food item; commonly known cured foods include bacon, salami, prosciutto, cod, beef jerkey, pickles, and pickled vegetables.
Curry Powder -- a spice blend including cumin, fenugreek, tumeric, coriander, and other spices used to flavor dishes; more popular in Western Europe than in India proper although used in reference to Indian-influences dishes such as Chicken Curry.
Gratin -- see au gratin
Tex-Mex -- a fusion of Texas/American and Mexican cuisines; also referred to (erroneously) as Southwestern Cuisine; heavily influenced Mexican cuisine made with American ingredients and preparation style.