Guide to French Cooking Terms

If you don't know the difference between a bisque and a blanquette, you may need some help understanding French cooking terms. This guide will brush you up on the basics, preparing you to experiment with that French nouveau cuisine recipe you've been dying to try.

Bain-marie
This is a type of pan partially filled with water and then set into the oven for baking or roasting. Smaller baking dishes are placed inside the larger roasting pan so the contents being cooked inside the smaller dishes will not cook too fast, and so that they will be sheltered from the high heat. This process is used for cooking custards.

Bavarois
A pudding is made from cream, eggs and gelatin.

Beignets
Fried lumps of batter.

Beurre Noisette
Butter that has been cooked until it turns brown.

Bisque
A thick soup made of shellfish.

Blanquette
A kind of stew where the meat is not first browned, but rather is cooked in the stew while raw and unaltered.

Bouillon
Either a stock made from vegetables or a broth made from meat.

Bouquet Garni
This is a bouquet of herbs-usually bayleaf, a sprig of thyme, and a spring of parsley-that is tied together with string, placed into a stew or soup and taken back out before the dish is served. It is used for seasoning the stew or soup.

Brunoise
Finely diced vegetables.

Canapé
A piece of bread topped with a flavorful topping, usually served as an appetizer.

Chapelux
Diced, toasted, and browned pieces of dried bread.

Chine
The process of taking apart the backbone from the ribs on a cut of meat.

Concasser
A technique of chopping ingredients without carefully dicing or mincing, done rather informally and without much ado.

Consommé
Broth or stock that has been strained of any extraneous pieces of vegetables or meat until it is clear.

Coulis
A heavy, thick sauce.

Croquettes
A mixture of cooked meats and vegetables coated in a batter and fried.

Croûte
Any kind of crust.

Croûtons
Diced, toasted (sometimes seasoned) bread used to top salads or soups.

Déglacer
The process of loosening stuck-on meat drippings from the bottom of a pan. This is done by adding a liquid to the pan, placing it over a flame and heating it, then scraping the meat drippings off the bottom of the pan.

Dégorger
A process of brining a meat, fish or vegetable, then soaking the food item in water, then scrubbing it clean. This is done to change or decrease the intensity of the taste.

Dépouiller
Using a skimmer or slotted spoon to remove the tough skin that forms on the top of a dish such as a pudding or gravy.

Entrée
The main dish or course of a meal.

Escalop
A piece of meat or poultry that has been pounded thin.

Flambé
The process of coating a dish with alcohol, then lighting it on fire.

Fricassé
A soup or stew made with meat with a cream base.

Glace de Viande
Bouillon (stock) that has been cooked down and is used to flavor and tint sauces.

Gratiner au Gratin
A practice of adding finely diced bread crumbs, butter and shredded cheese to the top of an entrée, which is then broiled to brown the topping.

Hors d'Oeuvre
A general term to describe any appetizer.

Jus
The drippings from cooked meat.

Liaison
Any thickener used to add consistency to a soup or stew or sauce.

Marmite
This is a type of crockery used to both cook and serve soup.

Mirepoix
A collection of vegetables intended to be braised.

Napper
The process of covering up one ingredient with another, sometimes to mask an ingredient, sometimes simply to coat one ingredient with another.

Noisette
Nut, nut color or resembling a nut.

Paner
The process of coating a piece of meat or vegetable with egg batter and rolling it in bread crumbs before frying.

Pâte
Dough before it is cooked.

Pâté
Pureed meat.

Piquer
A method of flavoring poultry or meat by inserting pieces of fatty meat (such as pork) into the poultry or meat.

Réchauffée
To heat pre-cooked food.

Repere
A paste made from flour and water, or flour and egg white, put around the edges of a pot to seal the contents while it is cooking.

Revenir
Flash-frying in hot oil.

Roux
A mixture of flour and melted butter used to thicken liquids.

Velouté
A sauce made from roux, cream and either broth or stock.

Vol-au-Vent
A big pastry shell filled with a main entrée such as a creamed chicken entrée.

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