What Does it Mean?

This is a growing list.  I will add new terms and definitions periodically, often linking a word to one of my recipes.

If you'd rather go straight to a well-stocked list of culinary words and terms, the folks at epicurious.com have a wonderful dictionary.  Try it out for all those exotic cooking terms.
al dente:  Italian for "to the tooth" and used primarily to describe perfectly cooked pasta.  In this case, it refers to the pasta pushing back on the tooth when you bite it.  It should be neither soft or tough, but tender with a little push against the tooth.  Sometimes, lightly cooked vegetables are described this way.  FYI, my stepdaughter Emme's favourite pasta dishes are Burned Butter Pasta and Mushroom Cream Linguine.

all-purpose flour:  As opposed to self-rising flour, which is mixed with leavening agents such as baking soda, this is just flour.  It's used to dredge or dust fish, pork chops, chicken and even vegetables prior to frying.  It can also be used for baking, but you'll have to add the leavening, according to your recipe.  FYI, a lot of older community or church cookbook recipes call for flour; in most cases, this means all-purpose flour.

baste:  When roasting meats, you will often pull out the pan and spoon the pan liquids over the meat, to keep it moist.  A bulb baster is an easy way to do this, but be careful not to splash the hot liquids.

braise:  To cook on the stove over a medium-low heat or in the oven.  Usually, tougher and less expensive cuts of meat are braised.  This helps to break down the tough connective tissue.  First you brown the meat in a heavy pot, sometimes after coating lightly with all-purpose flour, then add vegetables and liquid like stock and wine.  Bring the liquids to a boil, reduce heat so that liquids simmer, cover with lid and continue to cook for 2-3 hours or longer.  This type of cooking will require periodic checking to be sure that there is always enough liquid in the pot.

brulee: To burn. To burn sugar on top of a gorgeously light and creamy custard, as in creme brulee.  You can brulee the sugar by using a fancy torch or you can set your broiler to the highest setting and place your custard-filled and sugar-topped ramekins on a sheet pan on the closest rack to the broiler burner and stay put. Stay. Watch. Remove as soon as the sugar has caramelized. Not too difficult, right?

coulis:  Strained fruit sauce which has been strained. Although it can be made with vegetables, today it refers primarily a fruit sauce sweetened with sugar, pureed and strained to serve over ice-cream, panna cotta or angel-food cake, among other desserts. I cook the fruit with sugar and lemon or lime zest and cool it a bit before straining into a container or sauce bottle.My favorite is a raspberry coulis, which I serve with angel food cake and a creme anglaise.

creme anglaise:  A custard prepared as a sauce for pouring. No cornstarch or flour--only eggs are used to thicken this silky, simple but elegant and delicious sauce. A wonderful complement to angel food cake (and a great way to use the yolks which are set aside in the making of the cake) and so good over fresh berries. This is a recipe by Martha Stewart.

haricot vert/haricots verts:  Relax, it's just green beans, baby!  It's the French way of saying, hey, go get some really young green beans (before you have to string them and cut off the ends and so on). Those French folk--so smart! Biggest issue home cooks have with these beans is, "How do I trim them?" It's easy: keep those pretty, wispy ends and just trim off the stem ends (because they are tough and yucky to eat). Want an easy recipe using haricot vert? Try this from the good folks at epicurious. Or do what I do: after you've cooked the beans (can be hot or cold), place in a large bowl or platter and top off with the following mix: 6 diced Campari tomatoes, 1/2 cup of finely chopped red or sweet yellow onion, 1/4 cup Italian parsley or cilantro, big pinch of sea salt, 1 T. balsamic vinegar and 3 T. extra-virgin olive oil. Crack black pepper over the entire thing and, presto, a gorgeous side dish or salad.

non-reactive cookware/pan/pot:  This just means to 'use stainless steel to keep things simple.' It also means don't use tin-lined copper pots because the tin will react with acidic foods or ingredients and impart a metallic taste. You can also use anodized aluminum or enamel-lined cookware. For a more thorough explanation, you may want to visit this post by David Lebovitz, a well-known pastry chef and cookbook author.

© 2016 Despina Panagakos Yeargin