Back to French food and culture
GLOSSARY OF FOODS AND FOOD TERMS
Au Gratin: any dish that is sprinkled with buttered crumbs and/or
grated cheese then placed under a broiler so that a lightly browned
topping is formed. Sometimes a light cream sauce may mask the ingredients
before sprinkling toasted bread crumbs and cheese on top to form a crunchy
Babas au Rhum: light sweet yeast dough, traditionally baked in
small flowerpot-shaped tins. After baking, the dough is pricked and a
light sugar syrup poured over while both are warm. A sprinkle of rum, a
garnish of candied fruit, and a dab of whipped cream complete the dessert.
Baguette: the famed Parisian long bread, well browned and crusty
with a spongy white center. Used to mop up the last morsel of almost any
Bearnaise: slightly different from Hollandaise Sauce in that it is
more piquant. A strongly steeped mixture of boiled wine vinegar, white
wine, shallots, tarragon, salt and pepper is prepared then strained into a
thick blend of cooked egg yolks and butter. This sauce is served with
meat, fish, eggs, or vegetables.
Bouillabaisse: the classic soup-stew of Marseilles. Actually this
dish is prepared all along the southern coast of Provence. A good bouillon
of cleaned vegetables is set to cook then a layer of crustaceans placed
in, followed by a layer of several varieties of fish both firm and tender
of flesh. Included in the seasonings are olive oil, saffron, salt and
freshly ground pepper, onions, tomatoes, garlic (generous), cloves,
fennel, parsley, and even a piece of orange peel. A brisk boiling for only
fifteen minutes and it is done. Bouillabaisse is served in a deep soup
plate with Marette (the specialty bread of Marseilles) and Aioli
Sauce (a type of garlic mayonnaise).
Bouquet garni: any arrangement of
aromatic fresh herbs tied together or wrapped in cheesecloth: parsley
thyme, bay leaf, etc. After cooking, it is removed before serving the
dish. Small wire baskets with a hook to secure them against a pot can also
Bourride: a simple fish soup in which the stock is strained after
cooking, then the crouton placed in the soup plate, the soup pouted over,
pieces of cooked fish garnished with Aioli and served with bread.
Brioche: a very rich, yellow (from the addition of eggs and/or
yolks) yeast dough baked into many different shapes. The most usual and
classic is the fluted muffin size with a shiny brown knob on top. A wash
of egg yolk just before baking assures the shine and rich brown color.
Brunoise: a flavorful medley of cubed raw vegetables cooked in
butter till lightly done then added to any other dish to intensify flavor.
Cassoulet: the ancient Roman meat and bean casserole, specialty of
the Languedoc region. Small white beans are simmered till tender then
layered with several different types of meats, each cooked separately. A
crust is allowed to form on the baking cassoulet by sprinkling with
Champignons: mushrooms. It should be noted that many different
types are to be found, Cepes and Morels being two.
Truffles are found only in certain areas, and are routed out by
trained pigs or dogs.
Chantilly: sweetened, flavored whipped cream.
Chaud-froid: an aspic glaze to cover cold cooked foods, especially
meats or fish. Cream is usually added to the aspic gel so it is not
Clafouti: a traditional country fruit dessert served warm from the
oven. A light batter of eggs, flour, milk, and sugar is poured over any
prepared, sugared fruits then the whole dish is oven-baked.
Coeur a la Creme: a classic French dessert prepared from a blend of
cream cheese and cottage cheese pressed into a heart-shaped basket to
drain off the whey. Unmolded, this dessert is served with sugared fresh
berries and crusty French bread.
Couscous: a North African dish dating from earliest times and
served in Parisian Algerian restaurants. The tiny pellets of couscous can
be made from millet, semolina, or even ground rice. Steamed then served
with meat and vegetables in a rich spicy sauce. Tossed with nuts, raisins,
and sweet spices such as cinnamon, and drizzled with honey, couscous can
be served as a dessert.
Creme Anglais: a delicate custard sauce of cream, egg yolks, and
sugar usually flavored with vanilla, served warm or cold with desserts.
Crepes: a thin batter of eggs and flour is poured into a small
skillet and cooked on both sides. May be filled with sweet or savory
fillings, may be sauced, flambeed, gratineed, and served as appetizer,
main dish (a light one), or dessert.
Daube: any braised meat cooked with vegetables in a covered pan in
the oven or on top of the stove.
En Gelee: any dish that is served coated with a jelly. Usually this
is taken to mean a fine clear bouillon preferably gelled with its own good
stock or with the addition of gelatin to form a clear but firm mixture
after chilling. Sometimes several coats of the warm or cooled aspic are
poured over meat, eggs, fish, or fowl with a layer of carefully arranged
decoration between. Superb for cold bullets or as appetizer dishes.
Farci: stuffed or filled.
Hollandaise: a sauce of lemon juice and butter thickened with egg
Mayonnaise: an emulsion of egg yolks, lemon juice, and oil, lightly
flavored with a touch of mustard and salt.
Mirepoix: the same as Brunoise, except may sometimes have the
addition of cubed meat such as ham or salt pork.
Omelets: originated by the Romans, a simple dish prepared by
beating eggs then easing them into a hot buttered pan and cooking with
care to assure a setting and a light but tender browning. The omelet may
be flipped to brown the other side; it may be filled with any desired
mixture, or it may be served rolled on itself – a beautiful golden oval.
Pate: a very finely ground blend of meats, usually including liver
for smoothness, light seasonings, Madeira wine, or cognac then smoothed
into a pan and baked. Served cold. May also be used as a filling for other
Pate a Choux: otherwise known as "creampuff pastry" this is created
by bringing to a boil a measured amount of water and butter then plopping
in an amount of flour and stirring vigorously. One by one a few whole eggs
are beaten in till the dough is glossy and ribbon-like. Dropped into
little dabs or spread into a ring mold, the pastry rises to a high, crisp
roundness with a hollow center. Upon cooling, this ingenious "opening" can
be filled as desired. Gougere is this same mixture baked to any
shape but flavored with grated cheese.
Petits Pois Frais a la Francaise: a dish delightful in appearance
and flavor and typifying the French love for delicate fresh vegetables.
Young fresh peas are boiled quickly with lettuce wedges on top and a
buttery glaze at the end. Peas and lettuce in their shimmer of butter may
be eaten, deservingly, as a separate course.
Pommes Anna: deceptively simple dish of layers of raw, sliced
potatoes and fresh butter baked in a round pan in the oven or in a hot
straight-sided skillet. The trick: to unmold as a crusty whole.
Pommes Soufflees: another deceptively simple dish of oval thin
potato slices which are twice fried in deep fat. The second time the fat
is hotter in temperature and the slices puff and crisp like crunchy
pillows of air.
Quenelles: actually a mixture of Pate a Choux plus a very fine
puree of ground raw fish, chicken, or veal. Formed into oval balls and
gently poached in bouillon, then served cold or hot.
Ratatouille: a delicious mixture of baked layers of browned onions,
tomatoes, eggplant, and zucchini slices.
Riz a l'Imperatrice: a velvety, molded rice dessert made with
milk-cooked rice blended with fruits and Creme Anglais. More fruit
Roux: mistaken as the name of a sauce, quite simply the mixture of
fat and flour that begins a sauce. It becomes a sauce after liquid has
been added, which is thickened by the roux.
Sauce Aioli: a garlic-mayonnaise prepared by pounding (or using an
electric blender) moistened bread with garlic till a fine puree is
obtained. The addition of egg yolks, then drop by drop of olive oil yields
Savarin: a light, sweet yeast dough usually baked in a tube pan and
poured over a Kirsch-flavored warm syrup then cooled and served with
Soubise Sauce: a delicate onion sauce prepared by cooking onion in
butter till golden, then stirring in a little flour and the desired liquid
(white wine, stock, milk, or cream). After straining, the sauce may be
Soufflé: a thick sauce of any sweet or savory mixture incorporating
the carefully beaten egg whites. Baked in the oven then eaten with great
Supremes de Volaille: any dish made with chicken breast, and served
with a garnished sauce. The term supremes may be used to refer to the
breast meat of fowl or animals.
Tarte or Flan: a baked or unbaked shell into which any sweet
or savory filling may be poured, set, or arranged then garnished, topped,
or glazed as desired. Commonly called a pie (open-face) in North America.
Terrine: the loaf-shaped pan traditionally used for baking Pates.
Thus the baked Pate sometimes takes the name of the pan and is
called a Terrine.
Vinaigrette Sauce: the simplest of salad dressings for the finest
and freshest greens. A blend of fine oil, wine vinegar, salt, freshly
ground pepper, and any desired seasonal herbs. Garlic is added in southern