I am a foodie / epicurean nerd. There, I said it! I often don’t realize that as I sit in my world of food and wine magazines, favourite food websites, obsessive recipe reading etc. It’s just so innate in my character that I forget other people are not the same – and that maybe the foodie term du jour or some traditional French cooking technique is actually obscure. But I am reminded when I go to dinner with some friends where there is something on the menu (or wine list) and someone asks “what’s a capon?” or “what does cuvee mean?” It’s then I realize, oooh, not everyone knows this stuff… It’s like the math geek who is surprised people have trouble with their taxes (I do).
So I have prepared a list of 20 words or terms related to food and wine that I find curious, pretty useful and just plain interesting. If you know all of them already, then we are kindred souls. If not, I hope you walk away with some knowledge that will help you decipher that menu and / or wine description the next time around.
Barding (as featured in the main image above)
Barding is a technique to prep meats for roasting. It is intended to maintain the moisture within the cut of meat. To bard is to wrap the meat in a layer of fat before cooking – usually pork, most often pork fatback and also bacon are commonly used.
Botrytis is a fungus that results from damp, humid conditions. It is actually a desirable fungus in that when it appears on wine grapes under certain conditions – it has the effect of concentrating the natural sugars in the grape to make sweet (dessert) wines like Sauternes.
A castrated rooster. Why castrate a rooster? The resulting lack of sex hormones means that the flesh tastes less gamey and is generally more moist and tender than a “regular” hen or rooster.
Is used on wine to indicate a specific blend or batch – typically denoting special blends or selected vats of higher quality.
The word “fond” is actually french for “bottom.” In culinary terms, fond is the word for those little roasted bits at the bottom of a pan after cooking (typically meat). The fond is often deglazed to make gravy.
When vegetables such as beans, peppers or potatoes are cut into long thin strips, they are described as being “frenched.” To “french” meat is to separate a portion of the meat from the bone, such as a chop or a rib, by cutting the meat from the end of the bone. The purpose of the cut is to enhance the meat or vegetable’s ability to cook evenly.
A class of mollusks, including snails or slugs, which can pull it’s body back into its own shell.
Used heavily in South Asian (Indian) cooking, ghee is a type of clarified butter. To make ghee, butter is boiled and the residue is removed by skimming off. The mild solids caramelize making the resulting butter nutty in flavor. The benefits of ghee are that it has a long shelf-life, needs no refrigeration and because it has a higher smoke point, it is ideal for frying.
It is a French work meaning “glaze” or “ice.” In culinary terms, glace is a thick, syrup-like reduction of stock which is in turn used to flavor other sauces.
Is a newly popularized Mexican drink made with almond milk, rice, vanilla, and cinnamon. It’s traditionally combined with spicy Mexican food as it is cooling and refreshing.
A jeroboam is a double magnum of wine holding 4/5 of a gallon (3.03 liters).
To macerate is to soften or break into pieces using a liquid. For example strawberries are often macerated in balsamic vinegar. Or often fresh fruit is sprinkled with sugar and then the natural juices and sugar form a light syrup in which the fruit macerates. This is actually not only for taste, but it also makes it easier to digest.
Mise en Place
Traditionally used in professional kitchens, this term is now becoming more commonplace in home kitchens. French for “putting in place”, it means setting up the kitchen by organizing and arranging ingredients. For example, washing and chopping all the ingredients and having them at the ready for the start of cooking. It allows the chef, or the home cook, to cook without having to stop during the process – an important element in recipes and preparations which are time sensitive.
Mirepoix is a uniformly chopped mixture of celery, onions and carrots which form the base of a wide variety of dishes. The mirepoix is sauteed in butter or oil as the base for soups, stews and sauces. I had been doing this for years before I knew it had a fancy French name, ha ha
Is Japanese for “I will leave it to you.” It is used to describe multi-course meals where the chef completely decides what to serve the diner. It can be used in all types of restaurants, but is most often seen in sushi restaurants.
Plancha (a la Plancha)
A plancha is a metal plate commonly used for grilling in Spain. To prepare “a la plancha” means that a food was grilled on the plancha.
Is a cooking mixture of flour and butter, used to be the base and thickening agent of most creamy sauces or white gravies. While butter is mostly commonly used, any fat can be used. A roux is often as unique as the chef who makes it – with every experienced cook having their own way of making roux.
A mixture of flour (or cornstarch) and liquid used to thickensauces, gravy and stews. It is different than a roux in that a slurry does not need to be cooked before it is added.
Birds, like chicken, are often “trussed” before cooking. This involves using cooking twine to secure the legs and wings to the body. Making the birds more compact, helps them to cook more evenly and prevents the tips of the wings and legs from burning.
Often called the 5th flavor (the other 4 being salt, sweet, bitter, sour), umami comes from the presence of glutamate. Glutamate is in most living things and when it breaks down, for example when items are cooked, the glutamate molecule breaks apart creating L-glutimate. Think aged parmesan cheese, dried mushrooms, fermented soy (miso)…