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French Cooking Terms Demystified

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Julienne, chiffonade, au jus … here's what all that French cooking jargon means.


Have you ever opened a cookbook and felt like you were expected to know another language just to read it? Well, actually, you are – sort of. Because France was (is?) seen as the culinary capital of the world, there are a lot of French cooking terms worth knowing if you plan to take your cooking to the next level. If you’re still learning, here’s a handy cheat sheet to help you out.

Au Gratin: Food that has been sprinkled with butter, bread crumbs, and sometimes cheese, and left to brown under the broiler.

Bisque: A soup that is heavily seasoned. It's classically made with a broth of crustaceans.

Bouillon: A simple broth made from meat and/or vegetables. Bouillon cubes are small cubes of dehydrated stock that contain broth, meat, salt and solid fats.

Brunoise: To finely dice vegetables by first julienning the items, turning them 90 degrees, and then dicing them into small cubes.

Chiffonade: The process of rolling leafy green vegetables together and cutting into long, thin strips much like ribbons of cloth. This shouldn't be surprising, as "chiffon" is French for "rag."

Chine: The process of removing the backbone from a rack of ribs.

Consommé: A clear broth.

Croquettes: These flavorful little balls or patties are made of meat and potatoes, and are coated in breading before being pan- or deep-fried.

Déglacer: To deglaze, or remove, browned juices and fats from the bottom of a hot saucepan by adding a liquid (such as wine or broth), scraping and stirring.

Dépouiller: To skim the fats and solids that rise to the top of stocks and sauces.

Flambé: To set alcohol on fire. This method was made popular with the advent of the dish, Crepes Suzette.

Fricassée: A white-sauce stew that often contains poultry or rabbit.

Hors d'Oeuvre: Appetizer.

Julienne: To chop vegetables into matchstick-like strips.

Jus: Juices that occur naturally from cooking. Au jus is French for served in its own juices.

Jus Lié: A gravy that has been thickened.

Mirepoix: Usually a combination of celery, onions and carrots that have been braised together and work as the base of most soups.

Panade: A thick mixture of flour, butter, and milk that is used as a base for dishes like soufflés.

Paner: To coat something, such as meat patties, in egg and breadcrumbs before frying.

Pâté: A paste, commonly made of liver or wild game.

Ragoût: Stew.

Revenir: To quickly fry meats or vegetables in fat with the goal of warming them through.

Roux: Melted butter and flour used to thicken sauces, soups and gravies.

Sauté: A method of frying that involves a small amount of fat in a shallow pan over very high heat. When sautéing, the goal is often to brown food very quickly in order to preserve natural flavor.

Now that you've learned a few basic French cooking terms, you can go pull a copy of "The Joy of Cooking" off the shelf and make a dish that even Julia Child would serve. Tell us your Franco-cooking stories in the comments!
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