Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cooking 101: Basic Terms

Al Dente
-- Describes foods, especially pasta, cooked only until soft enough to eat, but not over-done. The Italian translation is "to the teeth."
Blanch -- Blanching is a process in which food is briefly plunged in boiling water for a moment, then immediately transferred to ice water to stop the cooking process. Blanching tomatoes or peached for about 20 seconds makes them easier to peel.
Braise -- Braising involves cooking a food in a little fat to brown, usually on the stove top then covering and cooking slowly until done. This is particularly suited to less tender cuts of meat.
Broil -- To cook food directly under or over heat source, usually in the oven under the top broiling element or on the grill.
Butterfly -- To cut a food down the center, but not quite through, leaving both halves attached. The food is then spread to resemble a butterfly.
Cure -- To preserve food, usually meat or fish, by pickling, smoking, drying, salting, or storing in a brine.
Cut in- To incorporate solid fat into dry ingredients using a pastry blender or knives. 
Dash -- Less than 1/8 teaspoon.
Deep-Fat Fry -- To cook in hot fat which is deep enough to completely cover the food.
Deglaze -- To add liquid to the pan in which meat or other food was cooked. The liquid, usually broth or wine, is heated to loosen the browned bits left in the pan, and is often used as a base for sauce or gravy.
Dredge -- To coat food with a dry mixture (usually seasoned flour or crumbs), either by sprinkling, rolling, or shaking the food in a bag with the flour or other ingredients. 
Egg Wash -- Egg yolk or white mixed with a small amount of water or liquid then brushed over baked goods to give color and sheen. 
En Croute -- Food baked in a crust.
Evaporated Milk -- A canned, unsweetened milk from which 60% of the water has been removed. 
Extract -- Concentrated flavors from various foods, usually derived from distillation or evaporation.
Fold -- To incorporate a light mixture with a heavy mixture, such as beaten egg whites into batter or custard. The lighter mixture is placed on the heavier mixture, and a spatula is used to gently cut down and through the lighter mixture of the bottom of the bowl then up again. Repeats until mixtures are combined. 
Fricassee -- To cook or stew pieces of sauteed meat in a sauce, usually with vegetables. 
Gratin Dish -- A shallow baking dish or pan, usually round or oval in shape.
Infuse -- To immerse tea, herbs, or other flavoring ingredients in a hot liquid in order to extract flavor.
Jigger -- A liquid measure equal to 1-1/2 fluid ounces.
Julienne -- To cut food into thin, matchstick strips. Julienne strips are usually about 1/8 inch thick, but the length varies.
Mousse -- A sweet or savory dish, made with egg whites or whipped cream to give the light airy texture. 
Mull- To flavor a beverage, such as cider or wine, by heating it with spices or other flavorings.
Parboil -- To boil a food briefly, until partially done. A good might be parboiled before adding it to faster-cooking ingredients to insure all ingredients are evenly cooked.
Pare -- To cut the skin from a good, usually with a short knife called a paring knife.
Pasteurize -- To kill bacteria by heating liquids to moderately high temperatures only briefly. 
Pastry Wheel -- A utensil with a cutting wheel attached to a handle. It's used to mark and cut rolled out dough, and may have a plain or decorative edge.
Piquant -- A term which generally means tangy flavor.
Poach -- To cook in liquid at or just below the boiling point. For eggs, meat, or fish, the liquid is usually water or a seasoned stock; fruit is generally poached in a sugar syrup.
Pulverize -- To reduce to a powder or dust by pounding, crushing, or grinding.
Puree -- To blend, process, sieve, or mash a food until it's very smooth and has the consistency of baby food.
Saute -- To cook quickly in a pan on top of the stove until the food is browned.
Score -- To cut shallow slashes into ham or other food, to allow excess fat to drain, or to help tenderize.
Sear -- To brown meat quickly over high heat. Meat may be seared under a broiler or in a skillet on top of the stove.
Steep -- To soak, in order to extract flavor or soften.
Truss -- To hold food together so it will retain its shape. Poultry and some roasts are often tied with twine or held together with skewers.

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