Three Months Cooking at the Culinary Institute of America Some culinary terms


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mire poix (mEEr-pwah) : a mixture of vegetables (usually onions, carrots, and celery, in the ratio of 2:1:1), added to stocks or sauces as a basic flavoring. Can be left plain, or browned in order to add color to a stock. Other vegetables are sometimes used, depending upon the desired flavor or colors of the finished stock.

roux (rue) : flour and fat (typically clarified butter) in a ratio of 60/40, cooked to various stages of brown. Used to thicken many sauces, and to add color to some. Roux is from the old world of French Cooking, but still has places in today's kitchen.

Grand Sauces : Five standard French Sauces which form the basis for other sauces. In the French kitchen, one would prepare large amounts of the grand sauces and then at service time, create "small sauces" by the addition of other ingredients. The Five Grand Sauces are: Demi-glace, Velouté, Béchamel, Tomato, Hollandaise.

Demi-glace (demi-GLAH-ss) : Equal parts of brown sauce and additional brown stock, cooked down to concentrate the flavor. One of the Grand Sauces.

Remouage (Rem-OOO-ah-je) : French for "re-wetting", a second stock made from the same meat or bones as the first one.

Velouté (vel-OOO-tay) : a stock (may be beef, veal, lamb, fish, vegetable) thickened with roux and cooked. One of the Grand Sauces.

Béchamel (BESH-a-mel) : milk thickened with roux and cooked. One of the Grand Sauces.

Mise en Place (mEEz-on-plass) : French for "everything in its place", this is an important concept in the kitchen. It starts with mentally knowing what you need to do for the day, then gathering what you need to cook with (pots, pans, ingredients, turning on the oven), then preparing the ingredients (chopping, dicing, etc), and then finally cooking. When preparing multiple dishes, you "mise en place" (used as a verb, you'll notice) everything in parallel.

Brioche (BREE-ohsh) : A French bread made with a fairly normal bread dough. A large amount of butter is blended into the final dough, which is then typically baked into small muffin-like shapes. Can also be used as wrap in which to cook things, or the lining of tarts or pies.

Hollandaise : a sauce consisting of cooked and whipped egg yolks into which melted butter is incorporated, forming an emulsion. The resulting sauce is very creamy, light, buttery, and bad for you. You can incorporate upwards of 3/4 cup of butter per egg yolk used. This sauce is unstable because of the melted butter. Should you get it too hot, the egg will cook and the sauce will break. If let it get too cold, the butter will turn solid, and there isn't a good way to reheat without breaking it. One of the grand sauces.

Duxelle (doox-ELL) : finely diced mushrooms, cooked with shallots and onions until they have given up all of their water. A traditional French stuffing or part of a dish.

Coulis (coo-LEE) : a sauce consisting of pureed ingredients. Can be either savory or sweet. Sometimes bound or thickened with a pure starch, or with oil to form an emulsion. This is a fairly new sauce and is not included in the Grand Sauce list.

Consommé (con-sue-MAY) : a clear soup. Produced by taking a stock or broth and adding a clarification of egg whites, acid (usually in the form of tomatoes), and additional flavorings. The stock is brought to a simmer and the egg whites form a "raft" on top, cooking and catching all of the particles. Simmered for about an hour and a half to develop flavor, but never allowed to boil or cool down too much. About a million things can go wrong, and this soup is the bane of many student's life at the CIA.

Hotel Tray : large, shallow, rectangular stainless steel trays. Used to hold items before service, either in an oven, or on a steam table.

Family Meal : Food prepared for the cooks/kitchen staff.

Garde Manger (gar-DUH maan-JAY) : French for "keeper of the food." (How's that for a job title?) Garde Manger is all of the preparations that go into cold appetizers. For example, sausages, pate, terrines, and the like. If it's meat, and you eat it cold, the Garde Manger was responsible for it.

Aspic : Aspic is a clear (or lightly tan) colored natural gelatin formed from animal bones (typically veal or beef). The highest form of a stock maker's art, aspic requires a completely clear stock, heavy with bones. The stock is then reduced and chilled to the point where it sets solid. The resulting aspic can be cut into cubes for garnish, or re-melted to be poured over a dish to seal or protect it as part of a buffet presentation. A less nice way to describe aspic is : meat jello.

Braise : Braising is cooking an item in a liquid that only covers about one third to one half of the item. The dish has a lid on top, and is cooked in the oven until the item is tender. The liquid is then thickened (with roux or other starch) to create a sauce. Pot Roast is a classic braise.

"In The Weeds" : You hear this phrase around the CIA quite a bit. "In The Weeds" refers to when you have so many things happening at once you don't know what to do next, or how to get out. Picture someone standing in a kitchen, surrounded by boiling pots, a pile of vegetables on the cutting board, steam and confusion everywhere, holding aloft a chef's knife and glancing around with a look of utter loss on their face. This is "In The Weeds." You can put yourself there by not planning carefully the order in which you will work, or by not having your "Mise En Place" well thought out. Or, you can get stuck here by an overly aggressive menu, and a Chef who hasn't given you enough time to prepare it.

Flavor Profile : The flavor profile of an item (food, sauce, whatever) is the balance of flavors that go into it. The primary flavors are : Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Salty. The Japanese claim there is a fifth flavor : Savory, which they call "umammi". Umammi comes from foods which are high in glutamates (MSG is the purest form readily available). Truffles are unusually high in glutamates. These four (or five) flavors are the only ones we can taste with our mouth. All other flavors are actually scents. The balance of the four basic flavors and how they relate is the "flavor profile" of the item. One can also discuss the added other flavors (which are actually scents) and how they relate to the primary flavors as part of the flavor profile.

Deglaze (duh-glah-SAY) : Placing a liquid (water, stock, wine, etc) into a pan in which something has cooked. The pan is heated and scraped in order to re-disolve the cooked juices (called the "fond") into the liquid. This can then either be the basic for a sauce, or an enhancement to another sauce. An important part of French sauce making, because the flavor is basically free in the pan.

Blind Baking : Cooking an empty pie or tart shell prior to filling. The shell is filled with tin foil, and then beans or rice are placed in the foil. This helps to hold up the edges of the shell. After a bit of cooking, the beans and foil are removed, and the shell continues to partially bake. All of this is done so that the shell becomes crisp in the final baking, and so that the filling does not cause it to become soggy.

Trailing : When a restaurant is checking out a possible employee, they will often ask them to "trail." This means that the perspective employee follows one of the lead chefs around, helping out, learning the practices of the line, and becoming familiar with the menu. The perspective employee isn't paid for this, of course.

Morbier (MORE-bee-AYE) : Probably spelled that wrong. A French Cheese in the semi-creamy catagory. Made in two layers, with a layer of ash between the layers. Traditionally, the evening milk is in the lower layer, and the next morning's milk is the upper layer. Nowadays, it is rarely made in this traditional way.

Fois Gras (FW-ah GR-ah) : French for fattened liver. Made of duck or goose, although mostly now duck. You either love this or hate this. The Hudson Valley produces some of the best Fois Gras in the US, with Sonoma the other major producer. Very expensive, around $40 per pound. Also very fatty, which is used to the advantage when cooking into terrine type preparations. Can also be sauted in a pan, which you see very often in restaurants.

Gross Piece : A portion of Pâté or Terrine left intact to show the original form along with the slices. Usually about 3 or so inches long, it adds height to the plater and helps the customer figure out "what the heck is that!?!?" Plus, if you did a really nice job in forming your terrine, you want to be able to show that off and not just cut it all up.

Reach In : A fridge that you "reach in" to get things out of. Your fridge at home is a reach-in. There is also a "walk-in" which is like a cold closet, and a "Low-boy" which is a half height fridge you use to keep things cold near your workstation. A low-boy also doubles as a work surface.

Soft Ganache : Soft ganache is two to one heavy cream and chocolate (by weight). You boil the cream, pour it over the chocolate, and stir until melted. You then cool overnight, and then you can use the next day to create chocolate mousse by simply whipping, or adding additional heavy cream and whipping.

Hard Ganache : Hard ganache is one to two heavy cream and chocolate (by weight). You boil the cream, pour it over the chocolate, and stir until melted. You can use right away as a glaze (potentially thinning it down with milk to a nice pouring consistency), or cool overnight to form a stiff paste. Hard ganache that has been cooled is the standard center for chocolate truffles. You can also remelt hard ganache later.

Copyright 1998 Tom Dowdy