A glossary of common French cooking terms used within this website.
amourettes (“ah-moo-RHETZ”) The spinal marrow of an ox or calf.
amuse-bouche (“uh-MYUZ boosh”) A small bite served at the start of a meal, usually with the chef’s compliments.
apéritif (“ah-pey-ree-TEEF”) A small alcoholic beverage or cocktail, served before a meal, to stimulate the appetite. From the Latin verb aperire, which means ‘to open.’
bain-marie (“BAHN mah-REE”) To cook something in a container placed in water in a pan in the oven. Custards are an example, in which a low temperature is desired, so as to avoid burning.
blanch (“BLONCH”) To boil a food in water. ‘Big-pot blanching’ is to boil vegetables in salt water, then plunge them in an ice bath to fix their color.
crème fraîche (“krem FRESH”) Literally ‘fresh cream.” This is a heavy, heavenly cream that has a slightly sour taste, but it’s not as sour or as thick as its cousin, sour cream.
demi-glace (“DEHM-ee glahs”) A reduced wine-based sauce for meats and poultry. FYI, ‘reduction’ is a method of simmering liquid to evaporate the water to produce a concentrated, more flavorful sauce. It does not mean pouring out half the liquid from your pan.
du jour (“doo ZHOOR”, “dy ZHOOR”) You see this phrase a lot on menus. It literally means ‘of the day’ and refers to the day’s specials, like ‘soup du jour’ (soup of the day).
digestif (“dee-jes-TEEF”) An alcoholic beverage served after a meal, to aid digestion. With coffee added it is called pousse-café.
flambé (“flahm-BEH”) When alcohol is added to a hot pan to create a burst of flames.
foie gras (“fwah GRAH”) The enlarged liver of an overfed goose.
haute cuisine (“oaht kwee-ZEEN”) Literally ‘high cooking.’ Upscale gastronomy involving elaborate preparation and presentation, usually found in gourmet, luxury establishments.
hors d’oeuvre (“awr DURV”) In English, we call these appetizers. The French word — most commonly (and incorrectly) written as hor d’oeuvres or hors d’oeuvres — is technically already plural.
mirepoix (“mir-PWAH”) Sometimes called the ‘Holy Trinity’ of French ingredients, this is the basis of many sauces in classic French cooking. Diced onion, celery, and carrot.
mise en place (“MEEZ ahn plahs”) Your ‘mise’ refers to properly measured, prepped and laid out ingredients, ready for cooking.
roux (“ROO”) A base made up of flour and fat (usually butter) used in sauces and gravies to make them thick and creamy.
sauté (“saw-TAY”) Cooking method when ingredients are quickly fried in a small amount of hot oil.
sommelier (“saw-muh-LYEY”) A wine steward — a trained expert on all things wine, including food pairing.
Revised 11 October 2012.