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It's all French to me!

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February 1, 2015 / French / By
Nicola

French cuisine is a huge influence in the culinary world; there are countless French terms that have infiltrated our kitchens to become part of the English language. Some of them can be pretty confusing, especially if you’re not ‘au fait’ with the French language! Here’s a quick run-down of some of the essential French cooking terms, to help you sort your soufflé from your flambé!

Bain-marie This is a water bath which allows food to be cooked much more gently and evenly than it would otherwise. The food is placed in a tray of water or above a simmering saucepan, exactly as you do when you make crème brûlée or melted chocolate.

Béchamel This is a very simple white sauce which is made from butter, flour and milk. It forms the basis for many other different types of sauce, including cheese sauces. Béchamel is the plain white sauce that you’ll find within a traditional lasagne.

Blanch Blanch comes from the French word blanche, which means white. However, this isnt an accurate representation of what blanching within cooking actually means. In this case, it is the process by which food is placed in hot or boiling water for a short period of time, before being plunged into very cold water. This causes the food to cook partially; by transferring it to cold water, the cooking process is stopped abruptly. Alternatively, in some cases, blanching is a method used to take the skins or shells off certain types of food much more easily.

Boulangerie A boulangerie is just a bakery the traditional shop that bakes and sells all sorts of breads and cakes. However, nowadays you’re probably more likely to come across the term in a supermarket or department store than independently.

Bouquet garni ‘Garni’ translates as ‘garnished’ in English, so it makes sense that a ‘bouquet garni’ is a garnish in the form of a small bunch of greenery. Usually it is made up of a variety of herbs, with the intention of flavouring stews, gravies and sauces. The bouquet garni is removed before the dish is served; its sole purpose is to add flavour, rather than bulk!

"Bouquet garni p1150476 extracted". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bouquet_garni_p1150476_extracted.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Bouquet_garni_p1150476_extracted.jpg

Brulé Literally translated, brûlé’ means ‘burnt’, although most cooks probably want to stop cook before the food is too black! It refers to the way in which flames often in the form of a blowtorch are used to brown or caramelise the top of food. Although it is most commonly associated with crème brûlée and baked Alaska, this technique is used for a wide variety of different foods.

Charcuterie The term charcuterie refers to anything to do with cooked and cured meats such as ham, salami and terrines. Originally it was all to do with the preservation techniques, but that was back in the day before refrigeration existed. Nowadays, it’s more about the flavouring and curing techniques than preservation.

Choux This is a type of light pastry that is used to make all sorts of desserts such as profiteroles and éclairs. These simple pastries which are made from water, flour, eggs and butter are often served with cream and chocolate for ultimate indulgence.

Cordon bleu You probably know cordon bleu as being a piece of meat stuffed with cheese, which is then coated with breadcrumbs and fried. However, rather bizarrely, the name actually means blue ribbon in English, which bears no resemblance to the food whatsoever! It actually refers back to the Bourbon dynasty which ruled France and other parts of Europe during the 16th to 18th Centuries, when the Cordon Bleu was one of the highest honours that could be awarded for gallantry.

Coulis Coulis (pronounced ‘coo-lee’) is a type of thick, puréed sauce made from fruit or vegetables. In the case of fruit, it is often served as an accompaniment to a dessert.

Crêpe The word ‘crêpe’ refers to many different things, but they’re all usually very thin. Examples include crêpe paper and, in the cooking world, pancakes. These are very thin circles made from a single layer of fried batter, which can be served sweet or savoury. Crêpes are thin and very light, unlike the thick pancakes that are popular in America.

"Crêpe opened up". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cr%C3%AApe_opened_up.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Cr%C3%AApe_opened_up.jpg

Delicatessen Often shortened to ‘deli’, a delicatessen is a shop dedicated to selling delicacies, or in other words, fine foods. This includes everything from luxuries such as foie gras (which we’ll come onto later) to specialist foreign foods that are otherwise difficult to source. This is the meaning of the term ‘delicatessen’ in the traditional European sense of the word, although in America it has come to mean a more fast-food style restaurant such as the Subway franchise.

En croûte On its own, the word ‘croûte’ means ‘crust’, but ‘en croûte’ actually refers to being wrapped in pastry. It is popular to wrap foods such as pâté, salmon and beef in pastry before baking it, as in the case of the ever-delicious beef wellington.

En papillote Food that is wrapped in a parcel made from foil or baking parchment before being cooked is called ‘en papillote’. Fish that is served en papillote is gorgeous because the steam that’s trapped inside the pouch keeps it nice and moist, while the juices and flavours mingle to create a tasty sauce.

Flambé The French word flamber’ means ‘to blaze’, which makes sense when you realise what this term means in the cooking sense. If you’ve ever thrown alcohol into a hot pan, only to see flames shoot upwards, then you have flambéd something! The main purpose in doing this is to burn off the alcohol quickly, getting rid of the strong taste but leaving all the fruity aromas and flavours.

Foie gras ‘Foie gras’ means ‘fat liver’ in English, which isn’t exactly the most appetising name for something edible! However, it has become somewhat of a delicacy in many parts of the world. Despite this, foie gras has become fairly controversial, given that the ducks and geese are force-fed in order to make their livers even fattier.

Fondue This term means melted in English, so its the perfect name for the melted cheese eating experience that we all love. Generally speaking, a fondue machine is used to melt specialist cheeses, into which chunks of warm bread are dipped. More recently, alternative varieties of fondue have become more popular, such as fruit dipped into chocolate fondue. This is indulgent comfort food at its best.

Pâtisserie Quite simply, pâtisseries are pastry shops. They are slightly different from boulangeries, in that they specialise in pastries and other sweet treats. In fact, this is a title that cannot be used lightly; establishments are only allowed to be called ‘pâtisseries’ if they have a specialised pastry chef who has had many years’ worth of training and experience.

Roux A roux is a cooked mixture of flour and butter that is commonly used as the base for a variety of sauces, including simple white béchamel sauces. The fact that it’s so simple and plain is surprising, especially considering that the word ‘roux’ generally refers to things that are red in colour, such as hair and leaves!

Sauté The French verb ‘sauter’ means many different things in many different contexts, but in our world of cooking ‘sauté’ has come to mean ‘fried’. A small amount of fat is added to a hot pan, in order to cook the food very quickly while still retaining lots of flavour.

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Country: France

Province/State: Paris

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Price Guide:N/A (What's this?) N/A = home cooked meal,etc
$ = street food, fast food,etc
$$ = bistro, cafe, pub, bar,etc
$$$ = fine dining,etc

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