For those of us without a culinary background and limited exposure to fine dining, a meal out can easily become overwhelming nowadays as restaurateurs attempt to hook us with their fancy terms and exuberant descriptions. Being a foodie is trending and being a foodie with real knowledge of food, drink and culinary expertise is essential for validation. Food is essential for life and with the diversity of the world’s cuisine; food has become a complex beast.
In order to tame this beast we have put together a fancy food word guide that takes our readers, both foodies and non-foodies, down the culinary catwalk.
Aioli (eye-YO-lee) – a thick garlic sauce similar in texture to mayonnaise often made with olive oil, lemon and egg yolk. Additional ingredients, like garlic, are commonly added for more intense and unique flavor profiles. However, the egg yolk and oil in the sauce increase the caloric density due to its high fat content so moderation is key.
Béarnaise (bair-naz) – Similar to hollandaise* sauce this French sauce is made from a reduction* of vinegar, wine, shallots, and tarragon followed by the addition of egg yolk and butter. This sauce is often served with beef and shellfish. Béarnaise is a rich and savory sauce high in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol so small portions go a long way.
Bouillabaisse (bool-yuh-bayz) – A soup or stew containing white wine, olive oil, several kinds of non-oily fish, shellfish, vegetables and herbs often including celery, garlic, tomatoes, onions, cayenne pepper, fennel, saffron, thyme and bay. The soup or stew is commonly served over or with slices of crusty bread and rouille*. This dish is a winner when you are looking for something light, lean and flavorful.
Carpaccio (kahr-PAH-chee-oh) – this is an Italian dish made from thin slices of raw beef layered on a plate and topped with olive oil and lemon. Less traditional and more new age dishes may use fish or vegetables instead of beef. Please remember raw and undercooked proteins have been known to harbor bacteria even when if fresh.
Confit (kawn-fee) – A French term meaning to cook in fat. Confit is a method of food preservation where meat, often goose or duck is salted, seasoned and cooked slowly covered in it’s own fat. The fat acts a natural preservative, allowing the cooked meat to keep for months.
Coulis (koo-lee) – a thick sauce or puree typically made from fruits and vegetables. A coulis can also be used as the base of a soup. A typical coulis can vary in calories due to food used for puree base and if any other ingredients were added. A coulis can add great flavors, colors and micronutrients to your plate.
Crème Fraîche (krehm fresh) – similar to sour cream, this French specialty is a thicken cream made from live active bacteria naturally or added to heavy cream. In America, dairy is pasteurized and therefore no longer contains the natural bacteria that produce both the thickness and the distinct flavor so it must be added. Crème fraîche is used in hot and cold and sweet and savory dished. Due to its high fat content it will not curdle when heated.
Haricot Verts (är-ē-kō-ˈver) – French word for a thin or skinny green bean. Green beans are colorful, flavorful, low in calorie (until the fat is added) and high in fiber, potassium and B vitamins.
Hollandaise (Hol-uhn-dayz) – usually seen topping eggs benedict or asparagus, this is another rich and creamy sauce made with butter and egg yolks. Lemon juice is added for tang along with salt and pepper. Another higher fat, cholesterol and calorie sauce best used in small amounts.
Pommes Frites (pom freet) – French word for French fries. If you see pommes frites on a menu, chances are, they’re served with a house-made aioli.
Reduction – an intensely flavored sauce created by rapidly boiling a liquid, which causes a decrease in liquid volume due to evaporation. This creates a thicker sauce with strong flavor. Liquids often used to make a reduction include stock, wines, vinegars, alcohol and other sauce mixtures.
Romesco (roh-mehs-koh) – a Spanish sauce or paste made from finely ground red peppers and nuts such as almonds or pine nuts. Garlic, onions and olive oil are usually added along with roasted tomatoes. Romesco is often served with poultry, seafood, snails and lamb.
Rouille (roo-ee) – A paste made from olive oil, breadcrumbs, garlic, chili peppers and saffron. The saffron and chili peppers give it a rust color, which is literally, what rouille means in French. You typically find rouille served as a garnish with fish soups or stews such as bouillabaisse.
Truffle – not to be confused with the chocolate treat, the truffle we are talking about is actually a fungus. This esteemed fungus is ugly in appearance, diverse in color, extremely difficult to harvest but widely popular and expensive. It is not uncommon to hear about dogs or pigs that have been specially trained at foraging truffles. Different truffles have different flavor and can be described as earthy, pungent, strong, syrupy and sweet. Due to the high cost and strong flavors truffles are used sparingly in dishes.