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50 Words Every Food Lover Should Know

Posted: 12/08/11 04:05 PM ET

We always make sure to spatchcock our capons on the plancha while we make salmagundi on the side. Don't know what any of that means? Then you're in luck, because we're here to help you bone up on your kitchen vocabulary. Learn these 50 words and soon you'll be running your kitchen like a pro (or maybe just confusing whoever is helping you cook). Most importantly, memorizing this vocabulary could save you from some eating disasters (like scrapple). Be sure to click on the word to get the full description so you don't mistakenly use a word like scorrat as a verb (hint: it's a noun). Start studying!

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  • A: Acidulated, Affinage, Alginate

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Acidulated</a>: In case you were worried that your water's pH was a little too normal, this water can be used to keep cut fruits from oxidizing (turning an unpleasant brown), <a href="" target="_hplink">or for cooking dishes like poached eggs to help the white coagulate</a>. <a href="" target="_hplink">Affinage</a>: Cheese-lovers, lend us your ears. <a href="" target="_hplink">Without affinage, your favorite cheeses would cease to exist</a>. Actually, they would have never existed in the first place. Why? Because cheese is to affinage as wine is to aging. <a href="" target="_hplink">Alginate</a>: Sodium alginate, is one of the secret ingredients behind <a href="" target="_hplink">molecular cuisine</a>. Perhaps you've been wondering how chefs like <a href="" target="_hplink">Ferran Adria</a> makes spherical ravioli that burst on the tongue -- or caviar "pearls" out of fruit juice?

  • B: Barding, Botrytis, Brix Scale, Burgoo

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Barding</a>: Googling "barding" results in a variety of results: the action of being a bard, or the medieval practice of clothing a horse in armor, for instance, but that's not what we're going for here. In the culinary world, <a href="" target="_hplink">barding means clothing a substantial piece of meat in fatty strips of meat</a> before cooking in order to give it more flavor. <a href="" target="_hplink">Botrytis</a>: Its full latin name, botrytis cinerea, means "grapes like ashes" in Latin. This poetic name refers to grey rot, which can form in humid conditions and destroy wine grapes. However, the same fungus can become "noble rot" <a href="" target="_hplink">if dry conditions follow wet conditions</a>. <a href="" target="_hplink">Brix Scale</a>: Judging the ripeness of fruit is a very tricky thing. Squeeze, sniff and <a href="" target="_hplink">eyeball every fruit in the supermarket</a>, and you still may be disappointed when you bite in. Fortunately, someone thought of a more exact and scientific way to measure fruit's ripeness: Adolf Brix. <a href="" target="_hplink">Burgoo</a>: Burgoo is not an obscure island off the coast of Indonesia, but a stew that is identified with dear ol' Kentucky. <a href="" target="_hplink">Modern burgoo-making can be a social event</a> where each person brings an ingredient -- more likely chicken, pork or vegetables than the roadkill of yesteryear.

  • C: Capon, Chapuline, Chiltepin, Civet, Cuvée, Cynar

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Capon</a>: Tired of your <a href="" target="_hplink">everyday chicken</a>? If your usual hen's lacking in flavor, why not try a capon? What, you may ask, is a capon? Well, it's a castrated rooster. <a href="" target="_hplink">Chapuline</a>: Bugs are hot right now in food news, the newest thing to eat in the United States. <a href="" target="_hplink">It may seem like the final frontier, but the rest of the world has been snacking on bugs for quite some time now</a>. And so we bring you chapuline -- a Mexican specialty starring grasshoppers. <a href="" target="_hplink">Chiltepin</a>: Texas is blessed with not one, but two official state chiles. Perhaps they should rethink their nickname. The jalapeño is the better-known of the two, but we recommend that you pay some attention <a href="" target="_hplink">to a hotter Texas pepper</a>: the chiltepin. <a href="" target="_hplink">Civet</a>: If you've got game (and we know you do), then you can make civet. And by game, <a href="" target="_hplink">we mean the small, furry kind</a>. You know, like rabbits. What, you don't hunt rabbits? <a href="" target="_hplink">Cuvée</a>: The meaning of cuvée is not so cut-and-dry. What is certain is that it refers to wine, and that it's French. Cuvée comes from the word "cuve" which means vat, <a href="" target="_hplink">so it can be put on the label of any wine that comes from a vat (which are most)</a>. <a href="" target="_hplink">Cynar</a>: Mmm, artichoke. It's excellent dunked in butter or used in salads or dips, but did you know it can also give you a buzz? This is where Cynar comes in: an Italian bitter aperitif made with 13 herbs and plants, whose predominant flavor comes <a href="" target="_hplink">from our good friend, the 'choke</a>.

  • D: Dulse

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Dulse</a>: In place of potato chips or cheese doodles, dulse-sters are snacking on a kind of dried seaweed flake, technically red algae. The leaves are actually purple with a thick, leathery texture, but when dried they become crispy (<a href="" target="_hplink">a texture of utmost importance to any good snack food</a>).

  • E: Escabeche

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Escabeche</a>: is a worldly dish, found from Peru to Provence and supposedly originating in Persia. In essence, escabeche is <a href="" target="_hplink">a marinade used to pickle anything from meat and fish to vegetables</a>, and the term can be tacked on to anything to describe a dish.

  • F: Fatback, Fläskpannkaka, Forcemeat, Frenching, Fumet

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Fatback</a>: Fatback is the flavorful layer of fat along the backside of a pig. Because it contains no muscle, unlike the softer fat around the abdomen, it's easy to render completely for lard <a href="" target="_hplink">or process along with ground meat for sausages</a>. <a href="" target="_hplink">Fläskpannkaka</a>: First of all, we love the sound of this word. This is Swedish for a very special kind of pancake, or pannkaka. In fact, we think <a href="" target="_hplink">all pancakes should be called pannkaka from now on</a>. <a href="" target="_hplink">Forcemeat</a>: Forcemeat is any raw meat or fish which has been finely ground and emulsified with fat. The name forcemeat does not come from the force it takes to do this, <a href="" target="_hplink">but is merely an anglicization of the french word farce, which means stuffing</a>. <a href="" target="_hplink">Frenching</a>:</strong> The term frenching refers to cutting food in a particular way <a href="" target="_hplink">to ensure even cooking and maintain an attractive appearance</a>. <a href="" target="_hplink">Fumet</a>: Fumet does not refer to cigarettes, manure or murder, but the more pleasant meaning of giving off fumes. The word "fumet" translates literally to aroma, <a href="" target="_hplink">and refers to a reduced stock used to add flavor to sauces or certain dishes</a>.

  • G: Gastropod, Ghee

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Gastropod</a>: Is it Apple's new gadget that dispenses high-end food? Or is it the new space shuttle that takes you to the moon while you dine on an 8-course seasonal tasting menu designed by NASA's chefs? Actually, it's neither. <a href="" target="_hplink">Gastropods refer to the family of mollusks consisting of a shell and a single muscle</a>. <a href="" target="_hplink">Ghee</a>: Many recipes call for it, but few people understand exactly what ghee, or clarified butter is. Just to clarify, <a href="" target="_hplink">it's still butter, right</a>? Sort of.

  • Jeroboam

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Jeroboam</a>: The Jeroboam, otherwise known as the "Double Magnum" <a href="" target="_hplink">is a large bottle of wine</a>. How large? Four to six bottles large, depending where in France you happen to be.

  • K: Kishke, Kissing crust

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Kishke</a>: Authentic kishke is made with what was once an illegal substance. Now we have your attention, but don't get too excited. <a href="" target="_hplink">Kishke is a Jewish dish</a>, which translates to "intestine." <a href="" target="_hplink">Kissing crust</a>: Letting your loaves get too close together may result in "kissing crust," a romantic-sounding malady where one loaf may remain pale, soft and slightly underdone <a href="" target="_hplink">because it was touching the other bread while baking</a>.

  • L: Laverbread, Lovage

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Laverbread</a>: Not so much a bread as a kind of mush, laverbread is a Welsh delicacy made from the seaweed which clings to the rocks on the coastline. This particular kind of seaweed is known as laver (hence, laverbread) <a href="" target="_hplink">but you may also know it by its Japanese name, nori</a>. <a href="" target="_hplink">Lovage</a>: The name lovage is said to come from "love-ache," but "ache" was the medieval term for parsley, and has nothing to do with romantic pain (at least to our rudimentary knowledge). <a href="" target="_hplink">Lovage is similar to celery in taste</a> and the leaves can be used in salads, soup or teas.

  • M: Macerate, Maillard Effect, Marengo, Mucilage

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Macerate</a>: To macerate is simply to soak a food (usually fruit) in a liquid (usually alcohol) <a href="" target="_hplink">to infuse it with flavor</a>. <a href="" target="_hplink">Maillard Effect</a>: When foods are heated, their flavors change. Some, like beef and potatoes, <a href="" target="_hplink">form a crisp, caramelized outer coating when directly exposed to high heat</a>. The Maillard Effect is the complex scientific process of how the tastes of certain foods develop in a way that most people find highly pleasing. <a href="" target="_hplink">Marengo</a>: is a manly dish, invented on the 19th century battlefield. <a href="" target="_hplink">Battles can be hunger-inducing</a> and no one was hungrier than Napoleon after the French beat the Austrians at Battle of Marengo in Italy. <a href="" target="_hplink">Mucilage</a>: is just another word for slime, but when it comes to food, <a href="" target="_hplink">slime can be a good thing</a>. The mucilage found in certain foods can actually strengthen and repair our mucus membranes when eaten.

  • O: Omakase

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Omakase</a>: What is omakase? It's up to you. No, we're being serious, the Japanese translation of this <a href="" target="_hplink">most coveted of sushi experiences</a> literally means "I trust the chef."

  • P: Paleron, Pigeage, Pith, Plancha, Poolish

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Paleron</a>: We're not sure if David Letterman ever dusts off his old skit called "<a href="" target="_hplink">Know Your Cuts of Meat</a>," but it's a safe bet that at least til now, he's never included paleron as one of the options. <a href="" target="_hplink">Pigeage</a>: It's French, bien sûr, and pronounced peej-AHJE, not pig-age. It's a wine term that translates to "punching down the cap." <a href="" target="_hplink">When crushed grapes ferment in vats</a>, the grapes' skins rise to the surface, creating a thick layer or "cap" that needs to be "punched down." <a href="" target="_hplink">Pith</a>: In some cases, a fruit is more than skin, flesh and seeds. With citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and limes, the skin is made up of two layers - zest and pith. If you've ever engaged in the procedure of zesting a fruit (<a href="" target="_hplink">delicately rubbing a grate against the fruit's outer layer to get the colorful bits</a>), you know that you are always warned against grating any of the pith. <a href="" target="_hplink">Plancha</a>: The restaurant as we know it may not have come into existence were it not for the Spaniards and la plancha. A plancha is actually <a href="" target="_hplink">the original flat top grill</a>. <a href="" target="_hplink">Poolish</a>: Have you ever wondered what gives French baguettes their edge? <a href="" target="_hplink">The secret behind the crisp crust and soft, airy inside</a> that has proven so difficult for Americans to master? The answer lies in the unlikely word poolish, the name for the starter used in baguettes.

  • Q: Quenelle

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Quenelle</a>: If you've ever wondered what the <a href="" target="_hplink">teeny football of ice cream</a> on your fancy dessert's official name is, let us enlighten you: A quenelle (pronounced kuh-NELL) is a 3-sided scoop of something soft enough to mold.

  • R: Reinheitsgebot

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Reinheitsgebot</a>: It's no surprise that Germany is <a href="" target="_hplink">particular about its beer</a>. How particular? Meet Reinheitsgebot. All German beer labels bear the inscription "Gebraut nach dem deutschen Reinheitsgebot," or, "Brewed according to the German Purity Law."

  • S: Salmagundi, Scorpacciata, Scrapple, Silver Skin

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Salmagundi</a>: It's a fun word to throw around for a dish with seemingly everything in it. Common base ingredients include chopped meat, anchovies, eggs, onions, lemon juice and oil. <a href="" target="_hplink">Sound like a Caesar?</a> Kind of. <a href="" target="_hplink">Scorpacciata</a>: You know that <a href="" target="_hplink">eating local is hot right now</a>. How about a fancy Italian word to make it even hotter? <a href="" target="_hplink">Scrapple</a>: Scrapple is one of those words that sounds exactly like what it describes (once you know what it is, of course). A Pennsylvania specialty inspired by German ancestors, scrapple is a mixture of pork scraps -- heart, head, liver, and <a href="" target="_hplink">whatever else is left over from the pig</a>. <a href="" target="_hplink">Silver Skin</a>: Ever found yourself just about to dig into a nice, <a href="" target="_hplink">juicy leg of lamb</a> only to be confronted with a white, rubbery barrier that separates you from that mouthful of heaven? Meet the dreaded silver skin.

  • S Continued: Slurry, Socarrat, Spatchcock, Stud, Suprême

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Slurry</a>: A mixture of flour (or cornstarch) and liquid which is an excellent thickening agent for sauces, gravy and stews. <a href="" target="_hplink">Unlike a roux</a>, a slurry does not need to be cooked before it is added to a sauce. <a href="" target="_hplink">Socarrat</a>: A beautiful word for something seemingly banal -- the <a href="" target="_hplink">rice that gets crunchy and forms a crust at the bottom of the pan</a>. You might wonder why crusty rice deserves such a name, especially since it is a by-product that many people discard. <a href="" target="_hplink">Spatchcock</a>: A spatchcock is any poultry <a href="" target="_hplink">which has been split open</a>, removed of its spine using poultry shears, flattened and grilled. <a href="" target="_hplink">Stud</a>: That said, the culinary use of "stud" is actually a verb. As in "I studded that lamb last night." You did what to lamb last night? <a href="" target="_hplink">You stuck the surface full of whole spices</a> or otherwise inserted tasty food matter into it. <a href="" target="_hplink">Suprême</a>: To Suprême something means <a href="" target="_hplink">to remove anything that is extraneous to the meat</a>. Suprêming a chicken or fish means removing the skin and bones, while Suprêming an orange involves separating each segment and removing the skin, pith, membrane and seeds.

  • V: Viticulture

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Viticulture</a>: The word viticulture is one you might consider while drinking your favorite Merlot or Pinot Grigio. After all, viticulture is <a href="" target="_hplink">key to wine's existence</a>.

  • T: Treif

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Treif</a>: Originally the term (which derives from the Hebrew word for "torn") was only applied to meat that was literally "torn in the field," but in our more relaxed modern times treif can be used <a href="" target="_hplink">to describe any type of non-kosher fare</a>.


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