Cookbook Trouble : Julienne Who?


Are you chopping that onion or dicing it? Or maybe even mincing it? When a recipe tells you to deglaze, do you start searching for paint thinner? Over centuries, the language of cooking has built up a dictionary worth of frequently used words with very specific definitions that mean little or nothing to non-cooks. Here are just a few of the most common.

METHODS Blanch--To boil vegetables, fruits or meats briefly to tenderize or set color, usually a preparation step rather than a final cooking.

Braise--To cook in a moderate amount of flavored liquid that will then be used as part of the finished dish.

Bruise--To crush an aromatic food to release flavor, such as in garlic or ginger.


Chiffonnade--To cut a leafy vegetable in thin strips. The easiest method is to stack the leaves one atop the other, roll them in a cigar-shape and then cut them in thin strips width-wise.

Chop--To cut roughly in chunks.

Clarify--To remove milky sediment from butter by melting, then pouring off liquid fat.

Cream--To beat butter and sugar together until the mixture turns white, smooth and fluffy.


Deglaze--To pour flavored liquid (wine, stock, etc.) into a hot pan in which something has been browned, freeing any flavorful bits that might have stuck to the bottom of the pan and establishing the base for a quick sauce.

Dice--To cut in uniformly sized cubes.

Dredge--To dip lightly in flour before frying.

Fold--To combine a dry ingredient with whipped egg whites or cream in such a way that the air bubbles in the egg white or cream are not deflated.


Julienne--To cut in long thin, matchstick-size strips.

Knead--To work a dough in order to develop the flour’s gluten.

Marinate--To flavor by surrounding meats or vegetables with flavoring compounds--either wet or dry--and leaving to set.

Mince--To finely chop.


Plump--To soak a dried ingredient (especially fruits, such as raisins) in liquid to rehydrate.

Poach--To cook in water at low heat.

Puree--Essentially, to turn something that is more or less solid into something more or less liquid.

Reduce--To boil a flavored liquid until a significant portion (usually at least one-third) has evaporated, concentrating the flavor and--in some cases--thickening the texture.


Saute--Sometimes known as pan-frying, to cook something in a small amount of fat.

Simmer--To cook in liquid that is very hot, but not fully boiling.

Stir-Fry--Akin to sauteeing, but done over extremely high heat in a very short time.

Sweat--To cook flavoring vegetables (onions, garlic, carrots, celery) very slowly in a small amount of fat to release flavors without browning.


INGREDIENTS Creme Fraiche--Ripened cream, in texture and flavor somewhere between whipping cream and sour cream.

Demiglace--Stock (usually veal) that has been reduced to the point that it jellies when cool.

Roux--Combination of flour and fat used to thicken sauces, stews or soups.

Zest--Aromatic colored part of a citrus rind. NOT the thick, white bitter pith just below it.


TERMS Al Dente--The point of done-ness at which noodles, rice or vegetables are well-cooked but still resistant to the bite.

Bain-Marie--Water bath used to bake delicate puddings and certain types of cakes.

Non-reactive bowl or pan--A bowl or pan made from a material that will not interact with acidic ingredients, most usually stainless steel or glass. NOT aluminum.

Scallop--Not just a shellfish, but also a boneless piece of meat cut in one thin slice for sauteeing. As in the French escalope and Italian scaloppine .