No matter how familiar you are with the culinary world, there are always new words to learn — as well as delicious new culinary methods and dishes to try. Check out our list below for a few of the most commonly seen — but often unfamiliar — terms, and never be stumped by your menu again.
Pronounced ay-oh-li. Similar in texture to mayonnaise, aioli is a delicate, creamy, white sauce made of garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, egg yolks, and seasonings (including, in some variations, mustard).
Pronounced amoos boosh. A small, often bite-sized appetizer that is not ordered by the diner, but rather is offered by the chef as a complement to and preparation for the meal to follow.
Pronounced ah-pair-ah-TEEF. A drink, most often lightly alcoholic, that is consumed before a meal to stimulate the appetite. Aperitifs are most often light and dry in flavor, and may take the place of an appetizer.
Pronounced boo-YA-base. A French fish and seafood stew featuring distinct Provençal seasonings such as fennel, saffron, and, often, dried orange peel, and bony fish added into the broth individually then boiled. Traditional presentations involve serving the broth with bread and an oil-based sauce separately from the fish, or bringing each component from the kitchen separately then combining them at the table.
Pronounced car-PACH-ee-oh. A dish, most often served as an appetizer, consisting of thinly sliced raw meat (most often beef) or fish served with a light dressing or sauce.
Pronounced cass-oh-lay. A traditional French casserole featuring white beans, pork skin, and meat (varying from mutton, pork, goose, or partridge, depending on the region) that is slow-cooked, often until a savory crust forms on the top. Cassoulet features a more broth- or soup-like consistency than the typical creamy American casserole.
Pronounced SHAR-coo-tuh-ree. Charcuterie refers specifically to the branch of cooking dedicated to prepared meat products. When seen on a menu, it denotes a selection of small meat servings, to be chosen individually or mixed and matched. Often served with complementary bread or condiments, charcuterie offerings typically include sausages, brined and salt-cured meats, and forcemeats (i.e., ground, lean meat emulsified with fat).
Pronounced chut-knee. Originating in South Asian cuisine, chutney refers to any of a wide variety of condiments, and can range from creamy variations to chunky, jam-like sauces.
Pronounced COHM-pote. A dessert made from fruit and complementary spices cooked in sugar syrup. Less commonly, compote also can refer to a dish made of game meats that have been cooked in a roux over low heat for a long period of time, resulting in a stew-like dish.
Pronounced cohn-fee. A term for when food — such as meat, most often duck or goose, or fruit — has been submerged in oil, grease, or syrup and cooked at a low temperature. The cooked material can then be packaged with its cooking solution and stored for a long period of time, making confit both a cooking and preserving method.
Pronounced con-suh-MAY. A highly flavorful, clear soup made from clarified stock or bouillon.
Coq au vin
Pronounced coke-aw-ven. A type of stew consisting of meat, most often chicken, braised with wine, pork fat, mushrooms, and seasonings, including, in some variations, garlic. The final result features a more broth- or soup-like sauce than traditional, gravy-sauced American stews.
Pronounced croo-doh. In Italian cuisine, crudo denotes a raw menu offering, such as carne cruda, raw steak, or pesce crudo, raw fish.
Pronounced DEE-jest-eef. A drink, most often alcoholic, that is consumed after a meal to aid in digestion. Digestifs are often sweet and rich in flavor, and may take the place of dessert.
Pronounced et-oof-ay. The word “etouffee” comes from the French word meaning “to smother.” Common in Creole and Cajun cuisine, the dish is composed of a thick, flavorful sauce with shellfish, most often crawfish, and vegetables poured liberally over a bed of rice.
Pronounced flam-BAY. A cooking method in which alcohol is added to a dish then lit on fire. Very often used as a tableside spectacle, flambéing also serves the purpose of burning off potent alcohol compounds, helping to infuse subtle aroma and flavor into a dish.
Pronounced FRICK-ah-see. A traditional French white stew, most often made with chicken, in which the protein is lightly sautéed, but not browned, and braised in stock or broth. The final result features a more broth- or soup-like sauce than traditional, gravy-sauced American stews.
Pronounced grem-oh-lah-ta. A savory blend of finely chopped parsley, garlic, and lemon zest used as a condiment, dressing, or seasoning mixture. Traditional osso buco preparations often use gremolata as a garnish.
Pronounced pat-ay. A paste made by mincing together ground, cooked meat (often chicken liver) and fat. Variations include the addition of wine or brandy, seasonings, or vegetables.
Pronounced pooh-teen. A Canadian dish consisting of French fries (or another, most often potato-based, starch) covered with a light gravy and cheese curds.
Pronounced pre feex. Translating to “fixed price,” this is a dining concept in which the diner receives a full meal, most often including an appetizer and dessert or other courses, from a limited menu for a set price.
Pronounced rey-moo-LAHD. A mayonnaise-based condiment similar to tartar sauce that is often flavored with curry and commonly served with breaded or pan-friend seafood-based dishes, such as fish filets or crab cakes.
Pronounced rill-ettes (English) or ree-EHT-uh (French). A preparation of meat similar to pâté, in which the protein is cubed or chopped, salted, then slow-cooked in fat until easily shredded. The final result is then cooled and stored in fat, often over a period of days, resulting in a soft meat paste.
Pronounced tar-tar. Traditionally made with steak or tuna, tartare consists of finely chopped or minced raw meat, often served with onions, capers, and seasonings such as Worcestershire sauce. Some variations include a raw egg yolk.
Pronounced vel-oo-TAY. Served as a primary base for dozens of other sauces, velouté is a smooth white sauce that is made with meat, poultry, or fish stock thickened with a blond roux. The menu frequently will identify the sauce’s stock component (e.g., chicken velouté, veal velouté, etc.).