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5 Recipe Terms You May Not Know – Understanding Kitchen Lingo

August 16, 2012 Le Cordon Bleu Sacramento 0 Comments

5 Recipe Terms You May Not Know – Understanding Kitchen Lingo

If you’ve ever spent any time in a restaurant kitchen you have probably noticed that chefs seem to have their own language. There is a kitchen culture that is almost indecipherable to the average diner but is as essential to the life of a chef as his knife or wardrobe. Whether he is in the weeds or relaxing after the nightly service, the life of a chef requires almost as much endurance as it does knowledge. While a Sacramento cooking school can offer you an excellent understanding of the terms and lingo of the culinary arts here is a list of 5 terms that you may come across in your adventures in cooking to get you started.

Bain-Marie
A hot water bath, the bain-marie comes in many forms and serves many functions. A bain-marie consists of two containers, usually shaped like large pots, one set inside the other. The outside container will hold water and the inside will hold the material you wish to heat up. The bain-marie can be used with any heat source and is a gentler way to heat up ingredients. The water acts as an insulator against the extreme heat of a stove top or oven so that your food can be warmed without scorching or drying out. While commercial units are available, often in the culinary arts chefs will make their own using varying sizes of pots and pans or roasting trays. Bain-maries have many applications but there are a few that you may find particularly useful in your own kitchen. When melting chocolate or fondue a bain-marie will slowly melt your ingredients without them scorching or caking to the bottom of the pot. When making cheesecake it can be baked in a bain-marie to prevent the top from cracking and splitting. Bain-maries can also be used as a substitute for a chaffing dish, keeping foods warm for an extended period of time without burning or drying out.

Bouquet Garni
A staple of Sacramento cooking school, a bouquet garni is a bundle of herbs tied with string that is added to flavor a simmering liquids, like soups or stews, and removed prior to serving. From the French for “garnished bouquet” the most common ingredients are parsley, thyme and bay leaf but there is no limit on what you can add at home. While they normally consist solely of herbs, occasionally carrots celery or onions are included. If you find yourself without butchers twine at home you can also use a teabag or strainer, even a coffee filter, anything that will contain the herbs for easy removal once your dish is ready.

Caramelization
When carbohydrates and sugars are heated on a stove top and begin to brown this process is called caramelization. Similar to the searing of meats and proteins, when sugars are heated to 300 degrees or more a chemical reaction occurs that changes their color and releases a complex nutty flavor. When making sauces it is often called for caramelizing onions before you add your liquid ingredients this is what softens and sweetens an onion’s bite, this is the same process that turns toast brown or makes potatoes golden and crispy. During caramelization often times the browned bits of food begin sticking to the bottom of your pot by adding water or any liquid you can deglaze these bits releasing their flavor back into the dish that you are creating.

Mirepoix
A mirepoix is the traditional flavor base for a wide variety of soups, stews and sauces. Consisting of diced onions, celery and carrots these three ingredients are sautéed in the bottom of a pot in oil or butter until brown before adding any of a recipe’s ingredients. A mirepoix can also be placed on the bottom of a roasting pan as a bed for roasted meats or poultry.

Barding
The process of wrapping meat in strips of fat is called barding. This process helps keep your meats moist while imparting the flavor of the fat that it’s cooked in. Bacon is the most common fat used in barding but any meat with a high fat content will do. While typically you will see fillet or scallops wrapped in bacon it is also an excellent method for cooking chicken as the breast meat dries out easily. To add a more exotic flavor to cooking meats try wrapping it in duck or goose. The barding will practically do all the basting for you. When your meat is close to being done, the barding is usually removed to allow the meat to brown the last few minutes in the oven.

While entire dictionaries have been created to explain the vast number of terms used in kitchens and recipes, these 5 new additions to your culinary arts vocabulary will give you a head start on your cooking adventures.

This article is presented by Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Sacramento. Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Sacramento offers culinary arts and pâtisserie and baking training programs in Sacramento, California. To learn more about the class offerings, please visit Chefs.edu/Sacramento for more information. 

Find disclosures on graduation rates, student financial obligations and more at www.chefs.edu/disclosures.  
Le Cordon Bleu® and the Le Cordon Bleu logo are registered trademarks of Career Education Corporation. Le Cordon Bleu cannot guarantee employment or salary. Credits earned are unlikely to transfer.

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