top of page
  • Writer's pictureKevin Dam

"Exploring French Culinary Terms: A Guide to Techniques, Definitions, and Examples"

French cuisine boasts a vast array of techniques and terms, some fundamental and others quite specific. Here's a breakdown of some core techniques with explanations and examples:

Basic Techniques:

  • Sauté (Soté):  Food is cooked quickly in a hot pan with a small amount of fat (butter, oil) while being tossed or stirred frequently.

    • Example: Sautéed mushrooms for an omelet.

  • Roasting (Rôtir):  Food is cooked, uncovered, in a hot oven with minimal added moisture.

    • Example: Roasted chicken with vegetables.

  • Braising (Braiser):  Meat or vegetables are browned in a pan and then simmered slowly in a flavorful liquid (broth, wine) until tender.

    • Example: Braised short ribs with red wine.

  • Braise and Finish (Braisé et Glacé): Similar to braising, but the cooking liquid is reduced to create a glossy glaze for the meat.

    • Example: Glazed carrots with a brown sugar glaze.

Stock Making (Préparation de Bouillon):

  • Making Stock (Faire un Bouillon):  Bones and vegetables are simmered in water to extract flavor, forming the base for soups, sauces, and stews.

    • Example:  Chicken stock for a French onion soup.

Thickening Techniques (Lier):

  • Roux (Roux):  Equal parts fat (butter) and flour are cooked together to a paste, then whisked into a liquid to thicken sauces and soups.

    • Example: Roux used in béchamel sauce for lasagna.

  • Beurre Manié (Kneaded Butter):  Softened butter is mixed with flour to form a dough, then added to a simmering liquid to create a quick thickener.

    • Example: Beurre manié used to thicken a pan sauce for steak.

Egg Techniques (Œufs):

  • Omelet (Omelette):  Beaten eggs are cooked in a pan, often filled with savory ingredients and folded over.

    • Example: Omelette with cheese and ham.

  • Soufflé (Soufflé):  A light and airy dish made with egg whites beaten to stiff peaks, folded into a base (cheese, vegetables), and baked until puffed.

    • Example: Cheese soufflé.

Other Techniques:

  • Mise en Place (Mise en Place):  The essential French term meaning "putting in place." It refers to preparing all ingredients and equipment before starting to cook.

  • Flambé (Flambé):  Alcohol (brandy, cognac) is added to a hot pan and ignited, creating a dramatic flame that burns off some alcohol and adds flavor.

    • Example:  Flambéed bananas for dessert.

  • Bain-Marie (Bain-Marie):  A gentle cooking method where a heatproof container is placed in a larger pan filled with simmering water. Used for delicate foods or slow, even cooking.

    • Example:  Chocolate melting in a bain-marie for dipping strawberries.

Cutting Techniques (Tailler):

  • Julienne: Vegetables are cut into thin, matchstick-like sticks.

    • Example: Julienned carrots for garnish or salads.

  • Brunoise:  Vegetables or other ingredients are diced very finely, resembling small cubes.

    • Example: Brunoise onions for a mirepoix.

  • Paysanne: Vegetables are cut into wedges or irregular, rustic pieces.

    • Example: Potatoes cut paysanne for roasting.

Sauce Making (Préparation des Sauces):

  • Velouté: A light and smooth sauce made from a roux (butter and flour) and a light stock (chicken, veal).

  • Example: Velouté sauce for crepes.

  • Béchamel: A white sauce made with a roux and milk, often used as a base for other sauces or gratins.

    • Example: Béchamel used in mac and cheese.

  • Espagnole: A rich, brown sauce made from a dark roux and a brown stock (beef).

    • Example: Espagnole sauce for a classic French beef bourguignon.

  • Tomato Sauce (Sauce Tomate):  Tomatoes are simmered with aromatics (onion, garlic) and herbs (thyme, bay leaf) to create a versatile base for many tomato-based sauces.

    • Example: Used in tomato pasta sauce, French onion soup.

  • Demiglace (Demi-Glace):  A rich, concentrated brown sauce made from an espagnole that has been simmered for an extended period, resulting in an intense flavor.

    • Example: Foundation for sauces like sauce au poivre (peppercorn sauce).

Sauce Variations:

  • Sauce Espagnole Variations: Espagnole can be transformed into many sauces by adding specific ingredients.

    • Example:  Adding red wine and shallots creates a sauce Bordelaise for steak.

  • Béchamel Variations: Béchamel can be flavored with cheese (Mornay sauce), herbs (sauce choron), or mustard (Dijon mustard sauce)

  • Emulsification (Émulsion):  Combining two normally immiscible liquids (like oil and vinegar) to create a stable sauce (vinaigrette).

    • Example: Vinaigrette salad dressing.

  • Hollandaise Sauce:  An emulsified sauce made with egg yolks, clarified butter, and lemon juice. Requires precise technique to prevent curdling.

    • Example: Hollandaise sauce for eggs Benedict.

  • Béarnaise Sauce:  A hollandaise variation flavored with shallots, tarragon, and chervil.

    • Example: Béarnaise sauce for grilled steak.

Finishing Touches (Finitions):

  • Glaçage (Glazing):  A thin layer of glaze is brushed on cooked food (meat, vegetables) to add shine and flavor, often made from reduced stock, fruit preserves, or glaze.

    • Example: Glazing a ham with honey before baking for a golden crust.

  • Monter au Beurre (Finishing with Butter):  Swirling in knobs of cold butter to a hot sauce just before serving, adds richness and silkiness.

    • Example: Mounting mashed potatoes with butter for extra creaminess.

  • Sauter (Tossing): Cooked ingredients are tossed in a hot pan with butter, herbs, or other flavorings to add a final flourish.

    • Example: Sautéing green beans with garlic and butter.

  • Liaison (Liaison):  Adding a mixture of egg yolk and cream to a hot sauce just before serving, thickens it slightly and adds richness.

    • Example: Liaison used in a quiche Lorraine.

  • Beurre Noisette (Hazelnut Butter): Butter is browned until it has a nutty aroma and flavor, then swirled into a sauce for added depth.

    • Example: Beurre noisette finishes a sauce for trout amandine.

  • Reduction (Réduction):  A sauce is simmered to concentrate its flavors by reducing the liquid content.

    • Example: Reducing a red wine sauce for a more intense flavor.

Advanced Techniques:

  • Sous Vide (Under Vacuum):  Food is vacuum-sealed in a bag and cooked at a precisely controlled temperature in a water bath, resulting in perfectly cooked, tender results.

    • Example: Sous vide steak for an incredibly juicy and flavorful cut.

  • Pâte Brisée (Flaky Pastry Dough):  A basic dough used for savory tarts and quiches.

    • Example: Pâte Brisée crust for a quiche Lorraine.

  • Pâte Feuilletée (Puff Pastry):  A layered dough that creates a light and flaky pastry when baked.

    • Example: Puff pastry for croissants or savory turnovers.

  • Terrine (Terrine):  Marinated meats, poultry, or seafood are layered in a mold, cooked slowly, and pressed to form a savory loaf.

    • Example: Pâté en croûte, a classic French terrine made with pate and puff pastry crust.

  • Galantine (Galantine):  Boned and deboned whole meat (chicken, veal) is stuffed, rolled, poached, and chilled, resulting in a decorative and flavorful dish.

    • Example: Galantine de volaille, a French chicken galantine.

Butchery Techniques (Découpe):

  • Paring (Parer):  Removing fat, sinew, and silver skin from meat to improve its texture and tenderness.

  • Trussing (Trousser):  Tying poultry or meat with kitchen twine to maintain its shape during cooking for even cooking and presentation.

  • Deboning (Désossage):  Removing all bones from a whole cut of meat (chicken, fish) while preserving the meat and its shape. This is a foundational skill for preparing galantines, roulades, and certain stuffings.

    • Example: Deboning a chicken for a stuffed chicken breast recipe.

  • Larding (Larder):  Thin strips of pork fat (lardon) are inserted into lean meat to add moisture, flavor, and prevent dryness during cooking.

    • Example: Larding a roast leg of lamb for extra richness.

  • Bardage (Barding):  Thin slices of fat (bacon, pork belly) are wrapped around a lean cut of meat to protect it from drying out during high-heat cooking.

    • Example: Barding a filet mignon with bacon before searing.

  • Fabrication (Découpe):  Breaking down a whole animal (cow, pig) into various cuts like roasts, steaks, and ground meat, maximizing usability with minimal waste.

    • Example: Butchering a whole chicken into individual leg,quarters, breasts, wings, and tenders.

  • Frenching (Parer à la Française):  This technique involves removing meat, fat, and connective tissue from the exposed ends of bones (usually on lamb or veal chops) to create a clean and elegant presentation.

    • Example: Frenching lamb chops for a rack of lamb.

  • Suprême (Suprême):  A specific cut of boneless, skinless chicken breast achieved by removing the wing bone and the breastbone while keeping the entire breast muscle intact.

    • Example: Using chicken suprême for a chicken cordon bleu recipe.

Remember, this is not an exhaustive list, but it provides a broader understanding of the depth and artistry within French cooking techniques. With practice and exploration, you can master these methods and create your own culinary masterpieces.

2 views0 comments


bottom of page