Decoding Difficult Menus: What the Heck Is a Meuniere?
With all of the unique ethnic restaurants in Houston, deciding what to order at an exotic eatery can be a challenge. Not necessarily because it all sounds amazing--sometimes you just don't know what the heck any of the words mean.
Photo by F. Cuauhtemoc You want the huitlacoche? Are you sure about that?
Listing every ingredient and cooking process used in every restaurant around Houston or even by every ethnicity with a restaurant in town would be insane (though very helpful). Instead, we've compiled a list of some of the words and phrases seen most commonly on menus at restaurants that range from Mexican to Indian to upscale American. We've defined them for you here, so next time you see huitlacoche on a menu, you can confidently say, "Yes, I'll have the corn smut, please."
Adobo - a seasoning paste used in Mexican cooking usually consisting of vinegar, garlic, ground chiles and spices
Photo by Polytheorist Peruvian chicken adobo
Al carbón - cooked over charcoal or coals made of wood
Al forno - cooked in the oven
Aspic - a savory gelatin made from consommé or meat stock
Bain-marie - also called a water bath or double boiler; a container used to cook food slowly by placing hot water underneath it
Bard - to wrap meat in a layer of fat (like bacon) before cooking it
Blanch - to quickly immerse food in boiling water to enhance color, remove fat or loosen skin (like on tomatoes)
Clarify - to refine a fatty broth and remove solids by simmering and adding an egg white to trap unwanted solids
Consommé - a strong, flavorful soup made from concentrated meat stock, often clarified with egg whites
Photo by Kui-Doraku Chicken consommé
Coulis - a thick sauce made from fruits or vegetables that have been cooked (usually), puréed and strained
Crudités - hors d'oeuvres consisting of sliced raw vegetables generally served with a dipping sauce
Crudo - uncooked
Dashi - a Japanese stock that forms the base of many other dishes
Deglaze - to add liquid to a pan to remove any food particles that are stuck to the bottom, often using wine or meat stock; the mixture is usually turned into a sauce
Emulsion - a mixture of two liquids that ordinarily would not mix, like vinegar and oil in vinaigrette or egg yolks and oil in mayonnaise
En papillote - French for "in paper"; generally refers to enclosing food in parchment paper to maintain moisture while cooking
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