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Cooking Glossary and Terminology

Greetings from SauceGal, chef, cooking teacher, and recipe editor.  We put together this glossary for you because cooking should be fun, not confusing.  You'll find explanations here for cooking terms, ingredients, and techniques mentioned in our recipes.  We’ll continue to expand the page based on input from our cooking friends.  If you have a question, feel free to contact us.  Bon Appétit - SauceGal

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Aïoli: The French term for garlic mayonnaise; in Italian it is allioli; in Spanish it is aliolio.

Al dente: Italian for to the tooth.  To cook a food, such as pasta, until it is al dente, is to cook it until it is tender, but still firm and not soft.

Allemande sauce: Made from Velouté sauce thickened with egg yolks; sometimes with mushroom cooking liquid is added to flavor the sauce. From the French for “German sauce.”

Andouille sausage: A spicy smoked pork sausage seasoned with garlic, used in Cajun cuisine.

Arborio rice: a kind of short-grained rice produced in Italy.  It is often used to make risotto because of its high starch content, which is released gradually during cooking, giving the risotto its creamy texture.

Aromatics: Plant ingredients such as vegetables, herbs, and spices that enhance the flavor and aroma of food.

Asiago cheese: A hard, Italian cow’s milk cheese.  Aged Asiago (which is more common in the U.S.) has a crumbly texture and a complex, nutty flavor similar to Parmesan.

Au jus: see Jus

Au poivre: French for with pepper, usually for a sauce or preparation incorporating crushed black peppercorns.


Balsamic vinegar: A true balsamic vinegar is made in Italy from grape juice that has been aged for a minimum of 12 years in wooden casks.  It is dark and thick, with a complex, powerful flavor (and very expensive).  This balsamic vinegar, often labeled astradizionale, is best used in very small amounts, drizzled over ripe fruits or risotto, for instance.  Most commercial-grade balsamic vinegars found in grocery stores are red wine vinegars sweetened and darkened with cooked grape juice or caramel coloring and flavoring. Although they are not the same as true balsamic vinegar, many are very good and flavorful, and they are most commonly used (in larger quantities than the original) for marinades, vinaigrettes, and sauces.

Barley: One of the oldest cultivated grains, barley is harvested from an annual grass.  It has a mildly sweet flavor and a chewy texture and can be used in soups, pilafs, or to make risotto.  (It is also a key ingredient in beer and whisky production.) The most commonly available form is pearled barley, which has been milled to remove the husk from the grain and steamed to remove the bran.

Basmati rice: A long-grained rice traditionally grown in India in the foothills of the Himalayas.  Its nut-like flavor and aroma enhance the flavors combined with it.  Basmatitranslates as queen of fragrance or the perfumed one.

Baste: To moisten food during cooking with pan juices or other liquids in order to prevent the food from drying out.

Béchamel: Sauce made from milk thickened with white or blond roux.

Bisque: A rich, creamy soup based on shellfish or a vegetable purée.  It is often thickened with rice and finished with cream.

Blackcurrants: a small, very dark purple berry with a sharp, sweet taste, often used in preserves, syrups, and liqueurs such as Cassis.

Blanched almonds: Almonds with their brown skins removed by being heated in boiling water and then immersed in cold water to stop the cooking.

Bordelaise: French for of or from Bordeaux, one of the great wine-producing regions of the world.  Sauce Bordelaise is a traditional sauce made with wine and brown stock, usually served with meat.

Braise: A cooking method in which the main item is browned briefly in fat and then cooked gently, covered, in a small amount of liquid.  The long, slow cooking tenderizes the foods by gradually breaking down their fibers.

Braising liquid: The flavorful liquid in which a braised food has been cooked.

Brining: Marinating foods in a strong solution of water and salt.  Traditionally brining was used to preserve or pickle food.  More recently, brining, also referred to as flavor brining, has been used as a way to give flavor and juiciness to meat and poultry before grilling, broiling, sautéing, or roasting.  The brine is flavored with sweeteners and/or herbs, spices, and fruits, and those flavors are carried into the brined food by osmosis, along with additional moisture from the water in the brine.

Brown stock: An amber-colored stock made from bones that have been browned (caramelized) and browned aromatic vegetables (typically carrot, celery, and onion) simmered in water.

Bulgur wheat: A staple in Middle Eastern cooking, bulgur is made from whole wheat berries that have been steamed, hulled, dried and cracked.  It has a light, nutty flavor and a chewy texture and comes in fine, medium, and coarse grinds.  Bulgur is often confused with cracked wheat, which is crushed grain that has not been steamed.  Cracked wheat can be substituted for bulgur, but it needs about 15 minutes of simmering to become tender.



Candied ginger: Fresh ginger root that has been cooked in sugar syrup and then coated with granulated sugar.  It is usually available sliced or chopped and has a soft, chewy texture and the spicy complexity of fresh ginger.  Candied ginger is also referred to ascrystallized ginger.

Cannellini beans: Large, white Italian beans that have a creamy texture when cooked.  They’re sometimes referred to as white kidney beans.  Great northern beans or white navy beans can be used as substitutes for cannellini beans.

Capers: Cooked and pickled flower buds of a bush that grows all around the Mediterranean.  They have a piquant, salty, sour, and herbal flavor and are frequently used with fish and other foods that are oily and rich.  Capers are sold in a packed in a vinegar brine or packed in salt.  Salt-packed capers should be rinsed before using to remove excess salt.

Caramelize: To cook food until it turns brown and has a somewhat sweet, toasted flavor. Caramelized sugar is cooked until it is at a temperature of 320 to 360 degrees, becoming a clear syrup that ranges in color from golden to dark brown.

Chervil: A mild-flavored herb with a subtle anise flavor and bright green, lacy leaves. Chervil is a member of the parsley family and is best in its fresh form.  If chervil is not available, substitute an equal amount of parsley, tarragon, or fennel leaves.

Chipotle pepper, chipotle chile sauce: Chipotles are dried, smoked jalapeno peppers, which are sold ground into a powder, whole, or canned in adobo sauce (a slightly sweet, tangy, red sauce).  They add an intense, smoky heat and can be found in the Mexican section of most grocery stores or in Mexican or Latin American markets.

Chop: To cut into bite-size or smaller pieces roughly the same size.

Chorizo: A spicy pork sausage flavored with garlic and powdered chilies.  Spanish chorizo is a hard, dry-cured or smoked sausage, which doesn’t need additional cooking; Mexican chorizo is made with fresh pork and needs to be cooked before serving.

Coconut milk: A thick, creamy liquid made from steeping finely grated coconut meat in hot water, then straining the coconut and pressing out the remaining liquid.  It’s a key ingredient in Thai cuisine and can be found in most grocery stores and Asian markets.  (Don’t confuse coconut milk with cream of coconut, which is highly sweetened.)

Cognac: A fine brandy produced in France from a specific blend of grapes and aged in oak barrels.  It is enjoyed as a drink on its own, but it is also used to add deep, complex flavor notes to both sweet and savory dishes.

Cointreau: A French liqueur made with bitter and sweet orange peels.  It has a mildly bittersweet orange flavor and is clear and colorless.

Cool Cooks:  the fine folks that cook with MTG products.  People with great taste.

Clever, Creative Cooks:  See cool cooks.

Contemporary sauces: One of the many labels given to items that lay outside the traditional French mother sauces and derivative sauces: salsas (and other “raw” sauces), broths, compotes, marmalades, chutneys, infused oils, barbecue sauces, relishes, flavored butters, purées, and many others.  They fulfill some of the classic functions sauces by adding flavor, moisture, texture, and color to a dish and have their roots in diverse ethnicities and cultures.

Coriander: The seeds of the cilantro plant.  Its flavor is similar to a combination of lemon, sage, and caraway and not at all like the flavor of cilantro leaves.  Coriander is used in Indian and Latin American cooking, often in combination with cumin, and it can be found in most grocery stores.

Couscous: Durum semolina (a coarsely ground wheat flour) that has been lightly moistened with water and rolled into little granules.  A staple of North African and Middle Eastern cuisines, couscous comes in many varieties with the granules ranging in size from that of a grain of sand to as large as a small pea.  It is available in most grocery stores.

Cracked or crushed peppercorns: No matter what color the peppercorn (black, white, or pink . . .) its flavor will be released by cracking or crushing it.  This may be done with a mortar and pestle, or the peppercorns may be placed in a sealed plastic bag and pounded with the flat side of a meat mallet or a heavy tin can.

Cracklings: Tasty, crisp pieces of pork or poultry fat after it has been rendered.

Crème fraîche: A French-style soured cream with a thinner consistency and milder flavor than regular sour cream.

Cumin: The aromatic, nutty-flavored dried seed of a plant in the parsley family, cumin is used in many cuisines around the world.  It comes in three colors, white, amber, and black.  The white and amber seeds are interchangeable, but the black has a more complex, peppery flavor.  Cumin may be purchased ground or in whole-seed form.

Curry paste: A moist, concentrated blend of chilies, spices, and aromatics like kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, shallots, garlic, ginger, and shrimp paste.  Used in Thai cooking, curry paste comes in several styles.  The most common are green curry paste, which is the hottest and is made from fresh, hot green chilies; red curry paste, which is also hot and is made with dried red chilies; and yellow curry paste, which is relatively mild and flavored with turmeric.



Demi-glace: Literally, half-glace. A mixture of Espagnole sauce and brown stock that has been reduced by half, to produce a glossy, full-bodied, full-flavored sauce. The term is also used more generally to refer to any reduced stock having the consistency of a light syrup.

Derivative sauces: Also called petite sauces or compound sauces, they are made by adding another ingredient or multiple ingredients to the mother sauces and to demi-glace. For instance, to make Sauce Robert, white wine is added to a pan of sautéed onions and reduced, then demi-glace is added, then mustard, and finally the sauce is finished by adding butter.

Dice: To cut ingredients into small cubes, 1/4 inch for small, 1/3 inch for medium, and 3/4 inch for large.

Dijon mustard: A mustard made from brown or black mustard seeds, white wine, unfermented grape juice, and seasonings.  Originally from Dijon, France, this mustard is known for its sharp, complex flavor.

Ditalini pasta: A small pasta shaped like short little tubes.

Dried currants: Dried Zante grapes, very small in size with a tart, tangy flavor and very dark color.

Dried mushrooms: Fresh mushrooms that have been dehydrated. Not all mushrooms varieties can be dried, but many can, both wild and cultivated.  In some cases, drying actually improves their flavor. Dried mushrooms have a 10- to 12-month shelf life, and may be stored at room temperature.  One pound of fresh mushrooms produces about 3 ounces of dried mushrooms.  They need to be reconstituted by soaking in hot water, and the soaking liquid (strained) may be used to add flavor to soups, sauces, and risottos.

Dried tart cherries: Tart or sour cherries that have been dehydrated and, usually, sweetened.

Dry mustard: Also referred to as English mustard, a blend of ground black or brown and yellow mustard seeds, wheat flour, and turmeric.  The most well known brand is Colman’s.

Dry red wine: A red wine that is not sweet.  The best red wines to cook with are those that don’t have too much tannin (an astringent substance that has a bitter flavor and makes your mouth pucker) or oak (the toasty flavor that comes from aging in oak barrels) because those flavors tend to concentrate during cooking and can give an off flavor to the food.  Pinot Noir, Merlot, or Sangiovese wines all work well. You should cook with wines you would enjoy drinking, but not the best bottle you can find.

Dry white wine: A white wine that is not sweet.  The best white wines to cook with have crisp acidity and little strong flavor or oak (the toasty flavor that comes from aging in oak barrels) because those flavors tend to concentrate during cooking and can give an off flavor to the food.  Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio (or the French and American Pinot Gris), Sémillon, and dry sparkling wines all work well. You should cook with wines you would enjoy drinking, but not the best bottle you can find.

Duck sausages: Sausages made from ground duck meat, duck fat, and sometimes ground pork, along with brandy or wine and a variety of seasonings.  They are available at some gourmet and specialty food stores and from several online vendors.



Emulsion: The mixture of one liquid with another with which it cannot normally combine smoothly (such as oil and water).  Emulsifying is done by slowly adding one ingredient to another while mixing rapidly.  This disperses and suspends minute droplets of one liquid throughout another.  Emulsified mixtures are usually thick and satiny in texture.  Mayonnaise and vinaigrette are two classic emulsions.

Escarole: A leafy green that is a member of the chicory family.  It has a slightly bitter flavor and crisp texture and can be eaten raw, braised, or added to soups and stews.

Escoffier: An internationally renowned French chef (1846-1935) who literally wrote the book on French cuisine, his cookbook Le Guide Culinaire. Escoffier elevated the title of chef to that of a respected professional, modernized kitchen technique and management, and refined the key sauces (see Mother Sauces) from which the large family of classic French sauces is derived.

Espagnole sauce: Also know as Spanish sauce or brown sauce, Espagnole sauce is made with reduced brown stock, herbs, tomato (fresh or purée), and caramelized mirepoix and thickened with brown roux.

Essence: A concentrated stock or extract of a flavorful ingredient such as mushrooms, truffles, celery, or leeks.



Fennel: An aromatic plant of the parsley family.   Two varieties of it are used in the kitchen: Florence or sweet fennel, has a bulbous base and long, celery-like stalks that can be used as a vegetable and feathery leaves that can be used as an herb.   All have a delicate anise flavor.  Common fennel is the variety from which fennel seeds are harvested.  They have a more intense anise flavor.

Flash point: The temperature at which a compound gives off enough vapor to ignite in the air.

Fond: This is the French word for foundation or base. In kitchens, it has two meanings: 1. Stock.  “Fond blanc” is white stock, and “fond brun” is brown stock.  2. The browned bits of meat and vegetables and drippings stuck to the bottom of a pan after cooking (usually sautéing or roasting) a piece of meat or poultry.

Foundation sauce: Basic sauces that may be used in their original form, but also work as the foundation for building more complex sauces with the addition of different flavor elements such as fortified wines, vegetable purées, herbs, and spices.

Frenched: Trimmed of meat and fat between the bones of a rib cut of meat, usually a rack of lamb.

Fruits de Mer: Seafood; French for fruits of the sea.

Fumet: A concentrated stock, often made from fish, used to add flavor to less intensely flavored stocks and sauces.



Game sausages: Sausages made from wild game animals such as venison, rabbit, duck, and wild boar.  They are available at some specialty and gourmet markets and from online vendors.

Garbanzo beans: Tan-colored legumes a little larger than green peas.  They have a mild, nutlike flavor and a firm texture.  Canned garbanzo beans are sold at most grocery stores, and some stores also stock them in dried form.  Garbanzo beans are often used in salads, soups, and stews and are the main ingredient in the Middle Eastern spread, hummus.

Ginger, fresh: Also called ginger root, a rhizome from the tropical ginger plant.  Fresh ginger usually has a light tan skin, pale yellow flesh, and a tangy, fresh, and peppery flavor.  A traditional staple in Asian and Indian cooking, ginger is now used in many cuisines around the world and is available in the produce department of most grocery stores.  (Note: the skin should be taken off with a vegetable peeler or scraped off with a spoon before chopping or mincing.)

Ginger, ground: Dried and ground fresh ginger.  Its earthy flavor is very different from that of its fresh form, so substituting one for the other doesn’t work well.  Ground ginger adds a warm, spicy note to many dishes including soups, curries, fruit compotes, and gingerbread.

Glace: Stock that has been reduced, usually by about 90%, to the consistency of a syrup when hot and the texture of hard rubber when cold.  It is traditionally used to add color and flavor to sauces.

Glaze: To give a food a shiny surface by brushing it with a liquid such as sauce, icing, melted jelly, or beaten egg.

Gluten-free: Containing none of the protein, gluten, found in the grains wheat, barley, rye, and triticale, and in food additives.

Gorgonzola: A cow’s milk blue cheese from Italy.  It is rich and creamy with a pungent, savory flavor.  You can substitute another creamy blue cheese such as Stilton or Roquefort.

Green peppercorn mustard: Mustard with ground green peppercorns added; most commonly available brands are French.

Green peppercorns: Peppercorns that are not fully matured.  They have a fresh, mild, tart flavor that is less complex than that of mature (black or white) peppercorns, which makes them ideal for lighter foods such as fish, chicken, and vegetables.  Green peppercorns are usually found preserved in brine, but may also be available freeze-dried.

Grits: Dried ground hominy (corn that has been soaked in a lye solution to swell the kernels) that is cooked in water to make a porridge.  Grits are a traditional staple in the southern U.S. and come in a variety of grinds from fine to coarse.

Ground black or white pepper: Black and white peppercorns may be purchased whole, cracked, or ground.  Whole peppercorns retain their flavor indefinitely.  Cracked or ground pepper loses its flavor over time, so freshly ground or cracked pepper is the most flavorful and best to use in most recipes.

Gruyére cheese: A firm, pale, cow’s milk cheese from Switzerland with a rich, almost sweet, nutty flavor.



Heavy cream: A cream that contains at least 35% milk fat, also called whipping cream.

Herbs: Fragrant plant leaves used to add flavor to foods.  Most herbs are available both fresh and dried, although some dry more successfully than others (parsley, for instance, is much better fresh than dried).  Because their flavor can be destroyed by heat, fresh herbs are best added to uncooked foods, or added to cooked foods just at the end of cooking time.  Dried herbs are best in cooked foods and should be added near the beginning of cooking time to allow their flavors to be released.

Herbes de Provence: A dried herb blend containing herbs that thrive in the warm climate of Southern France.  The blend usually includes rosemary, lavender, marjoram, basil, thyme, and summer savory.  Bay leaves, sage, and cracked fennel seeds may also be included.

Hollandaise sauce: An emulsion sauce made with a vinegar or wine reduction, egg yolks, melted butter, and lemon juice.

Hungarian paprika: This variety of paprika is considered the best quality and can usually be found in two kinds, sweet and hot.  Recipes calling for Hungarian paprika usually refer to the sweet variety.



Japanese bread crumbs: Also called panko, these dry breadcrumbs used in Japanese cooking are much coarser than regular bread crumbs and give food a very crisp, light, delicate, coating.

Japonica rice: A Japanese short-grain rice that is soft and sticky when cooked.

Juniper berries: The berries of the evergreen juniper tree, which are sold dried and look like small, dark blueberries.  Their flavor is bright and resin-like and is good complement to deeply flavored ingredients like wild game.

Jus: French for juice. The natural juices released by meat during roasting.  Meat served “au jus” is served with its cooking juices.

Jus lié: Meat juices thickened slightly with arrowroot or cornstarch.



Kalamata olives: Greek olives named for the region where they’re produced.  They are almond-shaped with a very dark purple color and a rich, fruity flavor.

Kale: A dark, leafy green and a member of the cabbage family.  It has a slightly peppery, slightly sweet flavor and stands up well to cooking.

Kielbasa: A Polish smoked pork sausage (sometimes also containing beef) seasoned with garlic and paprika, which is usually available in pre-cooked form.

Kitchen twine: A thick, cotton string usually used for trussing meats, also known asbutcher’s twine.



Leek: An aromatic vegetable related to onions and garlic.  Leeks look like giant scallions and have a mild but complex onion and green vegetable flavor.  They are frequently used in soups, stews, and sautés, or they can be baked or braised and served as a side dish.

Lemongrass: A stiff grass with a citrus aroma and a lemony flavor widely used in Asian cuisines.  To use lemongrass, peel away the tough outer leaves and mince the tender interior.

Liaison: A binder or thickening agent for soups and sauces.  Roux, egg yolks, and starches such as flour, cornstarch, and arrowroot are all liaisons.



Madeira: A fortified wine made in the Madeira islands of Portugal.  Madeira is produced in a variety of styles, from pale, light, and dry Sercial to dark, rich, sweet Malmsey.

Mahogany rice: A dark purple (almost black), unmilled, short grain rice with a chewy texture and a nutty, grainy flavor.

Manchego cheese: Spain’s most well-known cheese, made from sheep’s milk and ranging in flavor from mild to sharp (depending on how long it is aged).  Manchego has a firm texture and melts well.

Marinara: A traditional, basic Italian sauce made with tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil, oregano, and sometimes a pinch of red pepper flakes.

Marsala: A fortified wine made in Sicily with a rich, smoky, sweet flavor similar to sherry.

Merlot: A red wine made from the merlot grape, originally grown in the Bordeaux region of France, but now grown in many regions around the world.  Called “the comfort food of red wines,” Merlot usually has a lush plum fruit flavor, some subtle herbal flavors, and moderate tannins (so it is a good wine to cook with).

Mince: To chop into very small (about 1/8- to 1/4-inch) pieces.

Minestrone: From Italian for the big soup, a thick Italian soup made with vegetables and pasta or rice.

Mirepoix: A combination of chopped aromatic vegetables (usually two parts onion, one part carrot, and one part celery) used to flavor stocks, soups, and braises.

Mirin: A sweet rice wine used in Japanese cooking.  Mirin can usually be found in the Asian foods section of most grocery stores.

Morel: A wild mushroom with a spongy, honeycombed, spade-shaped cap and an earthy, smoky flavor.  Fresh morels are in season from April to June, and can be found at some grocery stores and gourmet or specialty markets.  Morels are available in dried form all year at most grocery stores.  Dried morels should be well rinsed, then soaked in hot water before use.

Mother sauces or Grand sauces: A core group of basic sauces, from which the large family of classic French sauces is derived.  The concept was originally developed and named by the nineteenth-century French chef, Antonin Careme, and it was later refined in the early twentieth century by the French chef Auguste Escoffier in his famous cookbook,Le Guide Culinaire.  The mother sauces are Espagnole, Velouté, Bechamel, Tomato, and, to a lesser degree, Hollandaise.



Nap, Nappé, Napper: To coat with sauce.  Sauces are said to nap when they leave an opaque coating on the back of a spoon.

Nutmeg: A spice that is the seed of the tropical nutmeg tree.  Its warm, peppery flavor is excellent in baked goods (often with cinnamon and cloves) and in savory dishes such as béchamel sauce, mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, or roasted butternut squash.  Nutmeg can be bought already ground, but its volatile oils retain the most flavor when nutmeg is freshly grated with a microplane grater or a nutmeg grater.



Oil-cured olives: Olives that have been dry-cured (instead of brine-cured), then soaked in olive oil.  They have a dense, meaty texture and an intense, smoky flavor.  Oil-cured olives are available in many grocery stores and in gourmet and specialty food stores.

Olive oil: A flavorful, monounsaturated oil extracted from pressing tree-ripened olives.  Olive oils vary in color and flavor depending on the where they are produced, the quality of the olives, and the process by which the oil is extracted.  Extra-virgin olive oil is the oil extracted in the first pressing of the olives by a chemical-free mechanical process; it has the most intense flavor and color and usually about 1 % acidity.  Oils labeled virgin are also first-press oils and usually have about 1 to 3% acidity.  Oils labeled just olive oil orpure olive oil are a combination of extra-virgin or virgin oil and refined olive oil. These have the lightest flavor and are usually lighter in color.  High heat destroys the flavor and aroma of extra-virgin and virgin olive oil, so they’re best for dressings or finishing dishes, while pure olive oil is better for high-heat cooking.



Pan sauce: see Reduction sauce

Paprika: A spice made from ground dried chilies.  Paprika varies in heat and flavor depending on where and how it is made.

Parmigiano Reggiano, imported Parmesan: One of the world’s great cheeses, made in a region of northern Italy under stringent guidelines from skimmed or partially skimmed cow’s milk.  It has a hard, granular texture, a straw-yellow color, and an intense, rich, sharp flavor and is often used in cooking grated over risottos, pastas, or salads.

Parsnips: Root vegetables that look like white carrots.  Parsnips have a sweet, earthy flavor and are in season in the fall and winter.

Pearl onions: Mild flavored small onions about the size of large marbles.  They must be boiled in water for about 30 seconds, then transferred to ice water to loosen their skins so the skins can be removed.  Frozen pearl onions, which do not need peeling, are also usually available at most grocery stores.

Pesto: From Italian for pounded, a thick sauce made from grinding together (with a mortar and pestle) or puréeing a fresh herb, garlic, and nuts or seeds, and adding olive oil and sometimes a grated cheese.  Traditional pesto is made with basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil, but pesto may also be made with mint, cilantro, and other herbs, nuts, and cheeses.

Piccata: An Italian dish in which boneless veal or chicken is pounded thin, sautéed, and served with a sauce made from the pan drippings, lemon, parsley, and butter.

Pilaf: A dish in which a grain (traditionally rice) is sautéed quickly in butter and then cooked in a flavorful stock or water with various seasonings.

Pinbones: The little white bones you see near the center of a fish fillet, which need to be removed.  Run your fingers across them to loosen the tops, then pull them out with needle-nose pliers.

Pine nuts: The edible seeds contained in the pine cones of several varieties of pine trees.  Pine nuts have a light, delicate flavor, and are called pignoli in Italian and piñons in Spanish.

Poivrade: French for made with pepper.

Polenta: A popular Italian dish made from cornmeal cooked with water or milk.  The term is also used to refer to the cornmeal from which the dish is made.

Porcini: A wild mushroom with a deep, woodsy flavor, also called cepe in French.  Porcinis are rarely available fresh in the U.S., but dried porcinis may be found in most grocery stores.  Like other dried mushrooms, they must be soaked in hot water before use.

Port: A strong, sweet, fruity, fortified wine usually red or brown in color, made in Portugal.

Purée: To grind or mash food until it is a smooth paste.  This can be done in a food processor or blender, or the food may be forced through a sieve or ground with a mortar and pestle.



Ravigote: From the French ravigoter, “to invigorate.”

Reconstitute: To restore a dehydrated or dried food to its original state by adding water or another liquid.

Red chili paste: A flavorful, thick Asian hot sauce made with ground red chilies, oil or vinegar, and salt.  Some chili pastes also include other flavors such as garlic or ginger.

Reduce: To boil a liquid rapidly until the volume is reduced by evaporation, thickening the liquid’s consistency, and intensifying its flavor.  The resulting liquid is referred to as areduction.

Reduction sauce: A sauce made by adding a flavorful liquid (stock or wine) to pan juices from roasted or sautéed meat, poultry, or fish (after the main item has been removed from the pan), reducing the liquid by about half, enriching the sauce with fat (butter, cream, or olive oil) and finishing it with seasonings.  This version of a reduction sauce is also called a pan sauce because it’s made in the pan in which the main ingredient of the dish was cooked.  Reduction sauces can have more layers, such this raspberry sauce for chicken or pork tenderloin: Raspberry vinegar and minced shallots are added to the sauté pan and reduced to just a glaze; Port wine is added and reduced by ¾; chicken stock and a small amount of raspberry jam are added, and the sauce is reduced again until it is nappé. The sauce is finished with a couple tablespoons of butter and final seasoning.

Render: To melt animal fat over low heat so that it separates from any connective pieces of tissue, which, during rendering, turn brown and crisp and are referred to as cracklings.  Often, the rendered fat is then filtered to remove any residue.

Riesling wine: A delicate white wine with a complex, fruity, floral, lightly spiced flavor.  It is made in a variety of styles ranging from sweet to dry.

Roast: A dry heat cooking method in which food is cooked in an oven in an uncovered pan in order to produce a well-browned exterior and a moist interior.

Roma tomato: Also called a plum tomato; a meaty, oval-shaped tomato with a relatively low water content that makes it ideal for roasting, canning, and making tomato sauce.

Roux: A cooked mixture of equal parts flour and fat (usually butter) used to thicken liquids.  Roux is cooked to varying degrees (white, blond, or brown) depending on its use; the darker the color, the richer the flavor.



Saffron: A spice consisting of the dried stigmas of crocus flowers.  It imparts a bright yellow color to food, and its flavor has been described as slightly bitter and metallic but also sweet, with aromas of honey and hay.  Because it must be harvested by hand during a short season in the fall, saffron is very expensive, but a small amount goes a long way.  The best saffron is sold in the form of dried threads. It is available in powdered form, but powdered saffron loses its flavor quickly and often is mixed with other products that further reduce its flavor.

Sauté: A cooking method in which food is cooked quickly in a small amount of fat over direct, moderate to high heat.  Sautéing is best for relatively thin, tender cuts of meat, poultry or fish (like steaks, chops, or filets) and crisp vegetables.

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Scallions: Also called green onions or spring onions.  Scallions are immature onions with a small bulb and long, slender green leaves.  Both the white and green parts may be used in cooking and have a delicate, chive-like onion flavor.

Shallot: A member of the onion family that is smaller than most onions and formed more like garlic, with a head usually composed of 2 or 3 cloves covered in papery tan- or rose-colored skin.  Its flavor is milder and more complex than an onion’s.

Sherry: A fortified wine originally made in Spain.  It is made in a wide range of styles from pale, delicate, dry Fino to sweet, full-flavored, dark Oloroso (also labeled golden orcream sherry).

Shiitake mushroom: Also called golden oak or forest mushroom.  A mushroom originally cultivated in Japan with a wide, shallow cap and a narrow, tough stem.  The shiitake has a lower water content than many other mushrooms, which gives it a meaty texture, along with its rich, buttery flavor.  Fresh and dried shiitakes are available at many grocery stores.  The tough stems should always be removed before cooking, but they can be used to flavor soups, sauces, or stocks.

Shiraz wine: A deep-colored red wine produced from Shiraz grapes in Australia.  The wine is produced in many other regions of the world where it is called Syrah, as is the grape.  Shiraz is a relatively tannic wine with deep blackberry, spice, and pepper flavors.

Simmer: To cook food gently in liquid just below the boiling point, where tiny bubbles break the surface of the liquid.

Soy sauce: A complex, dark, salty sauce made from fermented soy beans and wheat, often used in Asian cooking.  Different regions of Asia produce different soy sauces, which vary in flavor, as well as consistency, fragrance, and degree of saltiness.

Sriracha sauce: A chili sauce originally produced in Thailand made from ripe chilies, sugar, salt, and vinegar.  It has a hot-sweet-sour-salty flavor and a ketchup-like consistency.  Sriracha sauce is used as a condiment to add heat and flavor to soups, sauces, and other dishes.

Stew meat: Meat cut into 2- to 3-inch pieces used to make a stew.  The best cuts for stew meat are from the beef chuck or round, lamb shoulder, pork shoulder, or veal shoulder and breast.

Stilton cheese: A blue cheese made in England from whole cow’s milk.  It has a rich, creamy, but slightly crumbly texture and mellow, yet pungent flavor.

Stock: A flavorful liquid prepared by simmering meat, poultry, seafood, or vegetables in water with aromatics and seasonings for a long period of time so their flavor is transferred to the water.  Stock is used as a base for soups, sauces, and many other dishes.

Sun-dried tomatoes: Tomatoes that are dried in the sun or by other artificial methods.  Drying makes the tomatoes chewy and concentrates their flavors and their sweetness.  Sun-dried tomatoes are usually packaged oil-packed in jars or dry-packed in plastic bags.  The dry-packed tomatoes should be soaked in oil or another liquid to make them tender enough to cook or eat.

Swiss chard: A member of the spinach and beet families with a wide central stem and glossy green, crinkled leaves.  It has a hearty, slightly bitter flavor and can be braised or used in soups, stews, or gratins. (The stems are edible but take longer to cook than the leaves, so the leaves.)



Tarragon vinegar: A vinegar, usually a white or white wine vinegar, flavored by steeping tarragon leaves and stems in it.  Tarragon vinegar has a tarragon aroma and a mild anise flavor.

Thai chile: A small, curved, slender chile that is very hot, ranking about 7 on a scale of 1 to 10.  Thai chiles can be red or green and are used in many Thai dishes, including soups and stir-fries.  The dried form of the Thai chile is called a bird chile because of its resemblance to a beak.

Thai fish sauce: Known as nam pla in Thai, a pungent, amber-brown liquid condiment made from salted, fermented fish, used to flavor many different dishes.  Fish sauces are used in several other Asian cuisines and can vary in color, flavor, and pungency. Fish sauce is known as nuoc nam in Vietnamese and shottsuru in Japanese.

Thermometer (instant-read): A thermometer that looks like a metal skewer with a temperature gauge on the end.  When inserted into a food, it will show the internal temperature in a few seconds, but it is not left in the food during cooking. Instant-read thermometers come in both digital and dial-face models and are available at stores that carry cooking equipment.

Toasted coconut shreds: Coconut meat that has been shredded and dried.  It is available in sweetened and unsweetened form.  To toast coconut shreds, spread them evenly on a baking sheet and put it in a 350-degree oven for several minutes. Watch carefully and stir once or twice to make sure the coconut colors evenly.

Tomato sauce: Sauce made from briefly cooked, puréed tomatoes, seasonings, and other ingredients, depending on its use.

Truffles: A round, irregularly shaped fungus with wrinkled skin that ranges in color from black to off-white with a complex, earthy aroma and flavor. Considered a culinary delicacy, they are usually shaved or cut in very thin slices to flavor a variety of dishes. Truffles grow 3 to 12 inches underground near the roots of trees and are located by hunters with the help of well-trained dogs or pigs; they are consequently quite expensive.  Fresh truffles can be found in specialty markets in the fall and winter.



Vegetarian/vegan diet: A vegetarian diet is free of meat, poultry, and fish.  A vegan diet is free all animal-based food products including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, butter, cheeses, and other dairy products.

Vegetable oil: A broad term for oils derived from plants, including those such as canola oil, grapeseed oil, and saffflower oil.  Most are refined and filtered to produce a relatively neutral taste and are used for frying, baking, and general cooking.

Velouté: Sauce made from a white stock thickened with white roux.

Vermouth: A fortified wine, based on white wine and flavored with a variety of botanicals including herbs, spices, flowers, and seeds, according to the maker’s formula.  Vermouth comes in two types: sweet, which is red in color and usually used in cocktails, and dry, which is white in color and is frequently used in cooking as well as in cocktails.  Dry vermouth may also be substituted for dry white wine in cooking.



Walnut oil: Oil extracted from walnuts.  It has a distinctly nutty flavor and clear, gold color and can be found in supermarkets, specialty markets, and natural food stores.  It should be stored in the refrigerator to keep it from becoming rancid.

White stock: a light-colored stock made from bones that have not been browned and aromatic vegetables (typically carrot, celery, and onion) simmered in water.

Whole-grain mustard: Prepared mustard in which the mustard seeds are mixed in whole instead of ground to create a rustic, grainy texture.

Wild mushrooms: Varieties of mushrooms that are not cultivated commercially, but are gathered in the wild such as morels and porcini.



Zest: The colorful outer peel (not the white pith) of a citrus fruit, which contains flavorful aromatic oils.  Zest is scraped off the fruit (with a vegetable peeler, a microplane grater, or a citrus zester) and is used to add citrus flavor to savory and sweet dishes.

Zinfandel wine: A medium- to full-bodied red wine with spicy berry and pepper flavors, made from the zinfandel grape.

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Classic French Stocks and Sauces