A Food Dictionary

10:45 am | Blog | 0 Comments

Vanity Fair magazine published in december 03 and december 04 its « Food Snob’s dictionary », which listed definitions of certain foodstuffs or food-related terms. I want to share with you the ones which are integral to my life and cooking experiences, and also give you my personal food dictionary in addition to the Vanity Fair definition.

A.O.C.

Abbreviation for Appelation d’Origine Contrôlée, the strict, governmentally regulated classification system used in France since the 1930s to delimit the geographical origins of the country’s more prestigious wines and the viticultural and production methods used to make them. (The A.O.C. designation is also bestowed upon certain foods, such as cheeses and olive oils.) As I explain to each student while we visit markets, the notion of terroir (soil) – combination of geography, geology, and history – is embodied by the A.O.C. label. We also have Label Rouge products which guarantee the excellence of taste obtained by a standard of manufacturing (and not the terroir)

Affinage

the process whereby young cheese is refined and matured, usually in a cave or climate-controlled chamber. In Paris, Phillipe Alléosse is the only one to have four technically correct caves d’affinage, each one for a different family of cheese. Some of his treasures are endangered species, threatened by the new strict European laws concerning the sanitary regulations of cheese-making. As if good cheese was not all about bacteria

Chinois

Cone-shaped strainer with ultra-fine mesh or perforations. Unlike restaurant chefs, I do not abuse the chinois, but use only when it makes a real difference

Cocoa Nibs

Smashed-up, unsugared pieces of roasted, husked cocoa beans ; newly ubiquitous as a dessert garnish and ingredient. The nibs bring a much desirable texture to desserts and are a real, pure foodstuff.

Coulis

A strained puree or cooked sauce of thin consistency. Personally, I am sticking to the sweet coulis, raspberry in particular (but strained through a chinois)

E. Dehillerin

E.Dehillerin, an ancient, family-run cookware store. Do I need to say how important this store is to my culinary life and tours ?

Fair Trade

Designation applied to imported foodstuffs whose producers, often artisanal craftsmen or farmers of modest means, have been paid an appropriate wage and have been treated nicely. A very important concept for the present and future of our planet and one of the major issues of the Slow Food movement

Fleur de Sel

expensive French sea salt of labor-intensive provenance. Hand-gathered in the summertime … near the town of Guérande in Bretagne, fleur de sel is gently raked from only the top crust of the salt beds. Snobs agree that Fleur de Sel is always to be used as a condiment, adding flavor and textural crunch to finished dishes, rather than as a seasoning in cookery where it dissolves and its special qualities are lost. The gem of my salt collection. I am a snob, definitely

Global knives

Very expensive, very fashionable, very sharp cutlery manufactured in Japan. The subject of hot debate among Knife Snobs, Globals, distinguished by their design-forward dimpled-metal handles, are significantly thinner and lighter than those manufactured by the German standard-bearers. I am not the queen of knife skills and Globals are very handy to me, but now that I have discovered Furi knives from Australia, I am more than ever into light and thin but very sharp and efficient.

Mise en Place

Fancy French term for doing all of one’s prep work before actually cooking – chopping, measuring, arranging, cleaning up, and so on. One can never do enough of it

Plugrà

Purportedly « European-style » butter manufactured by Keller’s Creamery. Made with a higher fat content than ordinary butter (plus gras is French for « fattier »), Plugrà, a favorite of chefs, delivers tenderer pastries and more velvety sauces – not to mention Atkins-approved arteriosclerosis. I use it when giving classes in the USA. It really works beautifully.

Salamander

Squat wide-broiler beloved by professional chefs for its space efficiency and intense generation of heat. Will my dream of having one ever come true?

Scharffen Berger

Deceptively German-sounding San Francisco chocolatier, named after co-founder and former winemaker John Scharffenberger. Virtually from the moment this company opened for business in 1997, Scharffen Berger chocolate, produced by artisanal methods, has been a favorite of both professional and home bakers. Available in 62 percent, 70 percent, and 99 percent versions (alluding to the cacao-bean percentage) – otherwise known, in the terminology of non-Snobs, as semisweet, bittersweet, and unsweetened. The chocolate I recommend as a substitute to Valrhona. It will soon be distributed in France, which I find very interesting.

Silpat

Reusable silicon cooking sheet that, when placed on a counter or in a baking sheet, provides and ideal non-stick surface. I collect them from E. Dehillerin and my students love them too, whether they discover them here or are already fanatics.

Slow Food

Dogmatic international movement with roots in Italy, devoted to the preservation of artisanal food and winemaking methods, and to environmental sensitivity in the cultivation of food crops. Local chapters of the movement organize events like cheese and salumi tastings while also functioning as advocacy groups for the preservation of such endangered food species such as the Bourbon Red turkey and hand-parched Wisconsin wild rice. As an active supporter of the Slow Food movement, I can only encourage everyone to join. The cause is simply essential.

Sustainable agriculture

Farming philosophy that advocates environmental preservation and agricultural self-sufficiency through the incorporation of natural biological cycles and controls – e.g., letting fields lie fallow so their soil can « recover » from a previous growing season, and rotating animals and crops so that chickens manicure the pastureland vacated by the cows, and the strawberries blossom in the soil fertilized by the chickens, etc. In an ideal world, all agriculture will be sustainable rather than organic, which I am skeptical about.

Yuzu

Japanese citrus fruit prized for its highly aromatic rind…Yuzu is now being abused willy-nilly by Western chefs in their fusion experiments. After desperately seeking Yuzu, I bought three of them in Los Angeles at two dollars each and have definitely recovered from yuzu envy

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