Cooking Terms, part 3

Don’t forget about parts 1 and 2 of this series.  We are making our way through the alphabet.  I hope you find these make you a better foodie and cook!

-leaven – any agent that causes a dough to rise.  Yeast is what most of us think about with leavening.  But baking soda, baking powder, and eggs are also leavening agents.

-macerate – soak a food in a liquid to infuse flavor.  This is usually used in reference to fruit.  This is similar to marinate.

-marinate – soaking meat, fish, or vegetables in a seasoned liquid mixture.  Most marinades are acidic, so you should not use an aluminum container.

-mince – to chop food into very small pieces.  For my purposes, this is the smallest cut I would refer to.  If you’ve been following along, largest to smallest is chop, dice, and mince.

-mirepoix – a mixture of onions, carrots, and celery used to flavor sauces, stews, and soups.  In cajun cooking, you omit the carrots and add bell pepper.  You will likely not run into this term in a recipe.  However, it is good to know that these are a good flavor base.  You can always add some carrots or celery if they are omitted but the other two or there.  These ingredients bring a base flavor without being overpowering of an entire dish, if used in the right quantities.

-mise en place – This term is used in professional kitchens.  When you watch cooking shows, you notice that they have all of the ingredients measured out into small little containers that can just be dumped in at the appropriate time.  THAT is mise en place.  For a home cook, I don’t find this entirely feasible all the time, nor would my husband appreciate all of the dishes.  HOWEVER, I do think it is important to at least gather together all of the necessary ingredients, so you can easily add them when needed.  This also prevents you from getting halfway through a recipe and realizing you don’t have an ingredient you need.

-noodle – Similar to pasta, but the dough contains egg.

-parboil – partially cook a food in boiling water.  This is similar to blanching, although blanching usually involves chilling the food quickly in an ice bath after, whereas parboiling does not.

-pasta – a product made from a dough of flour and water.

-pinch – a measuring term roughly equivalent to 1/16 teaspoon.  When I use this, I generally mean I “pinched” a bit of salt and threw it in.

-pan vs pot – I generally refer to a pot as something with deeper sides.  Anything you would commonly boil water in is a pot to me.  A pan is something wider and more shallow.  Like a skillet could also be a pan.

-proof – dissolving yeast in a mixture of sugar and water to allow it to become bubbly.  This can help you make sure you have good yeast.  I generally use instant yeast, which does not require proofing.  When making products with a long rising time, you can decrease that time by using a “proofing oven”.  Heat your oven to the lowest temperature possible with a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack.  Once heated, place your dough in an oven safe bowl covered with a towel on the top rack.  Shut the oven door and turn off the oven.  This will generally cut rising time at least in half.  However, for some doughs, the rising time is a good time for developing a yeasty flavor (such as for some French breads).  By cutting down the time, you may lose some flavor.

Happy eating!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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