Some good terms to know:
Mise en place: (meez ahn plahs) A French term referring to having all the ingredients necessary for a dish prepared and ready to combine up to the point of cooking. Good cooks know that stuff happens in the kitchen. Kids cry, dogs need to go out, phones ring. By practicing Mise en place, you will never ask yourself, did I add the salt yet???
Mirpoix; mirepois: (mihr-PWAH) A mixture of diced carrots, onions, celery and herbs sautéed in butter or oil. Sometimes ham or bacon is added. Mirepoix is used to season sauces, soups and stews, as well as for a bed on which to braise foods, usually meats or fish. A white mirepoix omits the carrots and often incorporates mushrooms and/or parsnips.
Stock: In the most basic terms, stock is the strained liquid that is the result of cooking vegetables, meat or fish and other seasoning ingredients in water. A brown stock is made by browning bones, vegetables and other ingredients before they’re cooked in the liquid. Most soups begin with a stock of some kind and many sauces are based on reduced stocks.
Reduction: (reduce) Culinarily, to boil a liquid (usually stock, wine or a sauce mixture) rapidly until the volume is reduced by evaporation. This will thicken the consistency and intensify the flavor.
Chop: Using quick, heavy blows of a knife to cut food into bite size or smaller pieces.
Mince: To cut food into very small pieces. Minced food is in smaller pieces than chopped food.
Poach: To cook food gently in liquid just below the boiling point when the liquid’s surface is beginning to show some quivering movement.
Yeast: Yeast is a living, microscopic, sing-cell organism that, as it grows, converts its food (through a process known as fermentation) into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Baking Powder: a leavener containing a combination of baking soda (an acid) and a moisture-absorber (such as cornstarch). When mixed with liquid, baking powder releases carbon dioxide gas bubbles that cause a bread or cake to rise. Baking powder is perishable. To test if your baking powder is still good, combine 1 teaspoon of it with 1/3 cup hot water. If it bubbles enthusiastically, it’s fine.
Expect a pop quiz in a future post!