Keep Houston Press Free

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.

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

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

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

This story continues on the next page.

Escabeche - usually fish in Latin American or Mediterranean cooking that is marinated in an acidic mixture of vinegar and vegetables

Fricassee - to cook meat by cutting it into chunks, sautéing it, then braising it and serving it with the cooking liquid

Gastrique - a vinegar and sugar reduction often flavored with something else (anything else, really)

Ghee - clarified butter made by melting butter and skimming off the solids

Gremolata - Italian condiment made from parsley, garlic and lemon zest

Huitlacoche - corn smut; a fungus that forms on corn and is eaten as a delicacy in Mexican cuisine

Jus - often au jus, meaning in the roasting juices.

Macerate - to soak fruit (often broken up or smashed a bit) in sugar syrup or spirits to create an infusion.

Masala - an Indian spice mix

Meuniere - an item, usually fish, dredged in flour before cooking; also a sauce of lemon, brown butter and parsley

Mirepoix - the mixture of chopped carrots, onions and celery used in French and Cajun cooking

Nabe - a heated pot that cooks whatever is inside of it as it cools

Omakase - Japanese for "I'll leave it to you"; generally a chef's tasting menu

Par-boil - briefly cooking food in boiling water to prepare it for canning or pickling or to soften food while maintaining color before fully cooking

I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

Poach - a manner of cooking delicate food between 140 °F and 180 °F

Sous vide - to seal food in a vacuum packed plastic bag and cook in a water bath or steam for longer than normal time at lower than normal temperatures to retain juice and cook evenly

Tsukemono - Japanese preserved vegetables

Yakitori - Japanese skewered food, usually chicken

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.