Published on February 12, 2016

7 French Food Words You Need to Know

Classic French menus are chock-full of foreign lingo. Even sophisticated diners are bound to stumble upon a few ingredients or preparation techniques that leave them scratching their heads. Want to make sure you fly through your next French meal with flair? Check out the top terms you’re sure to run into, and bon appétit!

1. Consommé

Consomme Consommé

Consommé (“consummate” in French) is a type of soup made from richly flavored stock or bouillon that’s been clarified — a process whereby egg whites are used to carefully remove fat and sediment. Purists might serve the crystal clear liquid piping hot, garnished with things like carrots, celery, shallots or mushrooms, but this “perfect” broth can also be used in variety of other dishes.

Edi & The Wolf Photo provided by Edi & The Wolf. Photo by Andreas Kurzahls.

The Arctic Char at Edi & The Wolf in NYC is juicy and tender, prepared with savory mushroom consomme, Hen of the Woods mushrooms and black sesame.


2. Crème fraîche

Crème fraîche Creme fraiche

Meaning “fresh cream” in French, crème fraîche is a thick, soured cream. The rich, spreadable topping is a luscious addition to both savory and sweet dishes.

Bar Crudo Photo provided by Bar Crudo

In the Arctic Char at Bar Crudo in San Francisco, the fish fillets are topped with horseradish crème fraîche, wasabi tobiko and fresh dill.


3. Duxelles

Heritage Photo provided by Heritage.

Named after the 17th-century French general and Foreign Minister Marquis d’Uxelles, duxelles is a mixture of finely chopped mushrooms, onions, shallots and herbs sauteed in butter (or sometimes, cream) which is then reduced to a paste. The tasty, minced blend is often used in stuffings and sauces or as a delectable garnish.

The Egg Noodles at Heritage in Philadelphia include grilled wild mushrooms, fried spelt and delicious duxelles.


4. Mignonette sauce

Mignonette sauce Mignonette sauce

Often referred to simply as “mignonette—  meaning a sachet of peppercorns, cloves, and spices used to flavor liquids — this vinegar-based condiment usually includes chopped shallots and black pepper and is traditionally served with raw oysters.

Row 34 Photo provided by Row 34.

At Row 34 in Boston, the raw bar serves up fresh, luscious oysters with plenty of lemon and several sauces — including a stellar mignonette.


5. Quail

Quail Quail

Quail is a small game bird in the pheasant family. With it’s dark and delicate meat, classic preparations often call for roasting or grilling to tender perfection.

The Musket Room Photo provided by The Musket Room.

In this lovely dish from the tasting menu at The Musket Room in NYC, quail is expertly prepared with bread sauce, fruit and roasted onions.


6. Rillette

Rillette Rillette

Rillette — derived from the French “rille” or “slice of pork” — is a rustic preparation of meat similar to pâté. Meat is cubed or chopped, salted heavily, slowly cooked in fat until tender, then shredded, cooled and formed into a paste. Often made from pork, other varieties include goose, duck, chicken, rabbit, anchovies, tuna or salmon.

Birds and Bubbles Photo provided by Birds & Bubbles.

At Southern-inspired Birds & Bubbles in NYC, creamy shrimp rillette is served alongside paper thin, black pepper crackers.


7. Tarte tatin

Tarte tatin Tarte tatin

Tarte tatin is an upside-down pastry. Traditionally served as a sweet dessert made with apples caramelized in butter, modern versions feature everything from pears and peaches to tomatoes and onions.

Brindille Photo provided by Brindille.

At Brindille in Chicago, a savory tarte tatin of artichokes, potatoes and gruyere pairs perfectly with the Rib of Beef and its sauce of red wine, marrow and thyme.

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