French cooking terms in the Victorian Era had their origins in the Middle Ages. That was because French food was similar to Moorish cuisine and it did not change until Catherine de Medici married Henry duc d’Orléans (who later became Henry II of France). When Catherine came to France in 1533, Italy was the leader in cuisine, and she brought with her numerous Italian chefs, who were busy creating many wonderful and unique Italian delicacies, such as macaroni, manicotti, and lasagna. Catherine’s fine cooks then introduced their culinary secrets to the French court and skilled culinary craftsmen soon began to emerge in France. By the 17th and 18th centuries, haute cuisine or “high cuisine,” developed in France, along with the idea of “French cooking.”
Professionally trained chefs were quintessential to haute cuisine. Part of their allure was the extravagant presentations and complex techniques that required special ingredients, a good deal of time, and certain equipment, all of which equated to money. For this reason, early haute cuisine was available primarily to royalty, like Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette and those of the royal court like the Princesse de Lamballe, the Duke d’Orléans, and the Duchesse de Polignac. Haute cuisine was also produced by large and hierarchical staffs at grand restaurants and hotels throughout Europe so the rich also enjoyed it. In addition, in the early 1800s, Antoine Carême published works on cooking, and although many of his preparations seemed extravagant, he actually simplified and codified earlier and even more complex cuisines.
With all of France’s haute cuisine elements and with many famous French cooks being embraced internationally, France became known as the premiere spot for cuisine and French cooking terms began appearing everywhere. English author Isabella Mary Beeton, more popularly known as Mrs. Beeton, became interested in cooking and began to write and sell cook books in the 1800s. Because French cooking was all the rage at the time, she wanted to include French cooking terms in her best seller, The Book of Household Management. Her book was published in 1844, and the French cooking terms she used in her book are listed below:
ASPIC — A savory, transparent jelly, used in conjunction with cold game, poultry, fish, etc. so that the meat could be seen. It could also be used to decorate or garnish meats.
ASSIETTE (plate) — Small entrees, hors-d’oeuvres, cheeses, chestnuts, biscuits, desserts, and fruits that did not exceed the size of the plate.
ASSIETTE VOLANTE — The plate a servant served that was passed to guests but not placed on the table.
AU-BLEU — Fish dressed in such a manner as to have a bluish appearance.
BAIN-MARIE — A saucepan or kettle of nearly boiling water, in which a smaller vessel sat and was used for cooking and warming foods, but at the same time did not alter the quantity or quality of the food.
BÉCHAMEL — A French white sauce used in English cookery.
BLANCH — Foods were plunged into boiling water for short time and then plunged into cold water to stop them from cooking.
BLAKQUETTE — A sort of fricassee (Fricassee was a method of cooking cut up meat that was first sautéed and braised and then traditionally served with a white sauce.)
BOUILLI — Referred primarily to boiled beef, although other boiled meat also used this term.
BOUILLIE — This was a French dish that resembled hasty-pudding.
BOUILLON — A thin broth or soup.
BRAISE — Meat blanched and then stewed with bacon fat until it was tender.
BRAISIÈRE — A saucepan that had a lid with ledges that allowed a fire on top.
BRIDER — Packthread was passed through poultry, game, etc., to keep the parts of the meat together.
CARAMEL — This essentially meant burnt sugar. It was achieved with piece of a sugar, about the size of nut, browned in the bottom of a saucepan. Stock was then gradually added, little by little, and constantly stirred. It was also used “to colour meats, such as the upper part of fricandeaux … to impart colour to sauces … [and to] colour compótes and other entremets.”
CASSEROLE — A crust of rice, which, after having been formed into a pie was baked and filled with a fricassee of white meat or a puree of game.
COMPOTE — A stew, such as that of fruit or pigeons.
CONSOMMÉ — Rich stock or gravy.
CROQUETTE — Ball of fried rice or potatoes.
CROUTONS — Sippets of bread.
DAUBIÈRE — An oval stewpan in which daubes (meat or fowl stewed in a sauce) were cooked.
DÉSOSSER — To bone or remove the bones from poultry, game or fish.
ENTREES — Small side or corner dishes, served as a first course.
ENTREMETS — Small side or corner dishes, served as a second course.
ESCALOPES — Also called callops, which were small, round, thin pieces of tender meat, or of fish, beaten with the handle of strong knife to make them tender.
FEUILLETAGE — Flaky puff-pastry.
FLAMBER — To singe fowl or game.
FONCER — Slices of ham, real, or thin broad slices of bacon that were placed in the bottom of a saucepan.
GALETTE — A broad thin cake.
GATEAU — Usually referred to a cake, although it could also refer to a pudding or a type of tart.
GLACER — Applied with a feather or a brush, it was a thick, rich sauce or gravy (called a glaze) that was spread upon hot meats or larded fowl. In the confectionery sense, it meant to ice fruits or pastries with sugar, which glistened until it hardened.
HORS-DŒUVRES — Small dishes or ASSIETTE VOLANTES of sardines, anchovies, or other relishes, served to guests during the first course.
LIT — A bed, layers, or items in thin slices with seasoning or other items placed between them.
MAIGRE — Broth, soup, or gravy without meat.
MATELOTE — A rich fish-stew, made with wine and generally composed of carp, eel, trout, or barbel.
MAYONNAISE — Cold sauce or salad dressing.
MENU — The bill of fare.
MERINGUE — A type of icing made from egg whites and sugar well beaten.
MIROTON. — Larger slices of meat than collops, such as beef slices used in a vinaigrette, ragout, or stew of onions.
MOUILLER — To add water, broth, or other liquid during cooking.
PANER — To cover with very fine crumbs of bread, meats, or any other articles that were then cooked on a gridiron, in the oven, or frying pan.
PIQUER — To lard with strips of fat bacon, poultry, game, meat, and so forth.
POÊLÉE — An expensive stock used instead of water for boiling turkeys, sweetbreads, fowls, and vegetables, to render them less insipid.
PURÉE — Vegetables or meat reduced to a very smooth pulp, which afterwards were mixed with enough liquid to make them the consistency of very thick soup.
RAGOUT — Stew or hash.
REMOULADE — Salad dressing.
RISSOLES — Pastries made from light puff-pastries were cut into various forms and fried. They could also be filled with fish, meat, or sweets.
ROUX — A brown and white thickening.
SALMI — Ragout of game previously roasted.
SAUCE PIQUANTE — A sharp sauce that contained the predominate flavor of vinegar.
SAUTER — To dress with sauce in a saucepan by repeatedly moving it about.
TAMIS — Pronounced Tammy, this was a sort of open cloth or sieve through which broth and sauces were strained to rid them of small bones, froth, etc.
TOURTE — Tart or fruit pie.
TROUSSER — To truss a bird or to tie together with packthread to keep the body and wings and thighs together so that it maintained its form when roasted or boiled.
VOL-AU-VENT. — A rich crust of very fine puff-pastry, which was filled with various delicate ragouts or fricassees, of fish, flesh, or fowl. Fruit could also be enclosed in a VOL-AU-VENT.