What’s the Difference? Commonly Confused Culinary Terms Explained

The ongoing pursuit of deeper understanding and appreciation for the gifts of global cuisine and its preparation enlivens me as few other things can, and has provided me no small amusement over the years. As example, I point to a conversation I had with an acquaintance some years ago. A dry autumn afternoon found us strolling without destination down New York City’s Ninth Avenue, flitting from one discussion topic to the next. As we happened past a popular Jewish bakery, a memory lit his eyes as only recollection of delicious experiences can do, and he commenced to regale me with a tale of the best kegel he’d ever tasted.

A kegel being a pelvic floor muscle-strengthening exercise, and our happening to be passing said bakery at the moment the thought took him were more than enough reason for me to wager against the accuracy of his statement. The intended word, I knew, was kugel, and it refers to a traditional baked Jewish dish made with noodles or potatoes, and other ingredients.

I don’t remember where we ended up after we finished laughing that day. Years later, though, I still smile over that conversation, which today has me pondering other culinary terms that bear aural and phonetic similarity to unrelated words. In this article, I collect some of the more common offenders, and present their definitions as given by Food Words Culinary Glossary, an online food and cooking reference dictionary by BostonChefs.com.

Gallette vs. Rillette

Galette:A round, flat cake or tart.
Rillette:Meat, usually pork, slowly cooked in seasoned fat and made into a smooth paste, then packed and sealed with a thin layer of fat. Served cold.

Roulade vs. Remoulade
Roulade: A French term for a thin roll of meat or cake around savory or sweet fillings.
Remoulade: A cold mayonnaise sauce flavored with mustard, gherkins, capers, anchovies and herbs.

Ragoût vs. Ragu
Ragoût: A thick, seasoned stew of meat or fish, sometimes with vegetables.
Ragu: Tomato and meat sauce from Bologna.

Fumé vs. Fumet
Fumé: French for “smoked.”
Fumet: An intense stock made most often from fish or mushrooms, used to add flavor or body to another stock or sauce.

Pâté vs. Pâte
Pâté: Ground meat, fish or vegetables blended with fat and seasonings; can be smooth or chunky, served cold or hot.
Pâte: French for “dough,” “paste,” or “batter.”

Persillade vs. Piperade
Persillade: French for “parsley,” also refers to a mixture of parsley and garlic that is often sprinkled on a dish as flavoring or garnish towards the end of its preparation.
Piperade: A Basque dish based on tomatoes and sweet green peppers.

Search for more food/cooking definitions at Food Words Culinary Glossary.

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