Cruiser's Culinary Cheat Sheet

| 10.31.11

Have you ever been stumped by a word on a cruise ship menu? Here is your cruiser's culinary cheat sheet.

This is a report from our cruise culinary editor Janice Wald Henderson. Janice has been a longtime contributor to many magazines, including Bon Appétit Magazine and Brides. Her articles have appeared in Vogue, Food & Wine, Eating Well, Cooking Light and numerous other publications. Janice is also the Los Angeles editor of the Essential Restaurant Guide at Janice Wald Henderson Cruise Culinary Editor

As a food expert, I still come across the occasional menu item that stumps me. It's impossible to know - and remember - every culinary term. I'm sure this has happened to you, too, especially on a cruise.

In fact, it's probably more challenging at sea. Onboard restaurants - from mass market to luxury ships - now feature menus peppered with trendy lingo like emulsions and foam. (Hint: They have nothing to do with high school science experiments.) Other ships showcase classics you rarely see onshore, such as beef Wellington and baked Alaska.

I perused several ship menus to create this glossary of gourmet terms. Consider it your cruise ship culinary cheat sheet. Next time you sail, you'll be sure that what you order is exactly what you want to eat. And will you impress your tablemates? Sure. That's the bonus.

  • AMANDINE - Often misspelled as almondine, it's French for garnished with almonds.
  • ARTISAN CHEESE - From boutique purveyors, usually made in a hands-on fashion in small batches.
  • BAKED ALASKA - Typically a last formal night dessert; sponge cake topped with ice cream and meringue and briefly baked.
  • BALSAMIC - From Italy, aged in barrels for a richer color and deeper, sweeter flavor. The longer the aging, the more intense the taste.
  • BASMATI RICE - Fragrant, long-grained rice with nutty qualities; grown in Himalayan foothills.
  • BEARNAISE SAUCE - Similar to hollandaise sauce flavored with tarragon; classically served with steak.
  • BEEF WELLINGON - Beef filet coated in pâté de foie gras (pureed cooked duck or goose liver) or duxelles (mushroom mixture), wrapped in flaky pastry and baked. Some contemporary chefs tweak the recipe into salmon Wellington.
  • BEURRE BLANC - Silky smooth French butter sauce made with white wine. (Use red wine instead and it's beurre rouge.)
  • BURRATA - Italian mozzarella cheese filled with a soft buttery center made with cream and shredded mozzarella.
  • CARPACCIO - Traditional Italian dish of thinly sliced raw beef; modern takes often use seafood.
  • CEVICHE - Raw seafood "cooked" in citrusy marinade.
  • CROSTINI - Thin rounds of bread, brushed with olive oil and baked until crisp.
  • EMULSION - Mixture of two elements, such as oil and water, which normally do not combine well. Mayonnaise is an emulsion. In modern cooking, chefs make emulsions, such as grapefruit emulsion (a blend of grapefruit, zest and olive oil) and serve as a sauce or garnish.
  • ESCARGOTS A LA BOURGUIGNONNE - Snails baked in garlicky butter sauce.
  • FLAN - Small round pastry topped with savory or sweet filling. Can be served hot or cold.
  • FRISEE - Slightly bitter, curly-leaf green often used in salad mix called mesclun.
  • FOAM - Sauce or essence aerated to foamy consistency, often by adding gelatin or agar and foaming in a CO2 cartridge powered canister. Flavor-intense yet dainty and light. Examples include lettuce, apple or pomegranate foam.
  • GAZPACHO - Cold Spanish soup of loosely pureed vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, onions and breadcrumbs. Chefs often riff off the classic; mango gazpacho is an example.
  • GRANA PADANO - Hard dry cheese similar to parmesan. Favored in Italy over Parmigianino-Reggiano for its bolder flavor and aroma.
  • GRATINEE - Browning food topped with breadcrumbs or cheese under a hot broiler.
  • GRAVLAX - Raw salmon cured in salt-sugar-dill mixture. Often served with pumpernickel as an appetizer, or with dill-mustard sauce.
  • INSALATA CAPRESE - Translates to "salad from Capri." Expect fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil.
  • INVOLTINI - Little roll-ups, often veal, beef or eggplant, with various fillings.
  • JOHNNY CAKES - Southern specialty of pancake-like fried cornmeal cakes.
  • KOBE BEEF - Special grade of pricey beef from Wagyu cattle raised in Kobe, Japan. Cows are massaged and fed beer, resulting in exceptionally marbled, tender beef.
  • KUROBUTA PORK - Reputed to be Britain's oldest pig breed. Known as Kurobuta pork in Japan and Berkshire pork elsewhere. Sometimes called both on American menus. Highly marbled and juicy. Darker in color than traditional pork. Prized by chefs and foodies.
  • MISO - Fermented soy bean paste; tastes better than it sounds. There are several varieties of varying hues. Delicious brushed as a glaze (with sake, ginger and garlic, for instance) on black cod or other fish before broiling.
  • OYSTERS ROCKEFELLER - A New Orleans specialty; oysters on the half-shell, topped with spinach, butter and breadcrumbs and baked.
  • PANCETTA - Italian bacon, cured but not smoked. Often used in pasta and sauces.
  • PANNA COTTA - "Cooked cream;" a chilled Italian dessert made with gelatin rather than a custard base and often served with berries.
  • PAPILLOTE - A cooking method, usually for fish, baked in a parchment paper "package."
  • PONZU - Japanese sauce, made with soy and citrus. Commonly served with fish.
  • QUENELLE - Softly poached small dumpling; can be fish, meat or vegetable.
  • REDUCTION - Creating a sauce by boiling liquids until volume is reduced by evaporation. Used to thicken sauces without flour or cornstarch and to intensify flavor.
  • RISOTTO - Exceptionally creamy Italian rice dish with firm grains. Often served with seafood or saffron (Milanese).
  • SATAY - Also written as saté; an Indonesian and Thai dish of skewered meat or poultry, grilled and served with often-spicy peanut sauce.
  • SLIDERS - Mini-burgers, usually beef. Trendy appetizer.
  • SPAETZLE - Tiny German dumplings, made by forcing dough through a sieve. Usually served tossed with butter as a side dish, or as a garnish for soups.
  • TAGLIATELLE - The name in northern Italy for fettuccine; long, thin flat noodles.
  • TAPENADE - Often served with bread at Mediterranean-style restaurants; tapenade is traditionally made with olives (such as kalamata), olive oil, capers and other seasonings.
  • TARTARE - Finely chopped, seasoned raw beef or seafood.
  • TARTUFO - Italian ice-cream dessert shaped into balls with fillings like cherries, chocolate and/or nuts.
  • VICHYSSOISE - Chilled puree of potato and leek soup. Cauliflower and apple vichyssoise is a modern take on the original.
  • WAGYU BEEF - Usually refers to Wagyu cattle raised in America, Kobe-style.
  • WASABI - Made from ground root grown in Japan to add spice and flavor to food. Traditionally accompanies sushi. Today's chefs often use wasabi to flavor many dishes, not just Asian.
  • YUZU - Tart Japanese citrus fruit, all the rage in modern cooking.

Recommended Articles