On their surface, Thanksgiving recipes are all about food. Be they published with glossy photos in magazines or cribbed in your grandmother's arthritic penmanship on ancient recipe cards, they eschew sentences and paragraphs for ingredient lists and numbered instruction. They operate without poetic obligation. They are communication in its most diluted, utilitarian form.
But then there you are, a half-hour before guests arrive, face-to-face with the tragic implications of not knowing what deglaze means. Does it involve icing? Pottery?
Recipes are not about food. They're about words.
As a service to new cooks everywhere, we offer a baker's dozen confusing cooking words that cropped up in this year's New York Times Thanksgiving recipe round up. Want more? Check out 100+ words in a vocabulary list pulled from the Times feature, Words to Know *Before* You Defrost the Bird. Or cut and paste any of your recipes into our list builder and see what words it flags for you to learn.)
Words for Mixing and Measuring
Incorporate, as in "Add the flour all at once, whisking until incorporated."
Dictionary Definition: formed or united into a whole
Dictionary Definition: wet thoroughly
Dictionary Definition: beneath the surface of the water
Dictionary Definition: tie or link together
Dictionary Definition: fill to overflow
Words for Cutting
Dice, as in "Dice, toss in oil and roast at 400 degrees."
Dictionary Definition: cut into cubes
Intact, as in "Peel onions, leaving root ends intact."
Dictionary Definition: undamaged in any way
Words for Transformation
Steep, as in "Add garlic cloves and set aside to steep."
Dictionary Definition: let sit in a liquid to extract a flavor or to cleanse
Render, as in "The fat renders out of the skin, flavoring the stuffing."
Dictionary Definition: give or supply
Congeal, as in "Skim off the fat with a spoon, or put in the refrigerator or freezer until the fat has congealed on top, then remove fat."
Dictionary Definition: become gelatinous
Words to Know When Something's Done
Translucent, as in "Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes."
Dictionary Definition: allowing light to pass through diffusely
Liquid, as an adjective, as in "If all the cranberries pop, the sauce may be too liquid."
Dictionary Definition: watery
Aromatic, as in "Add half the beans, half the ginger and half the garlic, and cook, stirring and tossing constantly, until beans are heated through and ginger and garlic are softened and aromatic."
Dictionary Definition: having a strong pleasant odor
For more on cooking words, check out cookbook editor Dianne Jacobs' blog post "100 Verbs for Recipes, from Julia Child."