French Cooking Lessons 2

Now that you have competed lesson 1, it is time to get cooking! This week we are going to talk about soups. By now, if you followed lesson 1, and made your basic white stock, then this next section should make sense.

French cooking goes hand in hand with stocks, soups and sauces. This is what makes French cooking, FRENCH!

Haute cuisine (French: literally “high cooking”) or grande cuisine was characterized by French cuisine in elaborate preparations and presentations served in small and numerous courses that were produced by large and hierarchical staffs at the grand restaurants and hotels of Europe.

French cooking can be easy, tasty and enjoyable all at once. Unfortunately, many cookbooks make cooking (especially for French food) unnecessarily difficult. Not here! We will show you the ideals behind this cuisine and show you the techniques behind it all. You will learn how to create easy French recipes, that are quickly and easily prepared, and taste great!

Braise: To cook slowly in a covered pan, with a small amount of liquid — can be used for meat or vegetables.

Caramelize: To cook until the sugar in the food has browned, as with onions or garlic. This process brings out the sweetness in the food and adds color.

Cream: A method used in baking, in which sugar and butter are combined in small amounts, mixing thoroughly between additions. This method incorporates air into the sugar/butter mixture and makes for a tender baked product.

Deglaze: To pour water or wine into a hot pan where meat has been cooked. The process loosens the browned crumbs in the pan, and may provide a base for gravy or sauce.

Dredge: To coat meat or vegetables in a dry mixture such as flour or breadcrumbs, prior to cooking.

Flambé: To ignite warmed spirits in a pan of food, often a dessert, for effect, and to caramelize the dish.

Fold: To gently incorporate ingredients together, usually with a scraper or spoon. Often used to blend whipped cream with other ingredients.

Parboil: To partially cook vegetables in boiling water, to be finished by another cooking method.

Poach: To simmer a food in liquid at just below the boiling point — usually eggs.

Rolling boil: When a liquid is boiling, and cannot be stirred down to below boiling point.

Roux: A mix of flour and oil, cooked together until the flour is browned. Used as a base for Cajun/Creole dishes such as gumbo, jambalaya and etouffé.

Sauté: To quickly cook vegetables or meat on the stovetop at a high heat. This method uses only a small amount of fat.

Scald: To heat milk or cream to just below the boiling point. Milk is scalded when steam rises from it.

Sear: To brown meat all over to create a crust, to be finished with another cooking method.

Soft/stiff peaks: When beating egg whites, a soft peak is reached when the beaters are pulled out of the whites and the peaks that form droop. Stiff peaks do not droop, but hold their shape.

Sweat: To slowly cook vegetables in a covered pan until they are soft, but still hold their shape. This is often done with onions or garlic.

Temper: To gently heat a food, often before adding it to a hotter substance. One example is adding a teaspoon or so of hot sauce to beaten eggs. The mixture is blended and then added to the sauce. This keeps the eggs from curdling. The method is also used in candy-making with chocolate.

Candy-making has a whole set of cooking terms not used in baking. For instance, soft/hard ball stage refers to the temperature of a candy mixture. If the cook takes a small amount of the candy and drops it in cold water, it will form either a soft or hard ball.

Soft or hard crack refers to when the cook drops a small ball of the mixture into cold water and it either forms pliable or stiff threads, rather than a ball. Spinning a thread means the sugar syrup mixture will form a thread when the cook pulls the spoon out of the candy. While these terms are helpful, a cook is always advised to use a good candy thermometer to make certain the desired temperature is reached, but not exceeded.

Quiz #2:

What does Deglaze mean?

Haute cuisine refers to what?

What is a Roux, and how might it be used in soups or sauces?

Assignment #2:

Basic Beef Stock:


* 6 pounds beef soup bones
* 1 large onion
* 3 large carrots
* 1/2 cup water
* 2 stalks celery, including some leaves
* 1 large tomato
* 1/2 cup chopped parsnip
* 1/2 cup cubed potatoes
* 8 whole black peppercorns
* 4 sprigs fresh parsley
* 1 bay leaf
* 1 tablespoon salt
* 2 teaspoons dried thyme
* 2 cloves garlic
* 12 cups water


1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Slice onion. Chop scrubbed celery and carrots into 1-inch chunks. In a large shallow roasting pan place soup bones, onion, and carrots. Bake, uncovered, about 30 minutes or until the bones are well browned, turning occasionally.
2. Drain off fat. Place the browned bones, onion, and carrots in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Pour 1/2 cup water into the roasting pan and rinse. Pour this liquid into soup pot. Add celery, tomato, parsnips, potato parings, peppercorns, parsley, bay leaf, salt, thyme, and garlic. Add the 12 cups water.
3. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 5 hours. Strain stock. Discard meat, vegetables, and seasonings.
4. To clarify stock for clear soup: In order to remove solid flecks that are too small to be strained out with cheesecloth, combine 1/4 cup cold water, 1 egg white, and 1 crushed eggshell. Add to strained stock. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and let stand 5 minutes. Strain again through a sieve lined with cheesecloth.

Now that you have made your stock, you will use this to make your first soup!

French Onion Soup:


* 5 sweet onions (like Vidalias) or a combination of sweet and red onions (about 4 pounds)
* 3 tablespoons butter
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 cups white wine
* 10 ounces canned beef consume
* 10 ounces chicken broth
* 10 ounces apple cider (unfiltered is best)
* Bouquet garni; thyme sprigs, bay leaf and parsley tied together with kitchen string
* 1 loaf country style bread
* Kosher salt
* Ground black pepper
* Splash of Cognac (optional)
* 1 cup Fontina or Gruyere cheese, grated


Trim the ends off each onion then halve lengthwise. Remove peel and finely slice into half moon shapes. Set electric skillet to 300 degrees and add butter. Once butter has melted add a layer of onions and sprinkle with a little salt. Repeat layering onions and salt until all onions are in the skillet. Do not try stirring until onions have sweated down for 15 to 20 minutes. After that, stir occasionally until onions are dark mahogany and reduced to approximately 2 cups. This should take 45 minutes to 1 hour. Do not worry about burning.

Add enough wine to cover the onions and turn heat to high, reducing the wine to a syrup consistency. Add consume, chicken broth, apple cider and bouquet garni. Reduce heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes.

Place oven rack in top 1/3 of oven and heat broiler.

Cut country bread in rounds large enough to fit mouth of oven safe soup crocks. Place the slices on a baking sheet and place under broiler for 1 minute.

Season soup mixture with salt, pepper and cognac. Remove bouquet garni and ladle soup into crocks leaving one inch to the lip. Place bread round, toasted side down, on top of soup and top with grated cheese. Broil until cheese is bubbly and golden, 1 to 2 minutes.

So... what do you think? Please leave me a comment.


  • Merry: What is the purpose of baking the bones in the oven? how come you don’t need to do that with chicken bones?
  • The Salty Chef: For beef and lamb broth, the meat bones are browned in a hot oven to form compounds that give flavor and color–the result of a fusion of amino acids with sugars, called the Maillard reaction. It is vitally important in the preparation or presentation of many types of food, and, like caramelization, is a form of non-enzymatic browning. This is what gives the broth a great color!
    Please feel free to also post questions at
  • Merry: Interesting. I like to know the workings behind the actions.
  • jimbojetson: This is really interesting. You have explained these cooking terms very well. As an amateur cook, come of these french cooking terms have been a bit of a mystery. Thank you.
    I have my own <a target='_blank' rel='nofollow' href="">World Recipe Site</a>.
  • The Salty Chef: Thanks! I am glad you like the material. For more check out my cooking blog I have weekly cooking lessons offered.

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