Confit (pronounced con-fee) is a French term for various kinds of food (fruits, vegetables and meats) that have been slowly cooked in oil or sugar water (syrup). Sealed and stored in a cool, dark place, a confit perishable is good for several months. The technique is one of the oldest known ways to preserve food without refrigeration, dating back to medieval times. A meat confit begins with salted and seasoned cuts that are submerged in rendered fat (not to exceed 185°F /85°C.) and slowly cooked. In a restaurant context, confit more specifically refers to achieving two textures in meat dishes like Confit Port Ribs: tender bites falling off the bone but encased in a crispy outer surface – a culinary feat worth the effort. The technique produces an equally impressive result with garlic, tomatoes, and even potatoes (tortilla de patata), producing a butter texture with intense flavor.

Sous vide

Sous vide Sous vide, pronounced “sue veed”, refers to the process of cooking vacuum-sealed food in a temperature controlled water bath. This stress-free cooking method ensures that meat, eggs, fish, infusions and more are perfectly cooked every time, without need for checking, turning, basting, or fussing. A sous vide cooker, or immersion cooker, heats and circulates a water bath at a specifically set temperature. An egg, for example, placed in the bath set to 63°-65°C, will emerge with a soft-cooked white and molten yolk — no matter how long it stays in bath! This is how a restaurant can serve 50 covers of duck breast perfection in a single service. When ordered, the cook plucks a breast from the bath which is already cooked to the perfect rare and then sears the breast, fat cap down, to create the crisp, brown skin. It is ready in minutes. And for the outlier diner who wants their duck breast well done, a few minutes in a hot oven does the job.

Al dente

Al dente – This pasta descriptor comes from the Italian phrase “to the tooth”, which means that the cooked pasta retains some bite, rather than yielding softly when chewed. To accomplish this level of doneness, the pasta should be slightly undercooked. One way to verify that your pasta is adequately al dente is to fish a piece from the boiling water and break or cut it in half. If the cross section displays a mostly cooked outer ring around a faint white-ish core, you have it!

It is important to note that if you are finishing a pasta in a sauce, first cooking it to al dente will result in an overcooked final product as the liquid from the sauce is absorbed. The Italian term needed in this case is “Molto al dente.” It is accomplished by reducing the coking time by another 3 minutes. Never fear, by the time your pasta has soaked up the sauce, for example a silky Basque salsa verde, it will be the chewy perfection you crave.

Cascada or cachelos

Cascada or cachelos – Both terms refer to a specific type of cut used when preparing bite-sized potatoes for certain dishes and soups. Beginning with peeled potatoes, make the cut by sliding a knife into the raw potato and then pry the piece off, snapping the uncut edge from the potato. This broken edge exudes more starch than does a clean cut and the starch serves to thicken soups and stews. Moreover, the asymmetrical, angular cuts offer a nice presentation for dishes such as Pulpo de Gallega.


Blanch – Blanching is a process of quickly dipping an item, let’s say a tomato, into boiling water and then shocking it by plunging it into ice water. This process causes skins to loosen and shrink so that they are easier to remove. Blanching also serves to reduce strong odors or to set the vibrant colors of vegetables.


Mirepoix (pronounced mirh-pwah) is an aromatic base for countless dishes from chicken soup to balsamic reduction. In its most basic form, Mirepoix is a dice of onions (or leeks), celery, and carrots used to add flavor to a dish or sauce. Variations on this staple include garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves, cloves, thyme, and rosemary. Termed by the French, some version of mirepoix exists in nearly every cuisine. Mexican and Spanish cooks employ a “sofrito” of  garlic, onion and tomato. The Chinese build dishes around scallions, ginger and garlic. These elemental trinities define a flavor profile that is immediately recognizable.

Mortar & Pestle

Mortar & Pestle (mortero or almirez) This basic tool is indispensable in the traditional Spanish kitchen. Made of hefty stone, olive wood or shiny brass, the mortar is often as lovely as it is useful. The tool is the starting point of many of Spain’s most famous concoctions including ajoblanco, cold almond soup and romesco sauce. The mortar also gives birth to picada sauce, a mashed blend of nuts, garlic, parsley, and toasted bread that is used to flavor and thicken stews such as zarzuela.

The process is simple, but not so easy. Start with crushing blows and then grind, grind, grind away with your pestle. When you think you are finished, grind for few more minutes until you are, indeed, done.

Whipping Siphon

In mid-2000, Ferran Adria, the acclaimed Spanish Chef, took a look at a long-used kitchen tool, a whip cream and soda siphon, and opened our eyes to whole new possibilities. It was a big re-discovery for gastronomy and had a lot of chefs and cooks reaching for their old whipper and siphon with new ideas in mind. We will discuss the rebirth of the soda siphon at another time and focus for now on the new versatility Adria found in the humble whipper. The possibilities are endless if you stop focusing its use on cream alone. The device works equally well to create warm foams such as Bearnaise sauce or a perfect potato puree. But, since we all have to walk before we run, I want to acquaint you with a whipper beginning with the old standby – whipped cream.

It is worth mentioning that you can truly hurt (or humiliate) yourself or others if you do not handle a whipper properly. You will be pressurizing a metal can – think about it.

Components of Whipped Cream from a Siphon

  • The Cream – Use heavy cream with 30% or higher butterfat content. (Get the skinny on types of cream here.)
  • The Stabilizer – The key to a good whipped cream, as to a good relationship, is to make sure it stays whipped. In traditional whipped creams you add confectioner’s sugar which also contains corn starch. For modernist whipped creams there are new-fangled stablizers like xanthan gum, gelatin, or carrageenan, but they are harder to pronounce and shouldn’t be sprinkled on your donut if you have extra.
  • The Flavoring – Plain whipped cream is an excellent canvas for added flavor from the usual suspects like vanilla or lemon juice to savory touches like chile.