- "Break it down": Chefs don't chop things up and they certainly don't cut them up! The process of using a knife to make a thing be in smaller pieces is known as "breaking down" the thing, as in "breaking down the lobsters" or "breaking down some broccoli." Bring that broccoli to its knees!
- "Bake off": And I'm not talking about the Pillsbury Bake-Off! Chefs are fond of inserting an unnecessary "off" after various cooking verbs, e.g. "bake off those cookies," "roast off the quail." It makes you sound super casual. Just bake 'em off!
- "Make it rain": This is what you are doing when you properly season a "beautiful piece of meat" or a pot of water in which you're going to cook, e.g., pasta or some of that broccoli you previously broke down. You should keep kosher or sea salt in a little crock so you can grab a big pinch and "make it rain" from a good 8-12 inches above the food.
- "Developing flavors": "Seasoning," by the way, means adding salt. Everything else you do, such as adding garlic or deglazing with wine, is developing flavors.
- "Acidic" is the new sour: If you're commenting on the vinegar or citrus component in a dish, don't say "sour"; instead refer to the level of acidity, e.g. "There's a nice bright acidity in the salsa that cuts the fattiness of the pork."
Other ideas? Speaking of my cheffy life, John and I finally fulfilled my dream of playing a home version of Chopped this weekend. On Friday, he brought home a "mystery basket" of ingredients for me to use in our dinner: whole trout, radishes, watercress, and orange marmalade. I thought this was a perfect beginner basket, challenging (I've never worked with whole trout or watercress before, and I don't like orange marmalade) but not so challenging as to take the fun out of it or to result in a disgusting dinner we'd then be forced to eat. I made:
Roasted trout with lemon-herb butterThe salad with the marmalade vinaigrette was my favorite part, worth repeating now that we have a big jar of the stuff. The components were a blob of marmalade, a blob of dijon mustard, minced shallots, a dab of honey, sherry vinegar, tiny splash of soy sauce, salt, pepper and lots of olive oil. It was very savory with just a hint of bitterness from the bits of peel.
Radishes two ways (braised in more butter and sliced raw in the below salad)
Watercress and butter lettuce salad with radishes, chopped eggs, and marmalade vinaigrette