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How to order French dishes

Chicken coq au vin is served at Vine

Chicken coq au vin is served at Vine and The First Street Restaurant in Greenport. (Oct. 23, 2010) Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

How do you pronounce coq au vin?

Ordering food in France presents two related challenges: the language is difficult to pronounce, and the citizens tend not to look kindly upon nonnative speakers. Here on Long Island, your waiter isn't likely to have mastered the language any better than you have, but it never hurts to try to get it right. Here's a cheat sheet for ordering a la Française.


coq au vin: COKE oh-VANH

While the "coq" in "coq au vin" refers to a rooster, the dish usually entails a female chicken braised in red wine ("vin").

confit: kohn-FEE

Confit literally means "preserved." The term traditionally refers to meat (often duck) that has been cooked, then preserved in its own fat. Vegetables such as onions and tomatoes whose life has been cooked out of them are also sometimes called confit.

cordon bleu: core-donh BLEUH

Cordon bleu is simply French for "blue ribbon," and the blue ribbon connotes culinary excellence. Veal (or chicken) cordon bleu is made by sandwiching ham and cheese between slices of meat and frying.

duck a l'orange: DUCK ah-lo-RAHNGE

For consistency's sake the dish should really be billed either as "canard a l'orange" (ca-NARH ah-lo-RAHNGE), or "orange duck."

foie gras: FWAH GRAH

Literally "fat liver," foie gras refers to the liver of a goose or duck that has been force-fed for a number of months until its liver reaches gigantic, and fatty, proportions.

haricots verts: AH-ree-co VAIR

Haricot is French for "bean," vert means "green," and haricots verts are the very thin, very expensive string beans.

prix fixe: PREE FEEKS

Fancy for "fixed price."

salade Niçoise: sa-LAHD nee-SWAHZ

Literally, a salad from Nice on the Mediterranean coast of Provence

sommelier: suh-muhl-YAY

Restaurants with extensive wine lists sometimes employ a wine expert -- a sommelier -- whose responsibilities include buying wine, ensuring its proper storage, serving and helping customers with their selections.

steak au poivre: STAKE oh PWAHV

In this classic preparation, a steak is coated in coarsely cracked peppercorns, then sauteed in a hot pan. A sauce is made by deglazing the pan with stock, Cognac and butter.

tarte Tatin: TART ta-TANH

The story goes that this upside-down apple tart was created in 1898 by Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin, two sisters who ran the Hotel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron. To make a tarte Tatin, you drape a round of pie dough on top of a pan of apples that have been caramelized on the stovetop. Slip the tart into the oven until the pastry is browned, then flip it over -- so that the pastry is on the bottom -- to serve.

veal Francese: VEAL frahn-CHAY-zay

OK, that was a trick. Veal Francese is an American invention, "French-style veal," originally offered by New York Italian restaurants trying to appear more Continental. "Veal Française" is the same American dish translated into half-French.

vichyssoise: vee-shee-SWAHZ

A pureed soup of leeks and potatoes that is served cold, vichyssoise is named for the French city of Vichy.

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