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Cooking Dictionary - "M"

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Macadamia nut - Also known as the Queensland nut, it is a fleshy white nut with a coconut-like flavor. In Asia, it is used in savory soups and stews. In the U.S., the macadamia is used mostly in sweets. The nuts have an extremely high fat content.

Macaire - A potato pancake made with seasoned potato purée.

Macaroni - A general name for the pastas which are made into various shapes and sizes, as spaghetti, linguini, vermicelli, etc.; actually tubular-shaped pasta.

Macaroon - A small round cookie that has a crisp crust and a soft interior. Many versions bought commercially have been thoroughly dried. These cookies may be made from almonds, though coconut is common in the US. The may also be flavored with coffee, chocolate, or spices. Amaretti, from Italy, are a type of macaroon.

Macarronada - [Spanish] macaroni.

Mace - The outer covering of nutmeg, reddish-orange and lacy. Used as nutmeg or cinnamon, with nutmeg flavor.

Macédoine - [French] A mixture of fruit or vegetables. Vegetable macédoine are cut into small dice and used as a garnish to meats. Fruit macédoine are cut in larger pieces and often marinated in sugar syrup with liqueur.

Macerate - To soak fruit or vegetables in wine, liquor, or syrup so that they may absorb these flavors. Salt and sugar macerations are used to draw excess moisture out of the food for a secondary preparation. This is done for canning, jam and preserve making, and to remove bitter flavors from vegetables.

Machaca - [Spanish] from the verb machacar, which means to pound or break something into small pieces; meat that has been stewed, roasted or broiled, then shredded; it is typical of Sonoran cooking.

Machacado - [Spanish] mashed; name of a dish of scrambled eggs and shredded dried meat.

Mache - A wild lettuce with small round leaves that may be used for salads or cooked and used as you would spinach. The taste is a little less pronounced than spinach. Mache grows wild, and can be found in the fall. It is cultivated in France, Italy, and the US from September to April. It is also known as lamb's lettuce and field salad.

Madeleine - A small scalloped or shell shaped cookie or cake made from a rich batter similar to g‚noise. These may be flavored with almonds, lemon, or cinnamon.

Madère, au - Made with Madeira wine.

Madrilène - A clear chicken consommé flavored with tomato juice.

Maggi® Seasoning - Dark brown, bottled sauce that resembles soy sauce; it adds salt and depth of flavor to dishes; do not overdo using this sauce as it will overpower the dish; regular soy sauce may be substituted, if necessary.

Magret - The breast meat from a mallard or Barbary duck. These ducks are specially raised for foie gras. Their breasts are large and have a much thinner layer of fat than do the Peking or Long Island duckling.

Maguey - Cactus plant (Agave americana) from which tequila, mescal and pulque are made.

Mahi-mahi - Contrary to popular belief, mahi-mahi is not a mammalian dolphin. A warm-water fish with dark meat that turns brown after cooking. Mahi-mahi is a great alternative to swordfish.

Mais - [French] corn.

Maitre d'hôtel butter - This is the most common of all the compound butters. It is flavored with lemon and chopped parsley and used to garnish fish and grilled meats. Garlic may be added, but it would then be called escargot butter.

Maíz - [Spanish] maiz; corn.

Maíz azul - [Spanish] blue corn.

Maizena - [Spanish] cornstarch; a product of Mexico which comes in almond, chocolate, cinnamon, coconut, guava, mango, pineapple and vanilla flavors; commonly used to make Atole.

Mako shark - Fairly inexpensive fish with ivory-pink flesh that resembles swordfish in color and texture (but not in appearance). Other available shark includes dusky, black tip, silky, lemon, bull, tiger, or hammerhead shark.

Malanga - A tuber sold in all Latin American markets and some supermarkets; you might find it under the name "yautia." Raw, it has the texture of jimica, but it is not eaten raw. It's best boiled, fried, or included in stews -- in short treated exactly as a potato. Peel and trim before cooking.

Manchamantel - [Spanish] "tablecloth stainer." Usually refers to sauces that do not wash out easily.

Manchego - [Spanish] an aged sheep's milk cheese that is dry and crumbly; packed in straw and weighted; usually grated for use in quesadillas and empanadas; substitute good Parmesan or aged white Cheddar.

Mandel - [German] almond.

Mandoline - The original food processor, and still highly useful, the mandoline is the easiest way to cut thin slices of vegetables.

Mangos - [Spanish] mangoes; one of the most popular fruits in the Southwest and Mexico; it has a peach-like taste and flowery aroma; the skin is pink, red, gold and green; the flesh is deep yellow and juicy; to slice the fruit, free it from the flat, oval pit in large pieces. There are some two hundred varieties. They are usually eaten ripe, as a fruit or in salsa. Green mangoes make great salads and chutneys.

Manicotti - Rolled pancakes (crepes), stuffed with cheese. Pasta tubes may also be used.

Manioc - [Spanish] yuca; cassava; see "yuca."

Mano - [Spanish] hand; implement used to grind corn and chiles on a metate.

Manteca - [Spanish] lard; fat; probably the most frequently used ingredient in traditional Mexican cooking; has approximately half the cholesterol of butter; fresh rendered lard is best; it is usually best to substitute vegetable shortening unless fresh lard is available.

Mantequilla - [Spanish] butter.

Manzanas - [Spanish] apples.  

Maple sugar - Made by the evaporation of maple sap or maple syrup. Usually pressed into fancy shapes and sold as a candy. It is not generally used for baking or cooking.

Maple syrup - Thick and sweet syrup used on pancakes and waffles or as an ice cream topping. Pure maple syrup is made by the evaporation of the sap from maple trees. Maple-blended syrup is a mixture of maple syrup and cane syrups, resulting in a milder and less costly product.

Maquereau - [French] mackerel.

Marchand de vin - A dark brown sauce made with meat and wine.

Marengo - A chicken stew made with wine, tomatoes, and garlic. The stew is served over toast, garnished with crayfish and fried eggs. The modern versions of this omit the eggs and substitute shrimp for the crayfish. Of course, other liberties have been taken with this recipe to include black olives, peppers, and veal. The dish is rumored to have been named for the dish served to General Bonaparte after his army s defeat of the Austrians in the battle of Marengo.

Margarine (oleo, oleomargarine) - Comes in several forms. Regular margarine, with 80% fat is usually interchangeable with butter. Soft margarine is readily spreadable even at refrigerated temperatures.  Whipped margarine has air beaten in to increase volume. Imitation or diet margarine has greatly reduced fat content and Half the calories, sometimes less, of regular margarine. Margarine was first invented to replace butter in cooking and baking. It was then made solely of beef fat. Margarine is now made with a variety of fats, alone or with others, along with the addition of water, whey, yellow coloring, and vitamins. Beef fat is still used today, but with a higher consciousness toward a healthier diet, it is very rare.

Marguery - A Hollandaise sauce made with shellfish essence and wine.

Marinade - A seasoned liquid, often containing vinegar and oil, in which food is soaked to improve flavor.

Marinara - A spicy tomato and garlic sauce.

Marinate - To soak meat, vegetables or fish in seasoned liquid.

Mariné - [French] Pickled, marinated.

Mariscos - [Spanish] seafood dishes.

Marjoram - Sometimes called "wild oregano," it is an herb in the mint family and is related to thyme; often confused with and substituted for oregano; grows up to 2 feet high with closely bunched purple and white flowers that resemble knots; used to season game or pork; often labeled as sweet marjoram.

Marmalade - A preserve of citrus fruits (most commonly oranges) and sugar.

Marmite - [French] a rich meat soup or stock; an earthenware stock pot.

Marrons - Chestnuts.

Marrons glacés - Chestnuts preserved in syrup or candied.

Marrow - Bone substance and gut eaten by Native Americans and pioneers.

Marzipan - A sweetened almond paste with the addition of egg whites. This mixture is kneaded into a smooth paste and used to wrap or layer cakes and candies. Marzipan is also shaped into figures of animals, fruits, and vegetables, and sold in pastry or candy shops.

Masa - [Spanish] dough; dough of ground dried corn and flour; usually refers to ground nixtamal; instant corn flour tortilla mix; cornmeal dough made from dried corn kernels that have been softened in a lime solution, then ground; fresh frozen masa is available in supermarkets throughout the Southwest; comes finely ground in a dehydrated form and can be used to make tortillas and tamales.

Masa is the plain, wet stone ground dough made with a special corn known as Nixtamal. Fresh masa is sold two different ways - prepared and unprepared. Prepared masa is plain masa which has been mixed with lard and salt only. This type of masa yields heavy, greasy, drier dough.

Masa Harina® - Instant corn flour, dough flour; a product developed by the Quaker Oats Company at the request of the Mexican government; used to make dough for tamales and corn tortillas; uncooked corn kernels that have been ground into flour.

Mascabado - [Spanish] brown sugar.

Mascarpone - A rich triple cream, fresh cheese from Italy with a texture resembling that of solidified whipped cream.

Mask - To cover completely, as with mayonnaise, jelly, ganache, aspic, etc.

Matafan - A thick pancake eaten sweet as a snack, or savory as an accompaniment to cheese. They are also made with bacon, spinach, and potatoes.

Matelote - [French] in the sailor's style. A fish stew made with wine. The Alsatian version of this dish is made with freshwater fish, Riesling wine, and thickened with cream and egg yolks. The Normandy version includes seafood and is flavored with cider and Calvados. These stews are normally embellished with pearl onions and mushrooms. Also, asauce made with court bouillon and red wine.

Mastic - a resin that gives a sour flavor to dishes. A shrub rarely growing higher than 12 feet, much branched, and found freely scattered over the Mediterranean region, in Spain, Portugal, France, Greece, Turkey, the Canary Islands, and Tropical Africa. The best Mastic occurs in roundish tears about the size of a small pea, or in flattened, irregular pear-shape, or oblong pieces covered with a whitish powder. They are pale yellow in color, which darkens with age. The odor is agreeable and the taste mild and resinous, and when chewed it becomes soft, so that it can easily be masticated. This characteristic enables it to be distinguished from a resin called Sanderach, which it resembles, but which when bitten breaks to powder.

Matjes herring - A reddish herring that has been skinned and filleted before being cured in a spiced sugar-vinegar brine.

Matzo, Matzoth - Thin, unleavened, Jewish flat bread made of flour and water.

Mayonnaise - This is the mother of all of the cold egg and oil emulsified sauces. Commercial versions are made with inferior oils and are far to thick for proper utilization. A hand made version has a rich, subtle flavor and silky texture. You should always use a neutral oil or a good olive oil. Avoid using an extra-virgin olive oil, which will offer too strong a flavor for most usage.

Meat tenderizer - A food product obtained from the papaya, which works on the fibers of raw meat to make it tender, regardless of kind, grade, or cut. When the meat is cooked all tenderizing action stops.

Médallion - [French] the "eye" of a rib lamb chop.

Mediano - [Spanish] medium hot (to taste).

Mejillones - [Spanish] mussels.

Mejorana - [Spanish] marjoram; wild oregano.

Mélange - A mixture

Melba - The name of a popular dessert invented by Auguste Escoffier. Poached peach halves are served with vanilla ice cream and topped with fresh raspberry sauce.

Melon - There are three kinds of melons (aside from watermelon, a different species entirely). Small melons with ridged skin, such as the charentais, more common in Europe; and those with a meshed rind, such as cantaloupe; and those with a smooth rind, like the honeydew. When looking for ripe melons, an appetizing smell is a good sign. Shake the melon. Loose seeds are a fairly good indication of ripeness. Squeeze the ends, especially the one opposite the stem; it should be fairly tender, almost soft.

Melón - [Spanish] cantaloupe.

Membrillo - [Spanish] quince.

Menta - [Spanish] mint.

Menudo - [Spanish] tripe and cow's foot soup or stew; fiery Mexican "hangover cure," traditionally eaten on Saturday and Sunday; traditional dish for New Year's Day; normally served with lime wedges, oregano, red pepper flakes and hot tortillas.

Mercados - [Spanish] markets. 

Merienda - [Spanish] afternoon tea following the daily siesta.

Meringue - [French] whipped egg whites to which sugar has been added to form a stiff paste. These are used to lighten mousses, cakes and pastry creams. Unsweetened versions are used to lighten forcemeats. 

Mesa - [Spanish] table.

Mescal - [Spanish] liquor distilled from fermented juice of the maguey cactus.

Mesophilic - Cheesemaking term which describes the temperature at which the culture thrives. From the Greek words meso - meaning intermediate - and philic - which means loving. Mesophilic cultures thrive around room temperatures.These terms describes at the temperature the culture thrives at. Mesophilic (from the Greek words meso - meaning intermediate and philic - which means loving) cultures thrive around room temperatures. Mesophilic cultures require a temperature than thermophilic cultures.

Mesclun - A word used to describe a mixture of a dozen or more wild and cultivated greens. Often this mix is stretched with herbs or flower sprigs and bitter greens. These greens should be dressed very lightly, with only best oil and vinegar, so that their flavor will not be masked.

Mesquite - Hardwood tree, the dry wood of which is used to fuel fires in Southwestern cooking; the beans are a Native American staple.

Metate - Old Native American utensil, made of volcanic rock; used for grinding corn, mesquite beans, etc.

Meunière à la, Meunière - Fish or seafood sautéed and served in brown butter. Also, with sauce of butter, lemon juice and parsley.

Mexican chocolate - A mixture of chocolate, almonds, sugar and sometimes cinnamon and vanilla, ground together and formed into octagonal tablets; Ibarra is the most common brand in the United States; can be used in desserts, chocolate beverages and some mole sauces; the best substitute is to add a dash of cinnamon to bittersweet chocolate.

Mexican mint marigold - Also known as "sweet mace"; flavor of the leaves is similar to tarragon with a subtle anise flavor; both the leaves and petals can be used in sauces and relishes and as a garnish.

Mexican oregano - Much larger leaves and a different appearance from the oregano most commonly found in the United States; almost always sold dried in the United States; used in many traditional recipes for red sauces, moles and stews; should be toasted slightly before using to enhance the flavor.

Mexican strawberries - Cowboy term for red beans.

Miel - [French and Italian] honey.

Migajas - [Spanish] crumbs.

Migajón - [Spanish] soft inside of bread.

Migas - [Spanish] leftovers; crumbs; a dish made of eggs scrambled with chorizo, tortilla chips, onions, tomatoes, cheese and chiles, it is normally eaten for breakfast; also called huevos con tostaditos.

Mignon, Migonette - This is a term used to describe coarsely ground pepper used for au poivre preparations and in bouquet garni. This is also used to describe small round pieces of meat or poultry.

Milanese - [Italian] used to describe foods that are dipped in egg and bread crumbs, sometimes parmesan cheese, and fried in butter.

Milch - [German] milk.

Mild chiles - New Mexico or Anaheim chiles.

Milk chocolate - Most popular form of eating chocolate in the United States due to its mild, mellow flavor. It has only 10% chocolate liquor and usually contains about 12% milk solids. Milk chocolate has a less robust flavor than sweet or semi-sweet chocolates.

Mille-feuilles - Small rectangular pastries made of crisp layers of puff pastry and pastry cream. This may also include savory fillings of similar presentation. The word mille-feuille means a thousand leaves.

Milnot - Milnot is canned evaporated milk that can be whipped. It is only marketed in a handful of states.

Milpa  - [Spanish] cornfield.

Mince - [Great Britain] Ground beef.

Mincemeat  - A sweet spicy mixture of candied and fresh fruits, wine, spices, and beef fat. Earlier recipes for this used beef or venison meat and beef fat. It is used primarily as a filling for pies served during the Christmas holiday season.

Minestrone - A thick Italian vegetable soup with beans and pasta or rice. This may contain any number of vegetables, but for authenticity, meat is never added.

Minute steak - A tender and juicy very thin steak cut from the top round, which can be quickly sautéed, broiled or pan-broiled.

Mirabelle - [French] small yellow plum, used as tart filling; a liqueur made from small yellow plums.

Mirasol chiles - Mirasol means looking at the sun; also called chile travieso, or naughty chile; the dried pods are used like dried red New Mexican chiles in corn dishes, meat dishes, sauces and stews; when fresh and green, it can be substituted for the serrano chile mochomos - cooked or roasted meat, shredded and fried crisp.

Mirepoix - [French] a mixture of chopped onion, carrot, and celery used to flavor stocks and soups. Ham or bacon are sometimes added to a mirepoix, depending on the specific preparation.

Mirepoix - Mixed vegetables diced very small and cooked with diced ham, often used as a garnish.

Mirin - [Japanese] sweet rice vinegar. May substitute by adding a little sugar to regular rice-wine vinegar.

Mirliton (vegetable pear) - A vegetable resembling a pale green squash. Mirlitons are also referred to as vegetable pears or chayote squash. You can find them on vines growing in Louisiana back yards. Their delicate flavor generally absorbs the taste of other foods they come in contact with. They are also used as an ingredient in Caribbean as well as Latin and Southwestern American dishes.

Mise en place - [French] mise (to put) en (in) place (place). A French term well-known to any professional cook. It means "putting in place," and refers to the many prepped ingredients that must be on hand in order to be ready for meal service.

Miso, light or dark (red) - Fermented soybean paste used as a basic ingredient in many Japanese dishes.

Mocha - Flavoring of coffee or made by combining coffee and chocolate.

Mochi - Japanese confection; a small, round rice cake which can be eaten with condiments such as kinako (roasted soy bean flour), manju (sweet red bean paste), soy sauce dip, andseaweed. Traditionally, mochi is made by pounding steamed glutinous rice in a large wooden mortar, called the usu, with a wooden mallet called the kine. Mochi-tsuki is the Japanese term for the old-style method of pounding the steamed glutinous rice used to make mochi.

Mode, à la - A food which is braised; also, pies and cakes served with a garnish of ice cream.

Mojo - [Mexican] A spicy, rich sauce consisting of nuts, seeds, spices, chocolate, and peppers.

Mojo de ajo - [Spanish] soaked in garlic.

Molasses - This is a syrup resulting from the crystallization of raw sugar from the sap. Additional processing results in darker and stronger tasting molasses called black strap.

Molcajete - [Spanish] mortar made from volcanic stone used for grinding chiles.

Mole - [Spanish] taken from the Nahuatl word "Molli," meaning concoction; an assortment of thick sauces used in Mexican cooking made of chiles. These sauces are made with one or many chiles, and flavored with cumin, coriander, cinnamon, nuts, seeds, and chocolate. one of the most common ingredients of mole sauce is chocolate; one of the oldest known sauces. Their flavor is rich, smoky, and very complex. Some recipes are made with fresh herbs and have a green color. Chicken, turkey, and pork are then simmered in this sauce.

Mole negro - [Spanish] the best known of Oaxaca's famous "seven moles."

Molinillo - [Spanish] a wooden whisk used to whip hot chocolate; the handle is rolled between the palms of the hands, whipping the mixture until it is frothy.

Mollejas - [Spanish] sweetbreads.

Molletes - [Spanish] yeast rolls flavored with anise; toasted open-faced sandwich filled with refried beans and cheese.

Monaco, à la - Served with a green pea and caper sauce.

Monkfish - Known as the poor man's lobster, because of its extremely firm, meaty texture. Highly versatile. Remove any membrane that remains on the fillet before cooking.

Monosodium Glutamate, MSG - A white, crystalline salt found in wheat, beets, and soy bean products. It is used extensively in Chinese cookery, and thought to help accentuate the flavors of certain foods. Many people suffer serious allergic reactions to this so widespread use has been reduced to the commercial food processing industry.

Mont blanc - A rich dessert of chestnut purée and whipped cream. 

Monterey jack- Mild, buttery-flavor cheese usually sold in blocks; melts easily; also made with jalapeños.

Montmorency - A sauce made with cherries; also, a garnish made with artichoke hearts.

Mora chiles - A dried chile; a more subtle variety of smoked jalapeño than chipotles, they have a long mesquite flavor with tones of dried fruit; moras grandes are a larger version of the same type of chile, while smaller ones are often labeled "moritas." Use chipotles as a substitute for any of these chiles.

Morcilla - [Spanish] pork mixed with pig's blood and spices and steamed within the animal's stomach.

Morel mushroom - This is a wild mushroom with a honeycomb cap and hollow stem. These are very dirty mushrooms and must be cleaned carefully. Morels possess a wonderful earthy flavor, making them good candidates for soups, sauces, and fillings. Morels are most readily available dried.

Morello cherries - Pie cherries.

Mornay Sauce - A sauce similar to bechamel sauce but with Gruyere cheese, sometimes enriched with egg yolks. It is used mainly for fish and vegetable preparations.

Mortadella - Large, lightly smoked sausages made of pork, beef, or veal. These are specialties of Bologna, which is where the US version of this sausage gets its name. Mortadella is a very smooth, pink sausage with a subtle creamy texture. They are studded with cubes of pork fat and peppercorns.

Mostarda di Cremona - [Spanish] These are fruits cooked and marinated in a spicy, mustard flavored syrup. It is a classic accompaniment to bollito misto. These fruits are also used in sauces for veal, and assorted stuffed pasta fillings.

Mostaza - [Spanish] mustard.

Mouler - [French] To grind soft food into a puree or dry food into a powder.

Moules - [French] mussels.

Mountain oysters - Roasted calf testes eaten as a between-meal snack.

Moussaka - [Greek] A layered dish of eggplant and lamb with tomatoes and onions. This is all bound with bechamel sauce and cooked au gratin.

Mousse - Sweet or savory dishes made of ingredients which are blended and folded together. These mixtures may be hot or cold, and generally contain whipped egg whites to lighten them. Cream is also used to lighten these dishes, though when used in large quantities, these preparations are called mousselines.

Mousseline - As described above, these are fine purees or forcemeats that have been lightened with whipped cream. The term is also used to describe a hollandaise sauce which has unsweetened whipped cream folded into it.

Mousseron mushroom - A wild mushroom with an off-white to beige color. The flavor is full-bodied and the texture is fleshy like bolets.

Moutarde - [French] mustard.

Mouton - [French] mutton.

Mozzarella - A mild white-yellow cheese which melts easily.

Muesli - [Swiss] Dish of raw rolled oats, coarsely grated apple, nuts and dried fruit served with cream or whole milk.

Mulato chile - A dried chile; in Mexican cooking it refers to the chile mulato, a dark black-brown dried chile famous for its use in Mole Poblano; tastes of licorice, chocolate and dried fruit; used in many dark moles; if unavailable, use anchos or pasillas.

Mulligatawny - A curried chicken soup adapted by the British from India. Originally the soup was enriched with coconut milk and embellished with almonds and apples. Newer versions make a lighter broth and flavor this with curry and coconut.

Mung beans, dried - A versatile tiny (about one-eighth inch in diameter), dried bean is common throughout Asia.  The bean or pea is also the source of bean sprouts, also used to make bean-thread noodles.

Muscoli - [Italian] mussels.

MUSHROOMS
    Chanterelle - Meaty and fleshy texture; nutty flavor with a hint of apricot. Best sauteed with poulty or fish.
    Chinese - Find in Oriental markets. Soak in water before cooking. Trim the stems and save for making soup.
    Crimini - Firm, dense consistency; earthy flavor. Best used stuffed with herbs and nuts.
    Dried European - Cepe, boletus, or porcini. Keep in a tightly sealed jar in your refrigerator. Will keep about 1 year.
    Enoki - Crisp texture, like bean sprouts; clean and fruity flavor. Best used raw in salads and sandwiches.
    Morel - Wild mushroom with a honeycomb cap and hollow stem. These are very dirty mushrooms and must be cleaned carefully. Morels possess a wonderful earthy flavor, making them good candidates for soups, sauces, and fillings. Morels are most readily available dried.
    Oyster - Tender caps, chewy stems; slight peppery bite. Mix into cream sauces.
    Porcini - Rich and velvety texture; woodsy flavor which is stronger when dried. Simmer in soups and sauces.
    Portobello - Thick-fleshed with sanity caps; rich and hearty flavor. Best used for grilling, burger-style.
    Shiitake - Spongy caps, tough stems; complex and smoky flavor. Best used in polenta or risotto.
    Wood ear - Crunch and chewy texture; subtle and mild flavor. Best used in spicy soups and stir-fries.

Music roots - sweet potatoes; so called because of the gaseous effect.

Mussels - Much less expensive than clams. Look for clean, not muddy, mussels. When steaming mussels, add a bit of saffron for additional great flavor.

Must - a sweet, viscous liquid that is red-yellow in color. It comes from fresh grape must, known as "stafilopat." In other parts of Greece it is known as "petmezi."

Mutton - The flesh of sheep over one year old.

Muy sabrosa comida - [Spanish] very delicious food.