From Alfredo to Marco Polo ... and Beyond!

What's in a name?

Spaghetti alfredo

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What's in a name? How many times have you looked at a restaurant menu and been confused by the names of the food? Many famous and classic dishes have been named after people; others after regions of the world, and still more just use non-English names as descriptors. Let's decode these names and find some great recipes that fit.

Whenever you see these words on a menu or as part of a recipe, traditionally they mean certain ingredients are used to prepare the food. Once you learn how to make Chicken Cacciatore, for instance, you can then transfer those ingredients to other meats and you'll expand your repertoire without effort. Pork Cacciatore, Turkey Cacciatore, Red Snapper Cacciatore, and Ham Cacciatore are all possibilities.

Enjoy this information and these recipes.

A la King: Typically some kind of cooked meat, served on English muffins or toast, covered with a bechamel or mornay sauce.

A l'Orange: Meats served with a sauce flavored with orange. Duck A l'Orange is the most common recipe.

Adobo: This is the name of the Phillippine's national dish. It consists of meat cooked with garlic, vinegar, bay leaf, and peppercorns.

Alfredo: This rich dish was created in the 1920s by restaurateur Alfredo di Lello. It is a cream or a white sauce made with with cheese and butter.

Amandine: Made with almonds, either coated with almonds or topped with the nuts. Also called almondine, but that is an incorrect spelling of the French term.

Au Gratin: Topped with cheese and/or breadcrumbs, then heated under the broiler or baked to melt and form a crust. Also the name of the French dish made with vegetables or meats layered in a casserole dish and baked until crusty.

Bruschetta: Bruschetta is a recipe in itself, made of toasted bread rubbed with garlic and topped with tomatoes. I like using this technique on meats. Fish bruschetta would be flavored with garlic, topped with tomatoes, basil and crisp bread crumbs.

Buffalo: A combination of foods and flavors personified in the Buffalo Chicken Wing appetizer. Blue cheese, a creamy sauce, hot sauce, and celery can be used in many recipes.

Cacciatore: The Italian word for 'hunter', this refers to food prepared with a rich tomato and vegetable sauce including herbs, onions, wine, and mushrooms.

Cajun: The cooking of Acadians, people living in the bayous of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. The food is spicy and peppery, and usually cooked in one pot.

Carbonara: A pasta sauce made with bacon, eggs, sometimes heavy cream, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Casino: Named for its origin: the Casino Restaurant in New York City. A topping for meats, usually shellfish, made of bacon and the holy trinity of green peppers, onion, and celery. Sometimes clams or oysters are simply topped with a seasoned butter and bread crumb mixture.

Coq au Vin: Literally means 'chicken in wine' and is a skillet meal where chicken, whole or thighs, is cooked with vegetables and wine.

Cordon Bleu: Literally means 'blue ribbon' and is a name given to distinguished chefs. In cooking, it's a stuffing for meat made of cheese and ham; classically, Gruyere cheese and prosciutto.

Creole: Typically cooking in the style of New Orleans with French accents, using tomatoes, green peppers, and onions. Creole seasoning includes many different varieties of peppers. Creoles were rich planters in the South, and their cuisine reflected their French heritage.

De Jonghe: Named after a couple who owned a restaurant in Chicago in the early 1900s. Meat, usually shrimp or other shellfish, layered with butter, bread crumbs, and garlic, then baked.

  • Shrimps de Jonghe

Diablo: Food cooked in a rich brown sauce made with garlic, onion, vinegar, and herbs; also called deviled.

Divan: Usually a meat cooked in a bechamel or mornay sauce and served with broccoli.

Florentine: In the style of Florence, these dishes contain spinach and perhaps a white sauce.

Frangipane: A sweet pie or tart filling made with ground almonds. Also refers to a custard sauce flavored with almonds or other nuts. Also called frangipani. Named for Marquis Muzio Frangipani, an Italian count in the 16th century.

Italiano: In the style of Italy. This phrase has a very broad definition. Food is made using typical Italian ingredients like tomatoes, garlic, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and basil.

Kiev: A dish made with a thin cut of meat or fillet rolled around seasoned butter, then coated in bread crumbs and fried until golden brown.

Louis: This refers to a sauce made of mayonnaise, heavy cream, green onion and pepper, chili sauce, and lemon juice. May have been created by Louis Davenport of the Davenport Hotel in Washington state. Typically served with seafood.

  • Salmon Louis Salad

Marinara: a fresh sauce made with tomatoes, garlic, onions, and herbs like basil and oregano.

  • Crockpot Marinara Sauce
  • Tuna Marinara

Marco Polo: A main dish made with broccoli.

Nicoise: Means 'as prepared in Nice'. Recipes typically include olives, anchovies, and tomatoes.

Normandy: Means 'in the style of Normandy', a region of France. Traditionally the dish is made with fish napped with Normandy sauce, a rich combination of butter and cream. Other ingredients include apples, calvados, and cream.

Paprikash: A Hungarian dish, usually made of chicken and onions simmered in stock and cream, seasoned with paprika. Also called paprika.

Parmigiana: Made with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, an Italian cheese made only in Parma, Italy. Other types of Parmesan cheese can be used. Dishes are typically coated with cheese and bread crumbs, then fried until crisp.

Pavlova: A dessert made of a meringue baked until crisp, filled with whipped cream and fruit. Named for Anna Pavlova, a Russian ballerina, probably after the fluffy tutus she wore.

Piccata: Scallops of meat (thinly pounded pieces) dipped in egg and flour, sometimes bread crumbs, sauteed until tender and flavored with lemon juice.

Primavera: Italian phrase which means 'spring style'; usually dishes made with fresh, seasonal vegetables.

Provencal: In the style of Provence, a region of southern France. Recipes typically include garlic, tomatoes, anchovies, and olive oil.

Remoulade: A sauce served with cold dishes, like cooked and chilled chicken and fish, that includes mayonnaise, pickles, capers, herbs, and anchovies.

Rockefeller: Famously made as Oysters Rockefeller, a dish invented for an actual Rockefeller at Antoine's Restaurant in New Orleans. Recipe is made of butter, spinach, and seasonings spread on oysters on the half shell, then baked.

Santa Fe: Made with Texas and Mexican ingredients, including chile peppers, tomatoes, salsa, and cheese.

Satay: An Asian dish of thin strips of meat threaded onto kabobs and cooked on the grill, often made with garlic, ginger, and sometimes peanut butter. Also known as sate.

Schnitzel: A German word meaning 'cutlet'. Recipes prepared this way are breaded and deep fried. The famous 'Wiener Schnitzel' is made with thin veal cutlets.

Stroganoff: A rich dish, made with chicken or beef, mushrooms and sour cream, with lots of cream and butter: named for Count Stroganov.

Tandoori: Traditionally, tandoori is a cooking method meaning baked in a clay oven called a tandoor. Also skewered meats. Americanized versions of the dish usually involve marinating meats and vegetables in yogurt.

Tetrazzini: Named for the singer Luisa Tetrazzini, this recipe is made of a white sauce and cheese combined with poultry and pasta, baked in a casserole dish until golden.

Teriyaki: A Japanese dish consisting of meats marinated in soy sauce, sugar, ginger, and sherry, then grilled or broiled.

Verde: Spanish word meaning 'green', also known as verte (French). In Spanish-speaking countries, a sauce made of green chiles and tomatillos. In France, usually a sauce colored green with spinach and served with cold fish dishes.

Wellington: Named after the Duke of Wellington, this dish typically involves a filet of beef coated with foie gras and wrapped in puff pastry. Can be made with other meats.