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We’ve all done it: glanced at the name of a dish on a restaurant menu with only a vague idea of what it actually contains. Here’s a basic guide to several common menu terms — handy when you’re feeling too “chicken” to ask the server just what you’re about to eat:

  • A la King: Meat, such as turkey or chicken, served atop toast or an English muffin and covered with béchamel or mornay sauce. (The mother of all white sauces, béchamel is used in everything from mac and cheese to lasagna. Mornay is simply béchamel sauce with cheese added.)
  • Adobo: Found primarily in Spanish and Mexican cuisine, adobo is a marinade or sauce made of vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and spices. It’s often used to make chicken, beef, or pork meals oh-so-tender, with a bit of added kick.
  • Carbonara: Frequently used as a pasta sauce, it’s whipped up using bacon, eggs, heavy cream, and Italian cheese.
  • Divan: The main ingredient — usually chicken — is cooked in a béchamel or mornay sauce. The special added element? Broccoli.
  • Florentine: Meaning “in the style of Florence,” spinach is key to this dish — plus a white sauce is usually added.
  • Kiev: A thin cut of meat (such as chicken) is rolled around seasoned butter, coated in bread crumbs, and fried until golden brown. Especially popular in Russian restaurants, this dish was actually created by a Frenchman.
  • Normandy: Pork or fish in a rich sauce made of cream, butter, apples, and sometimes Calvados (French apple brandy).
  • Remoulade: Think of remoulade as elaborate tartar sauce: a mayonnaise-based recipe with mustard and fresh herbs added. Tasty with everything from salads to pan-fried fish, you’ll find it in many dishes, especially in summer.
  • Verde: A popular green sauce that spices up both Spanish or Italian cuisine. Spanish-style verde is made with green tomatoes, chillies and spices, and served over meat or poultry. Rustic Italian-style green sauce contains garlic, parsley, vinegar, anchovies, olive oil, and mustard; you’ll find it paired with meat, poultry, veggies, or fish.
» Readers, do you have any more menu mysteries? Write them in the comments box below, and we’ll help you crack the code!
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