à la mode: Actually means "in the style of," but we all know it as ice cream on top of pie or cake. In French cooking, it means a kind of braised, larded meat (like a pot roast) served with gravy and vegetables.amuse-gueule/amuse-bouche/hors d'oeuvre: Although "hors d'oeuvre" is a French phase (meaning "outside the main work"), it's an American term; in France, the tidbits served before the meal are known as the "amuse-gueule" or "amuse-bouche," both of which more or less mean "mouth amusement" or "palate teaser." A canapé, on the other hand, means a tidbit involving food slathered on another piece of food--like cheese on a cracker.
apéritif: An apéritif is an alcoholic drink taken before dinner, to stimulate the appetite and open up the palate. A digestif is a drink--such as brandy or cognac--taken after dinner to help digestion.
au jus: Indicates meat served with natural juices (as opposed to gravy or sauce). "Au jus" has come to mean "with a side of broth" on American menus.
au lait: With milk.
cassoulet: A classic rich, slow-cooked stew of white beans and various meats (preserved duck, sausage, pork).
charcuterie: A French deli; also refers to various French meat products such as sausage, cured meats, pâté, etc.
Châteaubriand: Eye of beef tenderloin served with béarnaise or some other rich sauce. Named for famous gourmand Vicomte François René de Châteaubriand.
chèvre: Goat cheese.
choucroute: Sauerkraut cooked with goose fat, onions, juniper berries, and white wine. It graduates to choucroute garni when served with a variety of meats (mostly pork). Very famous in the region of Alsace.
confit (also rillettes): Confit is meat cooked and then preserved in its own fat; rillettes are similar, but pounded into a paste and stored in a pot.
consommé: A perfectly clear broth.
crepe/galette: Both are pancakes that can be filled with sweet or savory foods, or just eaten plain, with a sprinkling of sugar. Both can be made of buckwheat or regular flour; galettes are smaller and thinner than crepes.
en brochette: Cooked on a skewer, like a kebab.
en papillote: Baked in an envelope of parchment paper.
gratinée: Topped with cheese, bread crumbs, and butter, then passed under a broiler.
lardons: Bits of bacon that have been blanched and then fried. Often served in salads.
ratatouille: A Provençal stew of summer vegetables, usually zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers, with garlic and olive oil.
roulade: A little package made of sliced meat rolled around a stuffing.
tarte Tatin: A classic dessert--an apple tart cooked upside down in a pan.
vichyssoise: Potato-leek soup, served cold, often sprinkled with chives.