Quenelles have been around since ancient Roman cooks invented them. Many cultures have adapted them and today, they’re served as appetizers or main courses. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Quenelles were most often used as a garnish in consommé.  In some parts of France, they’re covered with a sauce and placed under a broiler.  In Lyons,  quenelles de brochet are made with mousseline from Pike, a fish with very small bones.  This method removes the bones and produces a delicious, light and airy dish served with a sauce. Below, you’ll see Paul Bocuse’s version with Sauce Nantua.

The quenelles are made with a panada paired with fish, vegetables or fowl, then poached in a rich broth to add more flavor.  Using two spoons, the signature ovoid shape is formed before poaching.  Today, that technique is used with ice creams and sorbets to form shapes for glamorous dessert presentation.

While the term isn’t applied outside France, gefilte fish are made as quenelles.  Unfortunately, quenelles are not commonly made in North American home cooking.  Their preparation is rather simple and easy, once you’ve become accustomed to the forming of the shape.

Recipe type: Accompaniments
  1. Dip 2 tablespoons in hot water, and form oval shapes by filling each with the quenelle mixture.
  2. Cover the first spoonful with the second.
  3. Scrape the loose mixture from the sides.
  4. Loosen each quenelle from the spoons with a knife dipped in hot water, and drop gently into simmering water or soup as required.
  5. Alternatively, poach the quenelles.
  6. As they are so delicate, quenelles are generally only added to soup or any other dish at the point of serving.
Prepare a forcemeat of your favorite fish, meat, vegetables or fruit by grinding or processing (in a food processor) until very smooth. In lieu of panada, you may add soft white bread crumbs (coarsely processed crustless white bread) and seasonings appropriate to the key ingredient. The total blend of the forcemeat should be moderately firm, but not dense. Some chefs also separately prepare eggwhites, beating till stiff, then folding the forcemeat gently with the eggwhites to form a very light forcemeat. When poached, this produces a very light quenelle. Without the eggwhites, the quenelles are firmer, but their flavor is more intense. Quenelles are made from any kind of force-meat, shaped in small balls or between tablespoons, making an oval, or by forcing mixture through pastry bag on buttered paper. They are cooked in boiling salted water or rich stock, and are served as garnish to soups or other dishes; when served with sauce, they are an entree.

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