Quenelle [kuh-NEHL] are a culinary specialty of Lyon, France: a light, delicate small oval shaped dumpling made of seasoned, minced or ground fish or white meat bound with panada which are gently poached in stock or water. Quenelles are usually served with a rich sauce and can be used as a first course, main course or garnish.
The first quenelles I tasted were home-made by Michèle, in fact, I was there when she made them. After eating hers, I was spoiled for life: each time we buy them prepackaged, I keep comparing them with hers. The industrial ones are mainly made up of flour more than meat, they are more compact and dense, and one can taste the difference immediately.
Quenelles de volaille
- 200 g chicken meat
- 55 g old bread
- 3 tbsp milk
- 300 ml liquid cream aka crème flurette (very cold)
- 1 egg
- a dash of nutmeg
- salt & pepper
- 30 g plain flour
- 30 g butter or margarine
- ½ litre milk
- salt & pepper
Béchamel sauce (prepare once the quenelles are cooked)
- Melt the butter in a sauce pan at medium heat. Make sure that the butter doesn’t turn brown.
- Add the flour into the melted butter and stir it vigorously with a whisk. Continue to stir vigorously until you obtain a mousse like mixture.
- Stir in the milk a little at a time (make sure it’s well incorporated), vigorously to avoid getting lumps. When about half the milk is in, switch to a balloon whisk and start adding large amounts of milk instead, but always whisking briskly. Your reward will be a smooth, glossy, creamy sauce.
- Whisk it until it thickens, then turn the heat down to its lowest setting.
- Season it with salt and pepper.
- Let it simmer for about 10 minutes (whisk it from time to time) and then remove from heat.
- Mince the chicken meat in a food processor, add the egg and pulse it.
- Add the liquid cream bit by bit (in 5 steps) – each time, mix it for about 6 or 8 seconds.
- Pour 3 tbsp of milk onto the old bread and microwave it for a few seconds.
- Add in the old bread. Season it with salt, pepper and nutmeg and pulse it briefly one last time.
- Chill the paste for an hour or more. This makes the paste easier to handle later on.
- Shape the quenelles using 2 soup spoon. Take the second spoon out of some hot water and invert it over the first to shape the quenelle. Do not press the spoons together: merely shape the quenelle.
- Poach them gently in a pot of salted water near to boiling point (but not boiling !). Cook them for 6 to 8 minutes.
- Remove them with slotted spoon and set it in a baking dish.
- Pour the béchamel sauce over the quenelles and sprinkle some grated cheese on top.
- Use your oven top grill to bake the dish for about 10 minutes or until cheese is grilled.
- Serve hot
It was lovely : soft, dense yet light, with a clear chicken flavour. I personally think the ones made by Michèle tasted better but my sister-in-law and Pierre first exclamation upon tasting mine was that they were even better. They definitely trumped industrial ones (duh!).
I made the béchemal sauce after I have cooked all the quenelles as it’s quick to make and poured the hot sauce over the quenelles.
You can prepare the quenelles paste earlier and keep it in the refrigerator till it’s time to cook them.