Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
What exactly are quenelles? Well, in my opinion they are a bit like French gnocchi made with fish or meat. Back in the day, before food processors were invented, they were a staple of the haute cuisine. They took hours to make what with the pounding, mashing and sieving of the fish; all of this dirty work was done, of course, by the apprentice cooks at the restaurants. Thank God for technology! The traditional quenelles are made with pike but they are also made with veal or poultry. A pretty versatile dish, quenelles are accompanied with a great variety of sauces or even gratinéed. Julia Child’s suggestion for serving salmon quenelles is to make a velouté, or béchamel, sauce.
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 tbsp butter
- ¾ cup flour
- 2 eggs
- 2 eggs whites
- Mixing bowl with a tray of ice cubes and water to cover them
- 2 cups canned salmon
- ½ tsp salt
- Pepper, to taste
- 4 tbsp heavy whipping cream
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- Nutmeg, to taste
- To make the pâte à choux, bring the water to a boil in a 1 ½ – or 2-quart saucepan with the salt and butter. Once the butter has melted, remove the saucepan from heat and beat in the flour at once with a wooden spoon. Next, beat over medium high heat for several minutes until the mixture forms a mass. Off the heat, beat in the eggs one by one and then the egg whites. Place the saucepan in the bowl with ice and water and stir for several minutes to cool. Leave the saucepan in the ice while you prepare the fish. The pâte à choux must be chilled before combining with the fish.
- Place the salmon in the bowl of a food processor. Add the chilled pâte à choux, salt, pepper, cream and tomato paste. Process for about 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. If the mixture is stiff, add cream by the tablespoon but remember that the mixture must be able to hold its shape in a mass on a spoon. Mix in the nutmeg. If you are not going to use the mixture immediately, refrigerate.
- Have a cup of cold water ready with 2 dessert spoons and prepare a 12-inch pot or skillet with 4 inches of barely simmering salted water.
- Dip out a rounded mass of the quenelle paste with a wet spoon. Transfer the spoon to your left hand and smooth the top of the paste with the second wet spoon. Slip the bowl of the second spoon under the quenelle to loosen it and drop it into the barely simmering water. Form the quenelles with the rest of the paste. Poach them uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes. Make sure the water doesn’t come beyond a simmer. The quenelles are done when they are about double the original size and roll over easily. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a towel.
- 2 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp flour
- 2 cups of milk and ¼ tsp salt heated to the boil in a saucepan (again, I used almond milk)
- In a saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Blend in the flour and cook slowly, stirring until the butter and flour froth together for 2 minutes without coloring. (This is called a white roux.)
- Remove the roux from heat. Once it has stopped bubbling, pour in the hot milk at once. Immediately beat vigorously with a wire whip to blend.
- Set the sauce over medium high heat and stir with the wire whip until the sauce comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring.
- Remove from heat and beat in salt, pepper and nutmeg.
- To serve, put the quenelles in a serving dish and pour the sauce over them.
Comments: Another delicious meal right from Julia Child’s kitchen. It was a great success at home. They have a light, gnocchi-like texture. I love pepper and nutmeg, and, in my opinion, these spices are an excellent addition to the quenelles, as you can see in my picture below.
If you make the sauce ahead of time, you should float a thin film of milk, stock or melted butter on top to prevent a skin from forming on the surface; you can probably cover with plastic film as well so that it is touching the surface. Keep it hot over simmering water or refrigerate.