When I was ten years old I started collecting old cookbooks and cooking magazines from the local used bookstore, and I amassed quite a large collection. I had a fairly complete set of old Gourmet magazines, as well as a strange variety of cookbooks, ranging from spiral-bound, regional fair collections to James Beard and Julia Child. I read them for fun, experiencing them as travel stories and introductions to exotic places (exotic was pretty broadly defined for me at the age of ten). In the process I comically mispronounced an awful lot of foreign cooking terms, but I wouldn’t know that until I was in college.
Given the fascination with French cooking that dominated the eras of my collection, a great deal of my early knowledge of cooking was based on those flavors and techniques. Quenelles were one of my first in-the-kitchen experiments, and I still enjoy making savory versions with fish and shellfish. They are versatile and texturally interesting.
A quenelle is essentially an oval-shaped dumpling of some sort, and the savory types are typically made with a mousseline of fish or meat. The technique of forming the oval shape is fairly simple, but it does take a few tries to get the swing of it. You use two spoons of equal size to scoop the mixture into football shape. This video has a good visual illustration. They are often poached in some sort of broth, and from there you have a lot of options. I made a double batch and used half for a simple soup with spring vegetables, using the poaching stock as the soup base. The second half I refrigerated (do not refrigerate them in the poaching liquid for this, or they will be soggy) and I have been using them as a type of seafood sausage for breakfast. Just toss them in a skillet with some ghee or olive oil and brown them well on all sides. If you are suffering from breakfast boredom, these will really help.
- 1 pound raw, wild shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup coconut cream (the solid part from the top of a can of coconut milk), or heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons coconut flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- fish or chicken stock, for poaching
- Place all of your ingredients except the stock in a food processor, and pulse until the mixture is fairly smooth. You may have to scrape down the sides once or twice to get an even consistency. Refrigerate the mixture for a half hour.
- In a deep skillet or a wok pan, heat about a quart of stock to a simmer--you want at least two inches of liquid to be able to poach the quenelles. When the stock comes to a simmer, use two spoons to form the shrimp mixture into quenelles, and drop them into the stock. Repeat until you have a total of 8 or 9 quenelles. Let them simmer for 6-8 minutes, turning them once. Do not let the stock boil, just keep it at a simmer.
- Once the quenelles are cooked through, either drain them well before storing them for another use, or add lightly steamed vegetables to the pot and serve hot as a soup course.
While these are slightly fussy to make, it is easy to double the recipe and enjoy them in different ways over the course of a week. They are also great topped with a mushroom sauce and heated under a broiler. It’s definitely a fun project when you have the time to play with your food.
Thanks for reading,