Quenelles (pronounced without the 's') hails from Lyon, in the Rhone-Alps region of France. It's a savoury dumpling that's made with a base of chicken, flour (a vegetarian version of quenelles that apparently came about due to war-time food shortages), or, most traditionally, from fish.
I'd only heard of quenelles after my move to France, when my boyfriend introduced me to the store-bought, ready-made variety. I thought that they were delicious and liked how versatile they were, but I didn't like that they were made in a factory out of ingredients I had no control over. So I decided to learn how to make them myself.
And here we have it. There was a bit of trial and error in that at the beginning, I erred toward cooking the dumplings for too long (because no one ever said "I want salmonella") but, as I've lessened the cooking time, my quenelles have become much more tender.
Quenelles might look intimidating, but they're really quite easy to make. Why not try something new? Give it a go and let me know how you went!
Quenelles de Poulet
- 2 chicken breasts, all fat trimmed off and roughly cubed
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp of grated parmesan
- 1 cup of heavy cream or créme fraîche
- 1 tbsp nutmeg (or more or less to suit taste)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 litre of chicken stock
How to make quenelles
- In a big bowl, place the cubed chicken breast, egg, parmesan, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
- Using a stick blender (or a MixMaster or equivalent), begin to blend the ingredients together.
- Add the cream, bit by bit, until the ingredients have combined into a dense, souffle-like mix. Place it in the fridge until you need it.
- In a saucepan, heat the chicken stock until it's gently boiling.
- Once the stock is ready, remove the quenelles mix from the fridge. It's time to shape them!
- To shape: take two tablespoons and transfer a spoonful of mixture from spoon to spoon, again and again, and you'll quickly see a three-sided, football shaped dumpling take form. If that confuses you, watch this 30 second quenelles making demonstration for clarification.
- Drop the quenelles into the bubbling stock and poach them for 2 and a half to three minutes. Remove them from the liquid with a slitted spatula or spoon and let them drain in a strainer.
It's best to poach these quenelles in little batches, say, 3-4 at a time, otherwise you might end up overcooking some of them.
Baked Chicken Quenelles in Mushroom Leek Sauce
- 1 small-medium brown onion, finely chopped
- half a leek, sliced into moons
- 2 cups of mushrooms, halved and sliced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- fresh parsley leaves
- salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 cup of milk
- 1 cup of cream
- grated parmesan (or other hard cheese)
- In a pan, add the olive oil and butter. After the butter has melted, added the onions. Cook on a low-medium heat until they're beginning to look translucent.
- Add the leek and mushrooms, salt and pepper, combine, and cook, turning often, until they've softened.
- Sprinkle in the flour, little by little, integrating it with a spatula or whisk the whole time.
- Now add the milk, little by little, and like with the flour, integrate it into the mix with a spatula or whisk.
- Add the cream and parsley leaves and combine.
- Remove from heat and stir in the egg yolk.
- Spoon some of the mix into a heat-proof dish, layer on the quenelles, and then spoon the remainder of the mix on top of the quenelles.
- Sprinkle grated cheese on top.
- Place the dish in your broiler (or the highest shelf of your oven with the setting changed so that all the heat coming from the top) for five minutes or until the cheese has melted and started to brown.
- Serve straight away with a baguette and roast vegetables or salad.