Not all French recipes originate in Paris. And actually, quenelles are not a dish that you will find easily on Parisian menus, because it is actually local to Lyon.
The capital of the Rhône Alps, Lyon in the middle of France, is considered the gastronomical capital of France. And it is from this region that quenelles originate.
Quenelles are a traditional mixture of dough, cream, egg yolk, and and sometimes pike fish. In Lyon, quenelles are enjoyed as an appetizer, starter, or as a main dish.
The quenelle is a sausage-shaped dough that is cooked in a creamy sauce. It is also sometimes served with other dishes, such as veal, rice and salad. The original recipe is believed to have been created in the 1800s, when the pike fish was abound in the Rhône-Alpes region.
The plain dumpling, simply called quenelle lyonnaise nature, was mainly eaten during the World War II when France was experiencing severe meat and fish shortages. Later, with many a Michelin-starred chef based in Lyon, including the legendary Paul Bocuse adding their own variations to it, the dish became famous all over France.
Now, I will admit that if you are in France and look on at a French website for a recipe for quenelles, they simply assume that you bought your quenelles at the local grocery store, not tried to prepare them themselves. Most French recipes assume you will buy them, add a sauce to it, and then stick it in the oven.
It was only when I tried to translate the recipe with my relatives in the U.S. that I realized that they couldn’t actually go buy quenelles at Whole Foods, they needed to prepare them themselves. And is it worth it? Oh yeah, this is definitely a favorite in our household!
Nature or Fish Quenelles
The traditional Quenelles de Brochet were made including fish into the blended dough pastry, usually pike fish. And the whole thing was topped off with a creamy shellfish, lobster, or crayfish Nantua sauce.
These days quenelles that you will find in French brasseries or restaurants come in other varieties such as nature, or topped with ham or mushrooms. And sauces vary from butter sauces, herbed sauces, béchamel or cream sauces.
Given that it is not always easy to find pike or crayfish, this recipe will prepare nature quenelles with cream sauce, but I will note where to add the pike as an optional ingredient if you want to follow the traditional Lyonnaise recipe.
Frequently asked questions
What to serve with quenelles?
If you are serving quenelles as a starter, you can follow it up with some cassoulet as a main.
As a dish that took off in popularity during food shortages, the quenelle is usually served with plain rice as a main dish.
However, if you want to add a bit more meat to the dish, you can add sausages or meatballs to your serving.
What drinks to serve with it?
Can you freeze it?
Yes, once you have prepared them in the dough pastry form (before cooking in the oven), you can freeze the quenelles in an airtight container in the freezer.
When you wish to use them, let them defrost in the fridge for a few hours before putting them in the oven to cook.
For 8 Quenelles
- 1 cup of water
- 3 tablespoons of butter
- Pinch of salt
- 175 g of flour (approximately 1 cup 1/4)
- 3 eggs
- (Optional) 250 to 300 g of white fish (eg. pike or merlu hake fish)
- (Optional) 4 slices of jambon cru
For the sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon of grated nutmeg
- 40cl of crème fraîche (2 cups of heavy cream)
- 1/2 cup of shredded gruyère cheese (or emmental)
- Add the water, butter and salt to a casserole pan and heat at a low temperature.
- When the butter is melted, add the flour, and cook for 10 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly.
- Off the heat, add the eggs and stir as the mixture is cooling.
- (Optional) Blend the fish in a blender, and then hand mix it into the dough mixture.
- Place the dough on a floured work surface and flour your hands.
- Once cool, take a portion of the dough with a spoon and and form small round sausages in a silicone mold tray.
- Put the quenelles in the fridge for a 1/2 hour or so that they hold together well.
- Remove the quenelles from the mold and place in a deep dish baking tray.
- (Optional) cut the strips of jambon cru in half and place each 1/2 on a quenelle.
- Cover the quenelles with the heavy cream, cheese and sprinkling of nutmeg.
- Place in the oven for 35 minutes.
- Serve warm.
The recipe assumes that each person will be served 2 quenelles. For additional quantities, please adjust portion sizes.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 32703Total Fat: 1435gSaturated Fat: 233gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 1006gCholesterol: 14645mgSodium: 12574mgCarbohydrates: 34gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 4607g
Note: We are not certified nutritionists and these estimates are approximate. Each individual’s dietary needs and restrictions are unique to the individual. You are ultimately responsible for all decisions pertaining to your health. This website is written and produced for informational purposes only.
If you enjoyed that, check out our other classic French recipes that are easy to prepare. Bon appétit and à bientôt !
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