Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of quenelles. Anyone? Anyone? Yeah, me either, until a few days ago when I did my weekly Google search of “foods beginning with ___” (fill in the letter).
Because I’ve made too many quesadillas and quiches to count, and because I didn’t fancy going on a wild-goose (uhh, wrong bird…) chase all over town in search of quail eggs, I decided to pluck up the courage and make a [semi-] traditional quenelle.
The original quenelles were dumplings made of pureed meat or seafood and bound together with eggs and breadcrumbs. The recipes also called for large quantities of cream in the meat puree, as well as herbs and seasonings, and were then poached in water or broth. Often, a cream-based sauce was served over top.
Lovely. Not only were my arteries already yelling at me, but I had to cook meat. Again. Well okay, the last time was by choice, but I didn’t gain that much confidence from my pork tenderloin!
There aren’t that many accessible quenelle recipes out there anymore, mainly because the term “quenelle” now refers to the shape of the dumpling as well. It’s formed using two spoons, and it ends up looking like a three-sided egg (if eggs weren’t round and actually had edges). So I scoured the internet, trying to find a meat quenelle that I’d be willing to make, and finally chose chicken.
Problem. My chicken was slightly cold, having spent the last week in the freezer. Since I didn’t feel like defrosting it, I moved on to Plan B. Ground turkey had been on sale last week, and because I picked up a package on my way out, it seemed like the perfect meat to use in my quenelles, seeing as it would take less effort to puree.
Problem 2: I had no cream, and I was in no mood to go back out to the store. I researched acceptable substitutes, but once I realized that I was only making 1 serving and these recipes called for 2 cups of cream for 6-8 servings, I decided milk, with a little bit of Parmesan cheese for added fat and taste, would suit me just fine.
So there I was, after pureeing and allowing the meat to chill, attempting to shape the little guys. I felt like such a spoon klutz! The half-demented dumpling kept falling off my spoons, and I went through most of the meat before finally getting the spoon rhythm down. But watch out French chefs, I’m well on my way to becoming the best quenelle-shaper of the US!
I’ll be honest, poaching the quenelles made them look downright disgusting. They were the color of mystery meat from elementary school lunches, and I immediately began forming alternate dinner plans the second I pulled them out. But… Surprise! They tasted really good! Kind of like meatballs, just without the crisp outer browning. If served with a little tomato or cream sauce, no one will ever mistake these delicious dumplings for mystery meat.
makes 8-10 quenelles
I only chilled my meat paste for 1 hour, but if chilled longer, the paste becomes stiffer and easier to mold. Serve plain, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, or with a basic marinara sauce.
1 slice sourdough bread (or other white bread)
¼ lb ground turkey
1 egg white
½ tbsp milk
½ tsp grated Parmesan cheese
¼ tsp ground black pepper
¼ tsp salt
⅛ tsp dried basil
- Cut the bread into ½-inch cubes and pulse in a food processor until they become fine breadcrumbs. This takes a few minutes. Remove from food processor and set aside.
- Add turkey to food processor, and mix until a thick paste. Add the remaining ingredients, egg white through basil, and process again until smooth. Add the breadcrumbs and mix just until incorporated.
- Turn paste out into a bowl and chill, covered, in the refrigerator for 1-4 hours.
- Heat a large pot of salted water on the stove over medium heat. It should be simmering, but not boiling.
- Shape the quenelles using two of the exact same spoons. (It’s hard to describe how to do this, so watch this video.) Set shaped quenelles on wax paper.
- Once all the quenelles are formed, carefully add them to the simmering water. Cook for 10-12 minutes, until cooked all the way through. Remove them with a slotted spoon and set on a paper towel to soak up excess moisture. Serve immediately.