Episode 110: Easy and Elegant Seafood
Recipe: Escoffier Quenelles (with Mushroom Sauce)
A quenelle is an oval-shaped dumpling and can be made with fish, meat, liver, or poultry. Firm and airy — moist, dense, and light at the same time — these quenelles are made with white fish, heavy cream, and egg whites. They are perfect as a main course at a special dinner.
Since the albumin in the fish holds the quenelle mixture together, you need a species that is high in albumin and as fresh as possible. Albumin contracts when cold and, for that reason, all the ingredients should be cold so the mixture stays firm and tight. Whiting has a tender, soft flesh, while lemon sole contains plenty of albumin, so the two fish work well together. Any fresh white-fleshed fish can be tried in combination, according to availability and one’s taste.
The sauce is made with a puree of mushrooms, but other garnishes, like sliced mushrooms, tomatoes, and herbs can be substituted. The quenelles can be served individually or home-style in a gratin dish.
Serves 15 as a first course, 4 as a main course
8 ounces skinless lemon sole fillets
8 ounces skinless whiting fillets
1 large egg white
1 1/4 cups very cold heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 pound fish bones
1/2 cup sliced onion
1/2 cup sliced leek (including some green)
1/2 cup sliced celery
1 bay leaf
1 fresh thyme sprig
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups water
5 ounces mushrooms, cleaned
1 1/2 cups reduced fish stock (from above)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon arrowroot or potato starch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
FOR THE QUENELLES: Chill the bowl of a food processor. Make sure the fish are very cold.
Process the fish in the food processor until pureed. With the machine on, slowly add the cream in a thin stream, mixing until incorporated. Add the salt and pepper and process for 20 seconds, to tighten the mixture.
Transfer to a bowl and chill, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil, then reduce to just a simmer; the water should be at least 2 inches deep. Using a large serving spoon, scoop up some of the quenelle mixture, pressing it against the side of the bowl to smooth the top. (Each quenelle should weigh about 2 ounces, and you should have at least 8.) Place a second serving spoon against the side of the mounded mixture and slide it underneath to lift up the quenelle and shape it further. Scoop up the quenelle with the other spoon again and let it drop into the hot water. Repeat the process to make more quenelles. The water should remain at about 180 degrees. (If the water boils, the quenelles will cook too fast and expand, which they should not do during this first cooking.) Poach for about 12 minutes, turning them over after 5 to 6 minutes.
When they are cooked, remove the quenelles with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl of ice-cold water. When they are cold, after about 30 minutes, drain the quenelles, arrange them on a tray, cover, and refrigerate.
FOR THE STOCK: Combine the fish bones, onion, leek, celery, bay leaves, thyme, pepper, white wine, and water in a stainless steel saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and boil gently for 20 minutes. Strain the stock through a fine strainer into another saucepan. (You should have approximately 1 1/2 cups.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
FOR THE SAUCE: Process the mushrooms in the food processor until finely chopped. Add to the fish stock, along with the cream, salt, pepper and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes.
Add the dissolved arrowroot to the sauce, stir, and bring to a boil again to thicken; set aside.
Arrange the quenelles in a gratin dish and coat with the warm sauce. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until puffy and hot; shake the dish after 10 minutes to be sure the quenelles are not sticking to the bottom.
Copyright © 2011 by Jacques Pépin. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.