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Quenelles

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Tom Armitage Jan 31, 2000 08:51 PM

A mention of pike quenelles over on the International Board brought back a fond memory of the pike quenelles I had at the now extinct Mirabeau Restaurant in Seattle in the early 70's. Ethereally light but intensely flavorful, they were a revelation. Alas, I never see quenelles on menus these days, at least not at the places I have been frequenting lately. Where in the United States do I go to repeat my Seattle experience?

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  1. d
    Dena Jan 31, 2000 10:38 PM

    Tom, I don't think I've seen quenelles on a menu in New York since the late 60s! If I knew where to have them here at home, I wouldn't "have to" go to Paris for them! You'll probably have to resort to making them yourself. Do you cook? There is a recipe in Andre Soltner's Lutece Cookbook, as well as recipes for the lobster sauce or bechamel they bake in. I can't legally stick the recipe in here, but the book was published by Knopf in 1997, so I'm sure it's easily available. Looks like a weekend project.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Dena
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      Tom Armitage Feb 1, 2000 12:44 AM

      Yes, I'm an avid (my wife prefers the adjective "obsessive") cook. I have the Lutece cookbook, as well as recipes for quenelles in other cookbooks, and have even prepared them, though not recently. All this talk about quenelles will probably inspire me to prepare them again, and soon! But wouldn't it be nice if we could find some restaurants that prepared them, and did it well, as an option to having to prepare them ourselves? If I discover any restaurants serving quenelles, you can be sure I'll post my discovery.

    2. j
      j gold Feb 1, 2000 05:35 AM

      Quenelles de brochet seem to be on the cusp of a comeback. A quite decent version is on the menu at Bistro Jeanty in Yountville, the restaurant that also sparked the current crepes Suzette renaissance...and of course, it never left the menu at La Caravelle here in New York, where it has been a classic since Ike was president. The reason the dish disappeared from swank menus--the formerly labor-intensive dish became extremely easy to make when Cuisinarts came into general use, and thus lost most of its snob appeal--has almost faded from memory.

      6 Replies
      1. re: j gold
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        Tom Armitage Feb 1, 2000 12:03 PM

        Hope you're right about the comeback, Jonathan. After I posed the question, I did a little surfing on the web. In addition to La Caravelle, I discovered that La Chaumiere in Washington, D.C., Jeannier's at Broadview in Baltimore, and Bouchon in Los Angeles all have, or at least at one time had, quenelles de brochet on their menus. I've not been to Bouchon, but one Los Angeles reviewer declared the quenelles there as "just okay." In addition, salmon quenelles are (or were) available at Petrossian and Chanterelle in NYC. My web search turned up quenelles using lots of other ingredients, including pork, duck, and goat cheese. But it was the classic pike quenelles in lobster sauce that I was referring to in my original post.

        1. re: Tom Armitage
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          Jill Feb 1, 2000 01:41 PM

          Quenelles as in fancy-shmancy gefilte fish? That's what "pike quenelles" scream to me!

          .and labor intensive, indeed! My little Jewish grandmother never gave into food processors - 'til the day she died, she chopped her fish (whitefish and pike) in a wooden bowl with a single blade chopper...

          1. re: Jill
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            Dena Feb 1, 2000 03:04 PM

            Jill, there's a huge difference (and also a very basic similarity, I must admit) between quenelles and gefilte fish. At least my grandmother's gefilte fish. It's like comparing chopped liver to foie gras mousse!
            All this talk of quenelles is leading me to attempt making them this weekend. (Fortunately, I have both a food mill and a food processor.) If I do, and if I succeed, I'll report back. If they're no good, I'll keep it to myself!

            1. re: Dena
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              Alan Divack Feb 1, 2000 08:08 PM

              The similarity is also etymological. Quenelle basically means dumpling, as does knaidl in Yiddish. These are both cognate with the German knoedel -- I would not even venture a guess as to which came first.

              The fish balls that we now identify as gefilte fish are referred to in Yiddish as knaidl -- a haimishe riff on quenelle. Alas, the knaidl is all we usually get nowadays. Originally, the mixture used to make the knaidl was what was left over after the fish was stuffed, or gefilte.

              In the race with a quenelle, I'll take the knaidl, and certainly a real gefilte fisch any day.

              1. re: Alan Divack
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                Stefany B. Feb 1, 2000 10:08 PM

                To the best of my knowledge, which I admit may be limited, knaidl are matzoballs not gefilte fish. Now, maybe, anything of that sort of boiled dumpling can be called a knaidl but I never heard gefilte fish balls referred to as knaidl. I do know that gefilte means stuffed and that that is how it was originally prepared (inside the fish). As far as quenelles go I would like to be gefilte with quenelles as soon as possible.

                1. re: Stefany B.
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                  Alan Divack Feb 2, 2000 08:27 PM

                  Knaidl is actually generic for a biggish dumpling, and in the US has come to be associated almost exclusively with the matzo ball, its most common form. But it is also used to refer to the ball of fish forcemeat that are known (somewhat incorrectly) as gefilte fish. The older folks in my family always used knaidl to refer to the fish dumpling, as in choosing between a kopf and a knaidle from the platter. Knaidl was less commonly used to refer to fish with each generation, which makes me thing that the usage of the seniors was legitimate, and that we all just narrowed the meaning after a while.

                  A side point, the matzo ball as we know it is actually a fairly recent development, from around the 1930s. It wasn't at all common until commercial matzo meal was widely available. Before that, the knaidl were more like bready German dumplings. German Jews still make matzo kloesse, which are much better with a braten than with soup.

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