"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Friday, July 11, 2008

Pike Quenelles with White Wine-Mushroom Cream Sauce

Do you want to know what?

I am completely astonished that this recipe is not on Epicurious.

French technique, both the quenelles and the sauce. It seems the epitome of what Gourmet is all about (OK, used to be all about--not so French-centric anymore).

But the only thing a search for "quenelles" turns up is one lonely recipe for Scallop Quenelles with Gingered Tomato Sauce, reviewed by only three people (one of whom hated it).

So what that means (I think) is that this recipe never appeared in the magazine and when the editors put the book together it was either somebody's family favorite or came from some other source, though it's not attributed.

Anyway--people, quenelles are COOL. I first saw a chef making them when a guy came up from Maison Robert to try out for the head chef job at Yanks. You put something pasty in a soup spoon and use another spoon to make an egg shape.

My quenelles did not look as three-dimensional as that but I tried hard. I have to study his technique, maybe.

Now, it's time to backtrack a little bit and tell you that 1. I didn't use pike, I used haddock 2. I didn't read the directions carefully and poured the cream into the food processor with everything else (the idea is you're making kind of a fish mousse that you'll then gently poach) and so 3. I was totally worried that I had screwed it up and 4. then I was completely irritated because adding the cream meant I had that much more material to push through the sieve and I HATE pushing anything but soups through sieves because it takes TEN THOUSAND YEARS.

I was so worried and irritated that I only took one picture. Here are my quenelles gently poaching:

When I tasted my quenelles, I was a little underwhelmed, so that just added to my worry factor.

But then, the sauce. Mmmmmmmmmm.

Actually, I lied when I said the sauce uses French technique, because I'm pretty sure classic French chefs would frown on arrowroot as a thickener, which I've never used but is now my favorite because your sauce will never ever break. Why? Because it acts like cornstarch but doesn't have that weird cornstarch texture.

So the sauce is mmmmmmm because it has wine, shallots, cream, mushrooms, and a little Cognac. It's supposed to have fish stock too, but mine had chicken stock.

This was the last dinner before K. and L. left Sea Meadow and I wanted to make something kind of fancy for them, since they are an appreciative audience. K. was thrilled and impressed that I had made quenelles, and they all loved the dish.

I can't help it, I get off on external validation. Who doesn't?


GilaB said...

I think that recipes are only on epicurious if they were published in the magazines after Gourmet had a website, at some point in the mid-nineties. Pike quenelles sounds like something they could have published fifty years ago.

Melissa Bach Palladino said...

Doesn't it though? It's totally a fifties-style recipe, though the technique still seems to be very much in use. Maybe we'll spark a revival here. :-)

ERIN said...

I have to say I am excited about getting quenelles the recognition they deserve. As an American at University in France I was bewildered by this item; until I tried it! I became a quenelle addict. I traveled to Lyon for a 3 binge. Now back in MN, I have taken up the sport of fishing for Northern Pike. I enjoy the fight of the fish and the deliciousness on my plate! Although, I normally prepare my quenelles in a traditional Nantua sauce, I am going to give this white wine-mushroom version a whirl this evening.