Aux Lyonnais Quenelles of Fish with Nantua Sauce
One of my must-go-to Bistros in Paris is Aux Lyonnais which is located in the second arrondissement. The restaurant, of course, is dedicated to celebrating the cuisine of Lyon. I love to go to this restaurant, because you can get a three course meal for around 35 Euro, considering of course that the restaurant is owned by Alain Ducasse, one of the most highly decorated Michelin starred and influential chefs in the world. The one dish that I fell in love with on my first trip (which I continue to order on every visit) is the Quenelles of Fish in Nantua Sauce. In fact, if you look at one of my very first posts here, you will see the dish and how it was served.
The quenelles are poached fish dumplings usually made from pike (a speciality of the Lyon region). The dish is baked in the oven to finish but not before a rich and creamy bisque (usually made from crayfish) like sauce is poured generously over the mousse like dumplings.
I like to think of myself as pretty smart and resourceful. When you have the internet at your finger tips, its easy to search for recipe you want to try and recreate. So I searched high and low for the Aux Lyonnais Quenelle recipe but with no success!
The thing is, sometimes, it’s better to be lucky that smart!
I had given up hopes of ever making this recipe one day until I browsed through the Coco Cookbook and realized that the Quenelles were a featured recipe! The recipe is of David Rathgeber who headed the Aux Lyonnais kitchen. It was by pure luck that I opened the cookbook and the page I landed on showed a picture of the beautiful quenelles! I said to myself, they look familiar and sure enough, here was the recipe from Aux Lyonnais!
Finally, leave it to husbands to give you compliments in a weird sort of way. When he asked me what we were eating, I explained we were having quenelles of fish. He said:
“What is a quenelle?”
“Like a fish patty” I said, trying to think of the closest thing that he could relate to.
As he polished off the last dumpling, he said, “I don’t think you made the recipe correctly. These fish patties aren’t like the patties I’ve tried before. I feel like I am eating a cloud.”
Well, considering that he finished the whole lot – I considered it confirmation that I had made the recipe correctly!
Recipe – Adapted from Coco, recipe from David Rathgeber
Quenelles of Fish in Nantua Sauce (the recipe serves six but I simply halved the recipe)
For the quenelles
- 750 grams pike fillets, skinned (I used ling fish as I couldn’t find pike)
- 350 ml light cream
- 150 grams butter, softened
- 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk
- salt and pepper
- Bone the pike fillets, process in a food processor and then add the cream, eggs, egg yolks and butter. Beat until smooth and add salt and pepper.
- Cover the bowl with clingfilm and rest in the refrigerator for 12 hours.
- Bring a large pan of water to a boil, add some salt and then reduce the heat to 80C.
- Shape the fish mixture into quenelles between 2 large spoons and place them in the water to cook (over a low heat) for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Carefully remove the quenelles and drain.
- Store in a cool place.
For the crayfish (see note below)
- 15 crayfish
- olive oil for frying
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- sprigs of parsley
- 200 ml cognac
- Remove the intestines from the crayfish, also removing the heads and tails to use separately.
- Heat the oil in the pan and sear the tails with the garlic and parsley.
- Remove from the heat and deglaze with the cognac and rest for 5 minutes.
- Remove the tails and peel them, leaving the last ring of shell attached. Set aside.
- Strain through a sieve the cooking liquid.
For the sauce
- Olive oil for frying
- 1 onion, cut into 3 mm cubes
- 1 celery stark, cut into 3 mm cubes
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- sprigs of parsley, chopped
- 25 grams butter
- 100 ml cognac
- 150 ml white wine
- 3 ripe tomatoes, quartered
- 1 stalk of fennel, chopped
- salt and white pepper
- Heat the oil and add the crayfish heads. Cook for 5 minutes until brown.
- Add the onions, celery, garlic and parsley and butter and sweat the vegetables for 5 minutes.
- Deglaze with the cognac and the white wine, then flambe the pan.
- Add the tomates and fennel and cook for 1 hour over gentle heat, adjusting the seasoning if necessary.
To finish the dish
- 500 ml light cream
- Preheat the oven to 140C.
- Arrange the quenelles in an ovenproof dish and add half the crayfish cooking liquid, so that the quenelles are half covered. Bake for 20 minutes, until slightly rise.
- In a pan, gently heat the remaining cooking liquid, with the cream, adding the crayfish tails to in.
- Remove the quenelles from the oven and pour the cream sauce and crayfish tails to it.
Note: I didn’t have crayfish but I had a frozen bag of prawn heads and tails which I used for the sauce. Whenever I am preparing prawns, I will keep the heads and tails (raw) in a bag in the freezer and in recipes such as this, comes very handy.
I’ve also typed out the recipe pretty much as it was in the book but note that I didn’t use crayfish (as mentioned above). However, I think if you don’t have access to crayfish, you can also use prawns or lobster.
Lastly, the recipe is long and involves many processes. Trust me, it is worth it. This is bistro cooking at its finest!
Coco Cookbook is published by Phaidon.