Last week’s ugly mystery fish head didn’t remain a mystery for long, and anyone familiar with freshwater fishing will have known that it was pike. Luccio, as it’s called here, is prepared in various first and second courses but oddly enough, the only preparation that I was familiar with happened to be the very time-consuming and very french quenelles de brochet. Done right, they are the lightest fish dumplings that you could sink your teeth into.
I should state that I’ve only made quenelles once, and that was a long time ago in cooking school. The ones we made were egg-size since the main goal was to master shaping the oval dumplings using two spoons. I don’t believe we worked with a fish mixture either (could’ve been chicken) because pike is not readily available in Hawaii.
The recipe that I used comes from Gilt Taste (update: unfortunately the link was removed) and I messed something up when cutting ingredient amounts down to 2/3rds. The mixture turned out very light and wobbly like half-set gelatin, making it more tricky to shape into larger 4-ounce portions as instructed. Still, the quenelles held together when gently slid into the poaching liquid and they turned out light and ethereal like those I’ve had in France.
Pike fish comes cleaned and scaled at the fishmonger. The flesh is lean and firm, but it has a lot of bones that need to be picked out with tweezers. I was able to get both quenelles and risotto out of this 700 gram tail-end section.
Poaching quenelles in salted water. Pike, panade (a dough “binder” of flour, butter and egg), eggs, cream and seasonings go into the mixture.
I used a can of Sauce Nantua instead of the lobster bisque mentioned in the recipe. Easiest thing ever since all I had to do was heat and pour over the quenelles. This sauce is part of the Albert Ménès line of gourmet items [http://www.albertmenes.fr] and is made from milk, cream, fish stock, evoo, herbs, saffron, crayfish, butter, white wine, seasonings and spices. I picked this up in France last June.