The mouth-watering, refined quenelle de Lyon indeed accounts for the culinary jewels of the Rhône-Alpes region. This subtle mousse cake called "quenelle" is traditionally made out with pike and served in a delicate, creamy Nantua sauce. These quenelles de brochet are definitely one of the reasons for Lyon's reputation when it comes to food and gastronomy in France!
The well-known quenelles from Lyon are famous for their delicate mousse consistency and subtle taste of fish. The word "quenelle" is believed to originate from the German "knödel" meaning dumpling, but the Lyon recette has actually no equivalent in other countries - and even in French gastronomy.
The quenelles de brochet indeed represent the authentic Lyonnais cooking, made out with really local ingredients amongst which pike, usually fished in Rhône-Alpes streams, and free-range eggs from the neighbouring French region of Bresse renowned for its quality poultry. Freshwater crayfish is another essential element of the quenelle dish since it composes the creamy Nantua sauce traditionally accompanying the pike dumplings.
Although Lyon cooking is - unduly - often considered as being rich and coarse, the typical quenelle's recipe requires precise techniques and know-how. The preparation is actually divided into three specific steps: the panade (smooth paste of eggs, butter and flour), the farce (panade mixed with diced fish fillet, butter and a touch of nutmeg) and finally the roll-shaped quenelles that are to be poached.
Some locals from Rhône-Alpes commonly serve the pike quenelles with a simple butter sauce, whilst French Chefs prefer to complement the dish with a refined lobster or crayfish Nantua cream.
The original recipe of Lyon's quenelle is assumed to have been created in 1830, according to Félix BENOIT's cooking guide (La Cuisine des Traboules). At that time, pikes abounded in the Rhône-Alpes region. Thanks to the pastry cook Charles Morateur, who decided to fill a dumpling with flesh of fish, Lyon's housewives got a new recipe to cook this freshwater fish.
The unflavoured dumpling, simply called quenelle, was mainly eaten during the World War II, provided meat and fish shortages.