Lyon (Rhône)-Le Grand Colombier (Ain), 09/13/2020

Another arrival at the top of a 5,000 feet summit in the Jura, and another win by the white jersey (best youth) Tadej Pogačar just followed by the yellow jersey Primož Roglič, both from Slovenia, and respectively first and second at the GC… As all their contenders lost time, if not a lot of time (7 minutes for the last year winner Egan Bernal),  it is more and more likely that Slovenia will win the Tour and make 1 and 2!!!  This would be historical, although a less populated country, Luxembourg (600,000 inhabitants, vs. 2,000,000 for Slovenia) already placed two of its citizens on the TdF podium (the Schleck brothers in 2011). However, as the Alps are still to climb (or exactly to climb again) and to come back to a food topic, let us not count the chickens before they are hatched.

Talking about chickens, the arrival département, named Ain (pronounce “un”, like “1”, its number appearing on the car plaques), is famous for its Poulets de Bresse, the Rolls-Royce of chickens… or rather the Bugatti (a French car make) as they are recognizable by their blue (legs), white (plumage) and red (crest) colors. Other specialties of the region’s many lakes and rivers are the red-leg crayfish and the Northern pike which both gave rise to an iconic Lyon’s dish, the “pike dumplings with a crayfish sauce”, aka quenelle de brochet sauce Nantua.

The history of this dish is interesting. Quenelles, i.e. a starch dough ball poached in a broth has been known since a very long time ago. For instance, they were referred to by Apicius. They were introduced in the East of France and therefore the Lyon’s area by German cooks (hence the name quenelle deriving from the German Knödel that gave the English word “noodle”). The Lyon’s people got the idea to mix this dough with fish meat, and in particular pike meat. The truth is that pike has a very delicate taste, but it is full of bones! Therefore, grinding it and mixing it with a dough appeared as a great way to enjoy it. For any reason, the pâtissiers (pastry shop owners) obtained the monopoly of this preparation that was very much appreciated by the Lyon’s families on Sunday mornings after the mass. At this time, quenelles also incorporated beef lard and as a consequence, they were quite rich and heavy! Till the charcutiers got the idea to replace the lard by butter or cream, so ending the pâtissiers’ monopoly…    

Although I am neither a pâtissier nor a charcutier, pike dumplings with a crayfish sauce was my yesterday stage’s dish… or “some kind of” as I obviously found no Northern pike and no (live) red-leg crayfish in the Cleveland area! Walleye (I think it is sometimes named walleye pike) is a fish similar to the Northern pike, with apparently much less bones. Finding a substitute for the crayfish was less obvious, but lobster brings an equivalent rich and delicate taste. As a matter of fact, I discovered afterwards that a lot of recipes online call for lobster instead of crayfish…

The recipe principle is simple and consists in: (1) making a panade, i.e. a dough involving butter, flour, milk (or water) and eggs similar to a pâte à chou, (2) mixing it with the previously ground and sieved (the bones, always) pike meat (because of the bones, of course!), some butter or crème fraîche, and some eggs again, (3) keeping the whole in the fridge for several hours, (4) shaping the quenelles with two big tablespoons and poaching them in boiling water or a broth, (5) making a sauce with a crayfish butter (or optionally a crayfish bisque), (6) baking the quenelles with the sauce, and (5) serving the whole with a white Burgundy… This is the theory. In practice, every cook has its own version, regarding the combination of eggs, egg whites or egg yolks, the proportion of ingredients in the panade (this is definitively no more an accurately measured pâtissier dish), the incorporation of butter, clarified butter or crème fraîche in the quenelle, the use or not of a roux in the sauce, etc.

The recipe proposed here results from my personal synthesis of all those options and combinations… As it was beyond excellent, I validated it!!! 

* During the Tour de France, combining two of my passions, biking and cooking, I will try to present (almost) every day a recipe from the route followed by the peloton.

Levels of difficulty








60 minutes

>12 hours

120 minutes

Ingredients 4 servings


§  200cl milk

§  65g of butter

§  120g of flour

§  3 eggs + 2 yolks*

§  Salt

§  White pepper

§  Nutmeg


§  250g of skinned walleye filet

§  350g of panade (see above)

§  2 eggs + 2 whites*

§  3 tbsp crème fraîche

§  S&P


§  1 living (preferably female) lobster for the broth

§  1 carrot, chopped

§  1 celery stem, chopped

§  ½ big or 1 medium red onion, chopped

§  50g butter (to sauté the lobster shells)

§  A shot of Cognac

§  A glass of dry white wine

§  Herbs (sage, bay leaves…)

§  ¼ gallon of water

§  4 tbsp of tomato coulis

§  Pepper or piment d'Espelette as per your taste

§  50g butter (to make a roux)

§  50g flour

§  4 tbsp of heavy cream

Final step:

§  2 garlic cloves, crushed

* I.e. a total of 7 eggs



§  Pour the flour on the heated butter and mix vigorously till obtaining a dry mixture

§  Add in one shot the milk and simmer over medium or so while whisking regularly till obtaining a thicker mixture

§  Simmer for 1-2 additional minutes to fully cook the flour and take off the burner

§  Add one by one the eggs and yolks while stirring vigorously

§  Add the salt, pepper and grated nutmeg

§  Spread on a flat dish, cover with a transparent film, and let it cool down to room temperature 


§  Chop and grind the walleye filets

§  Add 350g of the panade and mix it with the ground walleye

§  Add the eggs, the whites, the crème fraîche and S&P, and mix the whole

§  Blend the whole rapidly in a high-speed blender (Vitamix) to obtain a smooth texture, which should avoid sieving it

§  Spread on a flat dish, cover with a transparent film, and let it cool down in the fridge for at least a couple of hours


§  Plunge the lobster alive in salted boiling water for 1 minute. Keep the water to poach the quenelle

§  Remove the head and the claws from the tail, and separate the elbows from the claws

§  Reserve the tail and the claws in the fridge

§  Cut the head in two parts, remove, and pitch the stomach (the little pouch looking like plastic) and the gills that bring bitterness,

§  Crush the heads, the elbows, and the legs, recuperating the precious liquid, coral and tomalley that may leak

§  Heat 50g of butter in a pan or Dutch oven over medium, add the carrot, celery, and onion, and sweet them for a few minutes

§  Add the head, elbows and legs and sauté over medium-high for a few minutes

§  Flambé with the Cognac

§  Add the white wine and let it boil a minute to eliminate the alcohol

§  Add the herbs, the piment, the coulis and part of the water

§  Let it reduce, lid on, for a few hours, then keep it in the fridge (ideally) overnight

§  The following day (or a few hours later), re-heat the lobster broth and let it reduce for 1 additional hour

§  Strain the broth, reserve it, and keep the big pieces of shell

§  Make a roux with the butter and the flour, and add the heavy cream till the whole thickens

§  Add the necessary quantity of lobster broth and whisk regularly

§  Adjust the seasoning and reserve

Final step:

§  Take the water used to poach the living lobster, drop the lobster shells set aside and the garlic cloves in the water, and put to boil

§  When the water boils, let it simmer, and take the walleye quenelle dough out of the fridge

§  With a big spoon (I like to use service spoon, bigger than tablespoon) plunged in the hot water, shape an oval-shaped quenelle, and plunge it delicately in the simmering water. Repeat the operation till you have no more dough. The quenelles will float on the surface after around 1 minute

§  Let simmer for around 30 minutes, flipping over the quenelles after 15 minutes

§  Recuperate the quenelles and let them drip for around 5 minutes

§  While the quenelles are dripping, take the claws and the tail* that you had kept in the fridge and poach them in the hot water

§  Pour generously (1/2 cm at least) the sauce in a serving dish or individual dishes, place the quenelle(s) in the dish(es) and bake at 350F for around 20 minutes. 5 minutes before the end, pour some sauce on the quenelles to coat them

§  Remove the poached claws and tails out of their shells

§  Take quenelles out of the oven, and place a claw or a tail medallion on top of each of them

§  WOW!