You’ll often see quenelles on a French menu, and when you do, it usually connotes small poached dumplings made from pike. However, quenelles can be made from just about anything, since the term has come to refer primarily to the shape of a food. A quenelle, big or small, is shaped like a football — chubby in the middle and pointed at the ends. Forming quenelles isn’t hard, but it takes practice. (I practiced with mashed potatoes.) Take two tablespoons, scoop up a rounded spoonful of whatever you’re “quenelling” with one spoon, then run the edge of the other spoon under the food so that you transfer it from one spoon to the other (with a little snap of the wrist, which I’m not sure is absolutely necessary, but it’s the way most chefs work the motion). Do this a few times, transferring the food from spoon to spoon, and you should have a nicely shaped quenelle.

Dorie Greenspan