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Queenies, Queries & Quenelles

Queenies come from all walks of life. Some love to shop. Some live to rule. Others take leisure. And some like to cook—and eat (mostly eat). This is a story about the latter.

I blame my parents. They like to eat. It’s not completely their fault, though. They were born and raised in New Orleans, where eating good food is something of a competitive sport. Thankfully, my sisters and I grew up eating great food. And it was our father, oddly enough, that made the most unconventional dishes—the ones that are as cumbersome to pronounce as they are to prepare. He was the weekend gourmet—and the reason his daughters will tackle just about anything in the kitchen.

I remember well the Cannelloni, a two day project when you consider the time it takes to make the pasta from scratch. Our dad cleared the wood bar of all small appliances, covered it with a fine sprinkling of flour, and set to work rolling out thin sheets of handmade pasta. The sheets turned into small squares that were filled with a flavorful mixture of spinach, meat and chicken livers (I know), and rolled into logs, which were carefully lined up in a baking dish. It was not unusual for him to quadruple a recipe when they were having a dinner party. By the time we’d meander into the kitchen there would be four good-sized baking pans full of these edible logs, and he’d be busy preparing the besciamella sauce. And, I might add, he’s not the least bit Italian. Or Dutch, even though he made the occasional Dutch Baby.

Then there were the Greek years. He’s not Greek either, but we had Moussaka and Avgolemono until we thought it was a perfectly normal thing to do. I was in high school before I realized not everyone ate like this—or that most dads didn’t know their way around a cookbook. Sometimes he’d whip up a batch of Avgolemono after work—just because lemon, egg and rice soup was delicious. We learned to love to eat.

Yesterday, I queried my sisters. “What was the most unusual dish you remember Dad making?” They both answered back the same thing, which I thought was really weird. I had completely forgotten about the Thanksgiving he deboned a full grown turkey. It’s not the kind of operation you want to witness first thing in the morning either. Your dad’s greasy hands and forearms rummaging around inside a floppy twenty-something-pound turkey—and a sad heap of its bones on a platter next to it.

I was reminded that the stuffed turkey arrived at its Thanksgiving destination somewhat flattened out, as one would if it were missing all of its bones. It more resembled a roast pig than the traditional holiday bird. Our dad pushed on both ends of his creation until the drumsticks popped back into place, plumped it here and there, and proudly declared it a Galantine.

A note on the Galantine: One sister included in her reply email that she thought Dad called his deboned turkey a “guillotine.” After an exhaustive Google search (did you know that Louis the XVI and Marie Antoinette were the first royals to try out the newfangled invention in 1793?), I turned to Julia Child. Yes, I admit to having swiped our dad’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volumes I and II, from the family library. And, thanks to my sister’s better memory than mine, I learned something new today—that I should have listened a little harder.

But. I remember one dish above all others, probably because he made it only once. Quenelles. Think floating chicken. Imagine taking ordinary chicken parts, deboning them (yes,again), pureeing that, and gingerly folding the results into stiffened egg whites. Using two spoons, he fashioned egg-shaped mounds and ever so carefully dropped them into a simmering broth. It didn’t take long for the chickeny pillows to float to the surface. Because Quenelles are French, like half of my dad, they are served under a blanket of buttery sauce.

Like me, my dad came to cooking and baking naturally. His father immigrated from Santander, a picturesque city on the northern coast of Spain, in the late 1800s. He ran a bakery in Algiers, across the Mississippi River from New Orleans, where I’m told his French bread was the best in town. My dad grew up in that bakery. He’s the little boy in the picture, holding hands with his father.

Dad always said we have flour in our blood. And I believe him.

So what, you may be wondering, does all of this have to do with Queenies?

Well. It’s how a Queenie comes to be, how one learns to love to eat—and particularly how one learns to love to cook. You almost have to be born into it. And thankfully there is a place in the blogosphere where a few Queenies have gathered to share their love of all things cookery.

That place is Cuisine Queenies, and the bloggers are Queen Bee, Czarina, Queenopatra and QueenEase. They’re a little shy, but very soon you’ll get to know them. Cuisine Queenies is here.

Cuisine Queenies

Cui•sine Quee•nies [kwi zeen | kwee neez]

Queenies that like to cook—and eat (mostly eat)

  1. Queen Bee has a special challenge. She is made to cook on a Tappan Fabulous 400
  2. Czarina is put to task each and every day as she manages a Polish husband who thinks he’s Sicilian and insists she cook the foods of his “people”
  3. Queenopatra, Cleo of the Nile must find creative ways to use the abundance of fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs that appear on her counter each evening
  4. QueenEase strives to keep it down to one (one husband, one daughter, one dog, one cat, one hamster, one dozen jobs), and in cooking that means the fewer the ingredients the better to enjoy food’s own flavors

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