In our Basics series, we tackle the simple kitchen tasks; no job is so small that it doesn't deserve to be done perfectly.
Quenelles are an easy way to upgrade your plating and give your dishes an elegant touch; nothing screams, "I put a lot of effort into this meal," like a perfectly smooth, egg-shaped dollop of ice cream or mousse on the dessert plate. It's pretty easy to do once you get the hang of it, and you can then use the technique to shape components for both sweet and savory plates: ice cream, mousses, whipped cream, sorbets, pâtés, tapenades, or just about anything that will take and hold the shape.
You're after a smooth egg shape with slightly pointed ends—some cooks prefer to use two spoons, and some quenelle with just one; you can use whichever technique you find most comfortable. When making quenelles out of cold foods like ice cream, it's sometimes helpful to run a little hot water over the spoon to heat it before scooping. Try lots of different spoons to see which you like best for the job—plenty of cooks, once they've mastered the technique, find themselves obsessively searching out and hoarding perfect quenelling spoons.
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