Saturday, December 8, 2007

Vol au vents

or in English, "full of wind" --- are little puff pastry shells, filled typically with a savoury filling, and eaten warm as a canape or hors d'oeuvre. Growing up in the sixenventies, I remember them being one of the better party foods, and in the UK they were really easy to make --- buy the shells, and fill them.
Here, it's a little more difficult: Pepperidge farm does sell shells, but they are much larger (six to a pack) than the ones I made --- from about the same amount of puff pastry, I made 20 shells, so they are about one third of the size of the commercial ones. Unfold the pastry, and with an inch and a half scalloped pastry-or-scone-or-cookie cutter (the sharper the edge the better!) cut out 40 rounds. Now, with a one inch cutter, cut out the middles of half the rounds. Brush the uncut rounds with water, place the cut rounds (middles and all) on top, and bake for 15 minutes or so in a preheated 400 F oven, until fully puffed and golden in colour.
After they come out of the oven, let them cool for a few minutes, remove the middle top (the bit that was cut out and replaced earlier). Fill with a creamy chicken or mushroom sauce.

For the filling, I sauted some diced onion, celery and carrots, and some minced garlic until they started to caramelize: I added this to a pot with some chicken breasts and thighs and a lot of water, some thyme, peppercorns and bay, and brought it to a boil, reduced to a simmer, and simmered about an hour: took the meat off the bones, replaced the bones in the liquid and simmered another several hours. I strained the stock and reduced it to a cup or so of liquid. I diced some more carrots, celery and onions, sauted them, and added them to the reduced stock, and simmered for a half an hour. I shredded the chicken, added to the mix, and also added half a cup of heavy cream.

The whole mixture should be very moist, but not as liquid as a stew. Spoon about a tablespoonful of the mix into each shell, replace its hat, and serve. You can do almost everything ahead of time: cut the shells out days ahead and refreeze, bake an hour or two before serving: the filling can be made a day or two ahead: just add the cream at the last minute, and don't fill more than half an hour or so ahead of serving them. They are good hot or warm, but you don't want them to get cold.

Eat with your fingers, but have a napkin ready, to dry the fingers after you lick them clean:-)

Yours, full of it,

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