9 April 2013


This weekend I made, what is considered a classic dish around these parts of the world i.e. vol-au-vent. Although technically, vol-au-vent is the name of the little puff pastry that accompanies the stuffing, it has given its name to the whole dish. 

In Belgium, this classic dish can be ordered in brasseries and cafés but also in self service restaurants, and even in any of the many Frietkot (lit. Fries Shed) around the country.  Fries are indeed the most common accompaniment for vol-au-vent, although you can serve it just as easily with mashed potatoes, as I did.

Because I didn't feel like going through the hassle of making the pastries myself, I bought them ready-made from the baker's, but if you have a bit of time on your hands, rings in two sizes, an egg and puff pastry is all you need. 

Back to our vol-au-vent.  One of the main ingredients needed for the sauce is chicken stock.  You can use ready-made stock in which case you'll need to cook your chicken separately or you can prepare homemade stock, which is super easy to do and equally delicious.  The only downpoint on the homemade version is that it is time-consuming : the dicing of the different vegetables and the making of the stock itself, it could easily take up 1,5 hours.
Ingredients  for the chicken stock

* 4 large carrots
* 6 celery stalks
* 4 large onions
* 4 leek stalks
* 3 L water
* 15 black pepper corns
* 2 cloves
* 4 garlic cloves
* a bunch of thyme sprigs
* a bunch of parsley (with stalks)
* 4 laurel leaves
* 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
* salt to taste
* 1 chicken

Preparation :

Wash all the vegetables in order to remove any residual soil that might cling to them. This might seem obvious but I once had gritty soup because someone forgot to wash the leeks, so just so that we are clear ... wash those veggies :o)

Pour the water into a large pot and bring to the boil over medium fire.  Season if wanted with salt but keep in mind that it will be easier to adjust the salinity in function of the preparation you will use the stock for.

Dice the vegetables and add them with all the condiments to the boiling water, cover and let simmer for approximately 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, add the raw chicken (whole chicken or chopped pieces as you prefer) to the liquid and let it cook for an additional hour.

Skim the stock and strain it through a colander in order to keep a clear stock.  The vegetables and condiments have given off all their flavours and can therefore be discarded. If you like your stock to have a stronger flavour, you can reduce the strained stock over medium heat.
The remaining stock can be frozen for later use (soups, sauces, risotto, ...).
Ingredients  for the vidé (stuffing) - yields 4 servings

* 250 g ground meat (I used a beef/pork mix)
* 60 g butter
* 80 g all purpose flour
* 1 egg
* 1 Tbsp of bread crumbs (I used panko)
* 1 garlic clove
* 250 g mushrooms
* 1,5 L chicken stock
* 15 cl cream
* a dash of lemon juice
* salt and pepper

Preparation :

Mix the ground meat with the egg and breadcrumbs and season with salt and pepper.

Make little meatballs from the meat preparation.

Cook the meatballs in the strained stock on medium fire (you could also fry them in a pan)
Dice the mushroooms and fry them in a skillet in a knob of butter.  Add the crushed garlic clove during frying so the garlic can't burn.  Let the mushrooms colour en set aside.

Pull the meat from the chicken carcass into small pieces and set aside.
The preparation of the sauce starts with a basic roux.  Melt the butter in a pot and add the flour.  While stirring continuously, let the flour mixture dry out, while being careful not to burn it.  When the roux starts to smell like biscuits, start adding the chicking stock, all the while whisking the liquid in order to avoid lumps  .
Add some stock every now and then and after a while, the sauce should have thickened but still be reasonably liquid.  Add the cream and stir well.

Next add the fried mushrooms, the chicken pieces and meatballs to the sauce. Drizzle a bit of fresh lemon juice into it and season with salt and pepper.  Mix everything together.
Remove the lid of the pastry, and pour the filling into and around the pastry.

Serve with fries or mashed potatoes.


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