I am nothing if not adventurous. With that in mind, I decided to don my ambitious toque and head for the kitchen. This is a first for me, this venture into the realm of “a waft of wind.” Yes my good people, for Meatless Monday I tried my hand at the French pastry dish, vol-au-vent which, loosely translated, means a waft of wind. This sort of makes sense to me since a well-made vol-au-vent has an airy, puffy light shell. While vol-au-vent can consist of a variety of fillings, most notably thick and heavy meats with rich sauces, I opted for a less dramatic version: Vegetable Vol-au-Vent.
I must admit, this took a helluva lot out of me! It was a little more work than I expected, but in the end it was well worth the effort. I could sit here and tell you this would be my go-to dish from here on out, but that would likely be a gross exaggeration; quite frankly, I don’t want to work that hard!
Okay, wait … I don’t want to scare you off of making this. In all actuality, it really wasn’t that difficult, but because you’re working with dough, there is some ‘resting’ time built in for the pastry. In all fairness, that’s what I wasn’t prepared for. I wanted to eat it 45 minutes before I did. However, one great thing about trying something for the first time is that once it’s done, it’s done. After this maiden vol-au-vent voyage, I’ve learned a new trick or two; my second one will be even better than the first. Until that time, enjoy this Vegetable Vol-au-Vent recipe that I created. Bon appetit!
- Puff pastry dough
- Egg wash
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 small onions, sliced into 1/4-inch slivers
- 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
- 1 small zucchini, diced
- 1 small yellow squash, diced
- 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
- 1/2 cup frozen sweet corn kernels
- 8 large basil leaves, roughly chopped
- 2 cups shredded Gruyere, plus more for topping
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the vol-au-vent shell, you’ll want to use two cookie/pastry cutters, one smaller than the other. If you’re like me and don’t have cookie cutters, you can use cups or something else as inventive. Whichever you use, make sure to dip the cutting surface in oil for lubrication and ease in cutting through the pastry dough.
You can choose to make your own pastry dough; I, however, wasn’t that industrious and chose a store-brought version instead. One word of note: when purchasing the puff pastry, go ahead and splurge for a really good, perhaps well known package, since this makes up a great deal of the dish.
Roll the pastry dough out to roughly a half-inch thickness. Using the larger cutter, cut out 6, 8, 10 or whatever amount you can get from the dough. Next, take HALF of the forms you just cut and place them on a lightly greased baking sheet; these will be your bases. Using a fork, poke holes in the base to aid against puffing when baking. Brush each base with egg wash.
Next, using the smaller cutter, cut the centers out of the second half of pieces of dough you just cut; place the centers on the baking sheet and brush with egg wash. (Ex. if you cut 8 pieces, place 4 on the greased baking sheet; the remaining four will have the centers cut out of them. You will end up with 4 filled vol-au-vents. NOTE: If you want vol-au-vents that are deeper, add an extra ring of pastry). Take the outer ringed portion of the pastry and place it ON TOP of the base, making sure to line it up with the base (especially if you use a fluted cutter). Brush the top ring with egg wash. Allow the shell to sit for 15 minutes. Brush the shell again lightly with egg wash and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Remove from refrigerator; your shells are now ready to be baked.
In a preheated 400° oven, bake the vol-au-vent shells for 20 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from oven. If you want, you can use the small circles as tops for the vol-au-vent.
With a knife, carefully remove as much of the the inside pastry from the shell as you can. This resulting shell is where the filling will go.
To make the Filling:
While the vol-au-vent shells are baking, prepare the vegetables: In a pan over medium-high heat, add olive oil and butter. When the oil/butter begins to ripple, add the onions and coat well. Add a pinch of salt and 1 teaspoon of sugar and stir. Onions will begin to stick to the bottom of the pan and darken in color. Continue stirring until that beautiful golden hue and ideal texture are achieved. (NOTE: If onions stick too much, deglaze the pan with a little water to loosen stuck onion; continue to stir).
After onions are caramelized, add the red bell pepper and continue to cook for an additional 3 minutes. Next, add the zucchini, squash, garlic and corn; stir and cook for 3 more minutes. Toss in chopped basil and mix well. Remove pan from heat and place vegetables into a large bowl. Add in 2 cups of shredded Gruyere and incorporate well. Salt and pepper to taste. Divide vegetables evenly among vol-au-vent shells.
Reduce oven temperature to 375°. Bake for 5-7 minutes to allow the Gruyere to melt a little. Remove from oven and top with more cheese; return to the oven and bake until the cheese on top melts.