Another great way to serve crawfish! Crawfish Vol-Au-Vents are a delicious concoction of crawfish tails in a flavorful, savory sauce loaded into a delicate puff pastry. These are great served as an entree but their elegance also makes them a special Hors d'oeuvre. The puff pastry offers a slight crunch before it melts in your mouth delivering the succulent tails in a velvety sauce. Perhaps it's nirvana when you realized it's all fused with the slight undertones of sherry. Elegant, yes, but incredibly simple to make.
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What is a Vol Au Vent?
You may call them pastry shells or puff pastry. Larousse Gastronomique, The World's Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia, the epitome of culinary references, defines them as:
“A round case of puff pastry, 15-20 cm (6-8 inches) in diameter, having a pastry lid. The vol-au-vent is filled after baking and served as a hot entrée or hors d'oeuvre”.Gastronomique
The term vol-au-vent translates to "windblown" to describe its light, airy and flakey character. The famous French Chef, Antonin Careme (1784-1833) is credited with creating the delicacy in the early 18th Century. While French cuisine certainly had a major influence on both Cajun and Creole Cuisines, I believe that the elegance and delicacy of Careme’s haute cuisine are most apparent in classic Creole cuisine.
Check out my recipe for Oyster Patties for another great New Orleans way to enjoy these delicate pastry shells
Here’s What You Need
Here are some of the key ingredients for this recipe:
A note on the crawfish: Crawfish tails leftover from a crawfish boil are fine for this recipe, but keep in mind they will have a lot of the seasonings from the boil. I recommend only Louisiana Crawfish Tails, which can be purchased at many grocery stores and seafood markets in one-pound frozen packs, or online at CajunGrocer.com (no affiliation) or on Amazon (of which I am an affiliate).
A note on the puff pastry: To serve as an appetizer, you can use smaller puff pastry shells, called Bouchées The difference between Bouchées and Vol-au-Vents is basically the size of the pastry shell. Bouchées, meaning “mouthful”, is a small appetizer size pastry and vol-au-vents are larger, approximately 3 inches in diameter. The vol-au-vents usually have a lid or cap that can cover the filling after baking, if you want. For this recipe, I am using Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry Shells that come frozen at your local grocery store. The smaller shells are usually available at local bakeries. If you can't find the Pepperidge Farms product, check out their website and they have a "Where to Buy" link. You can substitute with other flaky, light pastries, french bread slices, or even toast.
A note on the stock: I developed this recipe using chicken stock, either commercial or homemade. If you have Crawfish Stock, I would recommend you use it, but chicken stock works very well and is easy to find.
Here is some of the equipment I used in making this recipe:
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Here’s What You Do
First…you have a beer. The elegance of this dish should not scare you away from making it. Get in the right frame of mind by popping the top off a beer and reading the recipe all the way through. You'll be pleased with how easy this recipe is if you do your mise en place: prepare yourself as well as the ingredients. Then just sit back and take all the credit.
Mise en Place
Sprinkle the crawfish tails with Creole seasoning and set aside. Finely chop the yellow onions, green onions, and garlic. Place these in separate prep bowls. Mix the Herb and Spice Blend in its own prep bowl and measure all the remaining ingredients and place them in their own prep bowls. Now you are ready to assemble the recipe.
Make the base sauce
What happens in this step? We will build the flavors of this recipe in layers. The base layer is a rich sauce with an intense flavor made up of sauteed onions in butter blended with the aromatics mixed with a light roux. Slow simmering in a rich stock until it reduces, intensifying the flavor.
Start by melting the butter in a 12” saute pan (or similar) over medium heat. When the butter is bubbly, add yellow onions and saute for about 2 minutes. We’re not looking to brown the onions, just sweat them a little until they start to be translucent.
Throw in the garlic and continue to saute until the garlic becomes aromatic, which only takes a minute or two.
Next, add the AP flour to the onions and garlic. Stir or whisk constantly to make a light roux, about 3 minutes. Again, we are not looking to brown the mixture.
Once the flour has smoothed out, add the Worchestershire Sauce and the Herb and Spice Blend. Stir for about 1 minute to combine all the ingredients.
Increase the heat slightly, then add the Stock.
When the stock starts to simmer, lower the heat to maintain a low simmer for about 20 minutes as the stock reduces. You should end up with the foundation for a thick-ish (that's a high-level culinary term!) brown sauce
Add the crawfish tails and cream
What happens in this step? The previous step created a rich base sauce. Now we will add the crawfish flavor and some creaminess. This step gives the dish its identity.
Once the stock has reduced and slightly thickened, the Crawfish tails and green onions get added next. Once everything is combined thoroughly, simmer for about 3 minutes.
Next, blend in the heavy cream and sherry. Adjust the heat to continue on a low simmer until the mixture thickens to a semi-thick sauce, which should take about 20 minutes.
Pro Tip: While the sauce is simmering is a good time to bake the puff pastry. Best results are achieved when the pastry is warm and flakey and the filling is hot. Time it so that the pastry comes out of the oven while the sauce is resting. If you bake the pastry too early, it will be cold and not as flakey as it could be by the time you eat it.
Remove the saute pan from the heat and allow the sauce to sit for about 10 minutes while you prepare the puff pastry.
Prepare and fill the pasty
What happens in this step? It's not a vol-au-vent until it's filled to the brim (and more) with the delicious filling. The combination of the crunchy, light pastry and the savory, rich crawfish sauce is the result we are looking for.
Bake the puff pastry according to the package directions. Remove them to a cooling rack. When slightly cooled, remove the caps.
Fill each pastry to slightly overflow with the crawfish sauce.
Hints and Tips (FAQs)
It's possible that the pastry will get soggy if the filling is added too early. To avoid this, fill the pastry just before serving. The vol-au-vent is at its best when the filling is hot and the pastry crunches and melts away when you bite it. You can bake the pastry and set it aside before you make the filling, but the pastry will be cold when you are ready to fill it. I recommend baking the pastry towards the end of the process, maybe when you add the cream to the filling. Either way, it will be delicious, but once you get the crunch, you'll know what I mean. Just don't fill the pastry too early and let them sit.
Yes, this can be made in advance. For best results, make the filling in advance and keep it in the refrigerator for up to three days or in the freezer for up to three months. Make sure to store the filling in an airtight container. Defrost the filling in the refrigerator overnight before reheating on the stove. When you are ready to eat them, bake the puff pastry according to the directions, or reheat them in a 350-degree oven for about 5 to 10 minutes. Fill and enjoy.
I don't recommend freezing the filled vol-au-vents, but you can if you need to (like leftover filled pastry). For best results, freeze the filled pastries individually on a baking sheet, then wrap them individually in plastic wrap before placing them in a large freezer bag. These can be frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight, then reheat in a 350-degree Fahrenheit oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until warmed through.
For a non-alcoholic substitute, try some white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar. You should use 1 tablespoon for ¼ cup of sherry. Other substitutes include Dry Vermouth, Dry Madeira, Dry Marsala, or your favorite dry white wine. These can be substituted 1 for 1.
What should you serve these vol-au-vents with? Just about anything you want, but these great side dishes from Sweet Daddy D are something special:
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Yeah You Right!
Crawfish Vol Au Vent
Here's What You Need
- 6 Puff pastry See Notes
- 1 pound crawfish tails Louisiana Crawfish Tails
- 3 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup yellow onions finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon garlic about 3 cloves
- 2 tablespoons AP Flour
- 2 cups chicken stock See Notes
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
- ¼ cup green onions
- ¼ cup dry sherry See Notes
Herbs and Spice Blend
- 1 teaspoon Creole Seasoning plus some for the tails
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- ½ teaspoon dry thyme
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper Optional
Here's What You Do
- Sprinkle crawfish tails with Creole seasoning, set aside.
- Measure and chop all other ingredients, and place in prep bowls. Combine the Herb and Spice Blend into a small prep bowl. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (or whatever temperature the puff pastry instructions call for).
- Place a 12” saute pan (or similar) over medium heat, add the butter.
- When the butter is bubbly, add the yellow onions and saute for about 2 minutes.
- Add the garlic and continue to saute until aromatic, about 2 minutes.
- Add the AP flour to the onions and garlic. Stir or whisk constantly to make a light roux, about 3 minutes.
- Next, add the Worchestershire Sauce and the Herb and Spice Blend. Combine and saute for about 1 minute.
- Raise the heat slightly, then add the Stock. Bring the stock to a low simmer and maintain for about 20 minutes as the stock reduces.
- Once the stock has reduced and slightly thickened, add the Crawfish tails and green onions. Stir to combine thoroughly. Simmer for about 3 minutes
- Next, add the heavy cream and sherry. Stir to mix well. Adjust the heat to continue on a low simmer until the mixture thickens to a semi-thick sauce, this will take about 20 minutes.
- Bake the puff pastry according to the package directions. Remove them to a cooling rack. When slightly cooled, remove the caps.
- When the sauce has thickened slightly, remove the pan from the heat and allow the sauce to cool for about 5 to 10 minutes while you prepare the puff pastry.
- After baking the puff pastry, fill each shell to just overflowing with the crawfish sauce. Replace the pastry top if desired.
- Serve immediately.