These hollow puff pastry cases or vol-au-vent are a popular appetizer and snack in France, Belgium and The Netherlands (where I am from). You usually find them stuffed with chicken, veal, mushrooms, or even fish, or a creamy ragoût made with either one or a combination of these ingredients. My recipe here is for an autumnal wintery version with a thick super-creamy ragoût full of mushrooms and escargots (yes, snails). Not the most conventional perhaps, but I think they’re perfect for the Holiday season and other special occasions.
I’ve loved vol-au-vents stuffed with creamy ragoût ever since I can remember. In fact, I’ve been told by my parents that I’ve loved them since before I could actually remember or understand what they were. I called them ‘that white colored food’ as a small child, referring specifically to the creamy ragoût in the center and it took my parents a good year (or more?) to figure out what it was exactly that I was asking for when asking for “that white colored food”. They tried offering me creamy mushroom soup, mustard soup (yes, a thing in The Netherlands), creamy pepper sauce, cauliflower with mornay sauce, and a whole array of dishes and condiments that looked similarly thick, white and creamy… and none of them were ‘it’. Then at some point, we did find that ‘white coloured food’ again, for ragoût, as it turned out to be, used to often be part of corporate Christmas gift boxes in the eighties and nineties, albeit in the form of that gloopy stuff inside tall round tins.
Of course, you don’t really have to wait a whole year for a tin of it to arrive through the mail. Most supermarkets in The Netherlands will sell those packages of pre-made vol-au-vent and cans of ragoût all year round. This type of vol-au-vent, which we simply call “pasteitje” (meaning ‘little pastry’), is not quite the fancy appetizer you might know and certainly isn’t the product of hard labour and good-quality ingredients. However, since I remember them specifically always coming from my mother’s Christmas package full Holiday goodies I always thought they were quite a special treat… and I still kind-of do, whether they be store-bought or homemade.
Here in Greece, though, they are a bit harder to come by (frankly, I haven’t seen them at all), so I eventually did have to resort to making my own vol-au-vents and ragoût when the craving for them arrived. Definitely not as simple as reheating canned ragoût and pre-baked pastry cases, but, as it turns out, not so difficult as to completely avoid it… and taking that first (and second and third and…) bite out of that buttery flakey crust and creamy gooey center is definitely worth spending the time it takes to make them. Of course, I did buy store-bought puff pastry to cut short some of the time. You’ll find the recipe for my homemade mushroom and snail vol-au-vent below.
Tip: do snails freak you out, or you simply want to make a vegetarian version? Replace the snails with a similar amount of tiny button-, or shimeji mushrooms.
Vol-au-Vent with Escargot (Snail) & Mushroom Ragoût
- For the vol-au-vents pastry:
- 400 – 450g puff pastry sheet
- 1 egg, beaten
- For the ragoût:
- 125g oyster mushrooms
- ½ shallot
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
- 24 cooked snails/escargots without shell
- Few sprigs of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 40g butter
- 30g all-purpose flour
- 250ml vegetable- or mushroom stock, warm
- Splash of cream
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Few sprigs of chives, to decorate (optional)
MethodIf you’ve got live snails, check out how to prepare them to be ready to use in this recipe here.
- For the pastry:
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius
- Cut sixteen 7–8cm circles out of the puff pastry with a pastry cutter (I use a drinking glass). You might not be able to cut out exactly 16 perfect circles from one pastry sheet and might have to fashion one or two out of leftover pieces of pastry from the edges. I usually use these as a ‘middle’ piece in the stack to hid the lines.
- Place 4 of the pastry circles on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Brush with a little bit of the egg and poke some holes into them with a fork.
- Cut small circles out of the centers of the 12 remaining pastry circles (I use a shotglass for this) and reserve the cut-outs to use as lids later.
- Place a single layer of the now ‘donut shaped’ circles on top of the whole circles on the baking tray. Brush on some egg and repeat two times until you’ve got a stack of 4 (1 whole + 3 ‘center-less’ circles). Brush the tops with egg wash. See photo in post above for reference.
- Place the little circles you’ve cut out of the centers on the baking tray as well and brush with a little egg, these will be little lids.
- Bake for around 20 – 25 minutes in the center of the preheated oven until puffed-up, crispy and golden. Watch out for the little lids during baking, you might have to remove them earlier to avoid burning.
- While the pastry is in the oven, make the ragoût/gravy:
- Very finely chop the garlic and shallot. Tear the oyster mushrooms into thin strips with your hand.
- Cook shallot, garlic and mushrooms in the olive oil until the mushrooms start to brown.
- Add the chopped parsley and the cooked snails. Season with salt and pepper and sauté for 2 more minutes.
- Add the butter and allow to melt, but not to brown. Once butter is melted add the flour and stir until relatively well combined. Allow flour to cook for about 2 minutes whilst you continue stirring.
- Slowly start adding some stock. Continue stirring and add more stock once the previous amount has been well incorporated. Once the mixture starts to turn more soft and smooth you can add larger amount of stock until everything is incorporated.
- Finally stir in the cream and allow to cook until the ragout has the wanted consistency. Season with salt and pepper and serve scooped inside the vol-au-vents once they’re out of the oven.