Belgian Classics : my vol-au-vent, the best chicken stew (6)

This year round classic Belgian dish, a chicken stew, was not my favourite until I started making it myself. The appearance can sometimes be off putting and at school I didn’t like it at all. Look on the menu in Belgium for: “vol-au-vent” ( windblown) or “Koninginnehapje” ( queens bite). It is basically a chicken stew made from a whole boiled chicken, a roux and chicken stock, a little cream and small meatballs and mushrooms, served in a small round hollow puff pastry case accompanied by rice, fries or mash potatoes.

As part of a series of Belgian dishes posted every first Wednesday of the month, I vow to demystify these uber Belgian classics for you. Step-by-step I will show you what to do, this will have you successfully recreate those gorgeous rustic Belgian flavours.

VOL-AU-VENT – as most of our Belgian classics also this was an original French recipe . The chicken stew saw daylight under King Louis XV wife Queen Marie Leszczynska at the Royal court in Versailles called “Bouchée à la reine” . She was notorious for instructing the Royal kitchens to come up with new original dishes to distract the king from visiting his mistresses. This was made with chicken, sweetbreads (riz-de-veau) and ham. Us Belgians adopted the dish but omitted a few ingredients and made it their own by adding mushrooms and small meatballs. It is one of those dishes you can find on any Belgian brasserie menu at any time of the year. Rather easy to make is this chicken stew and very popular with kids.

STEP 1: season with salt and pepper. Brown the chicken on all sides.

STEP 2: submerge in chicken broth and water.

STEP 3: Sauté the meatballs.

STEP 4: Sauté the mushrooms.

STEP 5: shred the chicken meat from the bones.

STEP 6: make a roux: melt the butter, add flour.

STEP 7: add chicken stock and keep stirring till it thickens.

STEP 8: add the chicken, meatballs and mushrooms. Adjust seasoning.

STEP 9: fill up the puff pastry cases.

STEP 10: serve with some chopped parsley or watercress.

TIPS:

  • The key is to buy a good quality free-range chicken and use a good chicken stock as base and build up the flavours with vegetables and seasoning.
  • You can make your roux with butter or olive oil, be sure not to add too much flour and let it cook out for a few minutes.
  • I prefer to saute the mushrooms in olive oil or butter as well as the meatballs for more flavour but you can also boil them in the kitchen liquid/stock after you removed the cooked chicken.
  • You can use flat parsley or watercress to garnish the dish and serve it with or without the puff pastry case.

My vol-au-vent

Yield 4 portions

Ingredients

  • 1 organic chicken
  • 500 ml chicken stock
  • 250 gr small white Parisian mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter + extra
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 dl cream
  • 300 gr minced pork meat rolled in small coin sizer meatballs
  • 4 puff pastry hollow round cases ( shop bought or home made)
  • flat parsley or watercress, chopped
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Melt some butter in a large stock pot or dutch oven that will allow the entire chicken to be submerged.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Brown the chicken on high heat on each side for a for minutes. Drain the butter and add the chicken stock. Fill up the pot with water till the chicken is (nearly) submerged. Bring to boil and place in pre-heated oven at 180 C for about 40 -50 minutes till cooked.  If not fully submerged turn the chicken  around after 20 minutes. Remove from oven, sieve and reserve the stock. Remove the skin and cut or pull the chicken meat from the bones and reserve. 
  2. In a frying pan add some butter and cook the meatballs, reserve when cooked through. In the same pan seasoned with salt and pepper, cook the mushrooms and reserve.
  3. Make a roux: add the 2 table spoons of butter and on high heat let melt. Add the flour and cook out the flour by stirring continuously. Add a ladle of stock and stir well till it thickens. Add about 500 ml of stock ( the rest you can freeze to use in soups), keep stirring till the sauce thickens.
  4. Add the cream and bring to a boil and remove from heat. Add the chicken, meatballs and mushrooms. Ladle the  vol-au-vent into the puff pastry cases and sprinkle with some chopped flat parsley or watercress. Serve with fries, rice or mash potatoes.

Notes

on www.leeksandhighheels.com by Sandra Slawinski


not paid to post – Used my own stuff Le Creuset pots/pans, Vieux Luxembourg tableware from Villeroy&Boch. This what the pattern used by my parents when they opened their restaurant in 1980.

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