Friday, January 23, 2009

Belgian Cuisine, Vol au Vent

Some of my friends have asked about Belgian cuisine.
Maybe it's time to share another recipe
on Favourite Ingredients Friday.

Let's see?
I'm sharing something special today, it's called Vol au Vent.
Vol au vent ( fly with the wind) was invented by Carême,
a French chef from the nineteenth century.
It has become an old fashioned Belgian classic, something
my grandmother made on festive occasions.
Nowadays, you can buy it at any supermarket or food caterer,
but the home made version is so much better!
It was the first thing I ever cooked for my husband when I met him.
Twenty six years later, he still can't get enough of it!

You need:
One whole chicken, minced porc.
Celery, a carrot, half a leek, an onion.
Some parsley, thyme and a bay leaf.
White mushrooms.
Some fresh lemon.
Flour, butter, cream, salt and pepper.

I always make a good vegetable stock first, and add the chicken later.
Tie the vegetables and the herbs together, and put it in a large pot of cold water.
Add some salt and some peppercorns and the onion.
Gently heat and let it simmer for about twenty minutes.
I usually add some frozen chicken stock to enhance the flavour even more.
You don't have to bother peeling that onion, it gives the stock a beautiful golden colour.

When your vegetable stock is ready, add your chicken.
Let it simmer on a gentle heat until the chicken is cooked.
By now the whole house is perfumed with that lovely chicken stock mmm!
Remove from the stock, and let it cool down.

Slice the mushrooms, and cook them in a knob of butter.
Add a little bit of lemon juice to keep them nice and white,
and to enhance the flavour.

Add one egg, breadcrumbs, pepper salt and some chopped parsly to the minced porc. Roll small balls from it, and cook them in plain salted water until they float. Drain them and get rid of
their cooking liquid, it contains too much fat. Remove the bones and the skin of the chicken and cut it into pieces. Next thing to do is to make a blonde roux.

Melt butter, add the flour, and let it dry
for ten minutes on a gentle heat to loose the floury flavour.
If your roux is hot, add cold stock,
and vice versa, otherwise you'll get lumps in your sauce.
Add enough of the stock to obtain a rich velvetty sauce.

Add the mushrooms, the meatballs and the chicken.
Flavour with salt, pepper, and maybe a few more drops of lemon juice.
Finish the sauce with some cream.

You can serve this fricassée with rice,
or in a puff pastry "Vol au Vent" case.

In which case you serve it with fries. We call them "frites".
I refuse to call them French Fries, they are not French.
Fries are a genuine Belgian invention!