On Sacramento Street, uphill towards Chinatown, there sits a tiny French bistro – Ducroix – just beyond Henry’s Hunan and before Kearny. This unpretentious restaurant serves traditional French dishes. When I was in San Francisco, I lunched at Ducroix often enjoying their Onion Soup and a dish of puff pastry filled with a light chicken stew – Ducroix’s version of Vol au Vent.
Chicken Vol au Vent is not far removed from chicken potpie. It definitely falls into the comfort food class. I have been wanting to make this dish since moving away from Ducroix and would have done so sooner were it not for one thing – puff pastry.
Some people bake and others don’t. I am of the later group and don’t even like the thought of taking hours to prepare the essential puff pastries that define Vol au Vent. These probably would not turn out anyway if made by my hand.
I don’t walk down the frozen food aisles in most market. The exception is at the small urban market near my house where the frozen food cases are directly across the aisle from dairy products and beer. Since I am in this aisle anyway I look over at the frozen items and there, in the case, was the answer to my puff pastry quandary – Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Shells!
Actually, I knew that frozen puff pastry shells existed; I just had not seen them in years. I made a note to myself that I would pick some up when I was ready to make Vol au Vent. My next trip to the same market I checked to see that the pastry shells were still there. I was worried they might be sold out. Then I realized these inexpensive pastries would not go bad in the refrigerator since they get stored in the freezer! I picked up two boxes – almost a lifetime supply for my house.
With the puff pastry dilemma solved; there remained only one more mystery – the chicken stew that is the star of this dish. This turned out to be easy to sleuth by a quick visit to the Ducroix website where the dish is described as; “Puff Pastry Shell Filled with a Creamy Stew of Portobello Mushrooms, Chicken, White Wine, Garlic, Rosemary”.
The Ducroix menu description of their Vol au Vent is about as close to a recipe as one needs though I have elaborated on this description below. With frozen puff pastry in hand, there is nothing tricky about this dish and it makes for great comfort food. Here, the dish is served with haricot vert brightened with lemon juice and a crisp French white from the Loire Valley.
The recipe makes six individual Vol au Vent which will serve three, or two hungry appetites. Oh! Before I forget, this recipe is dedicated to my daughter Kate who likes all things chicken (most of the time, anyway).
- 1 or 2 (depending on size) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves cut 1/2” cubes.
- Salt and coarse ground pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1-1/2 tablespoons diced shallot
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
- 1-5 ounce package of sliced or whole shitake mushrooms cut into 1/2’ dice
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
- 3/4 cup of dry white wine
- 6 to 8 ounces of good quality prepared chicken broth
- 4 additional tablespoons of unsalted butter (heavy cream may be substituted)
- Up to 6 Pepperidge Farm Frozen Puff Pastry Shells
- Chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees or as directed on the puff pastry packaging
- Place the cubed chicken in a glass bowl and season generously with salt and pepper. Set aside
- Add olive oil to a heavy, deep-sided Dutch oven. Bring to a medium heat and add shallots. Sauté for about 2 minutes until the shallots begin to turn translucent. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute more
- Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan followed by the mushrooms and rosemary. Continue cooking for about 2 minutes or until the mushrooms have released their liquid.
- Add the chicken to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes.
- Add wine to the pan and allow the wine to come to a boil. Continue boiling until the wine had reduced to about 1/2 the original volume.
- Add chicken stock to the pan and turn the heat to simmer. Let cook for about 20 minutes then taste and adjust seasoning.
- Remove the rosemary sprig and stir in 2 tablespoons of butter (or a small amount of heavy cream). Taste and add additional butter or cream if needed.
- Cook the puff pastry for 18-20 minutes or as directed on the package.
- Assemble the dish by generously spooning the chicken stew into and over the puff pastry cups. Garnish with parsley and serve.