Vol-au-Vent: What Does it Mean?

“Lifted by the breeze” or thereabouts. “A waft of wind” is more precise. The term is evocative of the ultra-light and airy puff pastry case. Ironically that case is all-too-often stuffed with an overly heavy filling. Worst case scenario, the pastry case itself is thick and heavy, and the whole thing sinks in the gut like the SS Carpathia after a couple of German torpedoes. All of which is to say that if you’ve never had a good vol-au-vent you’re in for a treat.

It’s said, and is likely true, that vol-au-vent was invented by Antonin Carême in the first few years of the 19th century. His signature version of the dish was known as financière, meaning small dumplings of minced chicken and bread crumbs with mushrooms in a Madeira sauce. Sounds nice, no?

4 thoughts on “Vol-au-Vent: What Does it Mean?”

  1. I always have it in my head as “flies in the wind” but your version is more poetic!
    I like a heavy creamy filling, contrasts nicely with a light and airy pastry.

    1. Hey Kavey! I’m married to a literature translator so, I tend to take a little license. ‘Vol’ can also mean a theft or a robbery, though my way it still works in the sense of someone ‘lifting’ your pocketbook. Eh, playing with words is fun!

      Thanks for the note!

      – Joe

  2. Last night I watched Babette’s Feast yet again. I love the scene where Babette is using a wineglass to cut out vol-a-vents for the cailles en sarcophage.

    1. I haven’t seen that film in ages, though I remember laughing hard at the satanic dreams the townspeople were having at the thought of an indulgent dinner. I’ll have to watch it again soon.

      Thanks for the note,

      – Joe

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