These tasty little appetizers came about by accident when I purchased frozen puff pastry vol-au-vents thinking I was buying frozen puff pastry sheets.
I’m happy to admit to always having frozen puff pastry in my freezer; to make it from scratch is laborious and the frozen stuff is really good, especially if you can find it made with butter. It comes in useful for all sorts of things that just need a puffy little golden tart base, or in this case, a pastry container.
Vol-au-vents were quite a trendy hors d’oeurves back in the 60’s and 70’s with their hot, creamy fillings of mushrooms, ham and cheese, smoked fish pate and of course, shrimp. Back then they were rather bland with a plain white sauce holding the contents together and as I recall, the shrimp ones were usually made with peas. Very few of us in the UK knew what ‘Cajun’ meant, let alone getting our hands on Cajun spices.
If you can find crawfish tails then even better as this is adapted from an Emeril recipe. As I had shrimp in the freezer and shrimp and crawfish are closely related, I felt it would work. Adding a splash of fine cognac didn’t hurt either and if you can find a good seafood stock, even better!
So these little shrimp-stuffed vol-au-vents became a happy nostalgic accident as I had all the ingredients and am forever practical, hating waste. A bit of a trip down memory lane for some people…or perhaps not, depending on your age.
Either way, these are really good.
SPICY SHRIMP VOL-AU-VENTS
(Makes 6 as an appetizer)
One package of 6 frozen puff pastry vol-au-vents
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
2 tablespoons of all-purpose (plain) flour
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of finely minced garlic
2 cups of good seafood or chicken broth
1/4 cup of brandy
1 pound of raw cleaned and peeled shrimp or crawfish
1/2 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning
1/4 cup of heavy cream
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
A pinch of cayenne
1/4 cup green/spring onions or chives (green part only), chopped
Put the pastry shells on a baking sheet and bake according to the package directions until they’re puffed and golden, about 15 minutes. Remove them from the oven and let them cool on a rack. Once cool enough, pull the tops off (you’ll use those later), remove any excess of soft pastry inside and discard it. You want lots of space for the filling.
Warm them in the oven before adding the filling.
For the shrimp filling; in a large saute pan melt the butter until foaming then whisk in the flour and cook, stirring slowly and constantly for 2 to 3 minutes, until you have a pale ‘roux’. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. It will absorb the flour and butter roux, then add the cognac and boil it off quickly before slowly whisking in the seafood or chicken broth. Bring the sauce to a simmer and let it bubble away for about 25 minutes until thickened, whisking every minute or so.
Now season the raw shrimp with the Cajun seasoning and add them to the sauce. Cook stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, then add the cream, Worcestershire sauce, and cayenne pepper. Continue to stir and cook for one more minute before finally adding the chopped scallion (spring onion) greens. Stir together and cook for one more minute.
Divide the shrimp sauce between the warmed vol-au-vent cases and balance a pastry ‘hat’ on top of each.
Serve right away.