Vol Au Vent, Feuilletés Aux Fruits De Mer

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Oregon is an Eden for food lovers. In Portland, where I live, it seems on every corner there’s a Farmer’s Market bursting with the colors of the latest harvest. This weekend I found orange beets, glowing Meyer lemons, delicate watercress and the last of the fading avocados.  I have my favorite spots for seafood, too – like the Flying Fish Company’s seafood shack at Kruger’s Market on Hawthorne, or Phil’s Meats with scallops the size of my fist.

I learned last weekend that, despite the plethora of markets scattered around town, the absolute best place to get Oregon seafood – particularly crab – is right out of Tillamook Bay. Thanks to some good friends who took me crabbing, I now have about 4 pounds of unbelievably fresh crab meat to play with.


This Feuilletés Aux Fruits De Mer combines two of my favorite things: pastry and seafood. Plus a fancy name. An experience this cool deserves no less than a dish I can’t pronounce (not without help).

But first, let me tell you about crabbing… I’ll oversimplify, of course, because my knowledge is still pretty shallow.


Crabs love raw chicken. Bait the crab pots and drop them at about 30′. Wait. Circle around and pull them up. This sounds simple but it’s a work-out, especially when it’s raining and kind of cold (this is Oregon, remember?).

IMG_8096Dump the pot and chase the crabs around. Try not to get pinched. Throw the females back in and then measure the males.

IMG_8015IMG_8045If you’re feeling cocky, you can tease the keepers. Name them “Chowder” and “Thermidor” until they pinch you.


We had a great haul. 17 the first day and 20 the second. Back at the dock, we had our catch steamed in a huge kettle. It took about 45 minutes.

IMG_8130IMG_8154 After steaming, the crabs have to be cleaned. The bright yellow gunk is called crab butter, but it’s not butter. Not even close.


Shelling, of course, is the last step. Everyone seems to have their own method: shaking, crushing, peeling, picking. It’s tedious. But many hands make light work and crabbing, from start to finish, is definitely a sport best shared.


Now let’s make something…

Vol Au Vent sounds and looks more complicated than it is. It literally means “windblown” because the tops seem to have been “blown off”. I’ve noticed that most of the recipes online start out with a pre-made puff pastry. Please don’t. This puff pastry recipe is actually pretty easy and, I promise, it will taste better. Vol au vent can be filled with sweets, fruits… anything. So this is a staple to learn and revisit with variations.

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Rough Puff Pastry (this variation is simpler and quicker than the Classic Puff Pastry. It still rises to about 75% of the original and takes far less time).

  • 500 g all-purpose flour
  • 500 g very cold butter, cubed
  • 6 g salt
  • 250 ml ice cold water

Make a flour mound on the counter and create a well. Put the butter and salt in the well and begin to blend with your hands. Work the flour in from the sides until the butter is a crumble.

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Add the ice water gradually (either transfer to a bowl or mix right on the counter). Blend with your hands until incorporated.  Wrap with cling film and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

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After 20 minutes, roll the dough onto a floured surface. Roll into a long rectangle, then fold into thirds. Give it a half turn and roll out and fold into thirds again. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

DSC_0121_2983 copyRepeat the process: roll, fold; roll, fold for a total of 4 turns. Refrigerate again for 30 minutes, after which the dough is ready to use.

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Roll the dough out to about 1/4″ thick. Cut circles. Within half of the circles, cut additional inner circles.

DSC_0137_2999 copyDSC_0138_3000 copyHeat the oven to 350 degrees. Make an egg wash (1 egg, dash of milk, mix).

Place the larger circles on a lightly buttered cookie sheet or baking pan. Brush them with egg wash. Place the rings on top of them and brush the tops with egg wash (careful not to drip egg wash down the inner or outer sides. It can disable them from rising properly). Set the small circles (the lids) on the sheet and brush lightly with egg wash.

DSC_0140_3002 copyDSC_0141_3018 copyBake for 15 minutes or until golden. Remove to a cooling rack. Gently scoop the hot centers out to make a deeper well (don’t pierce the bottoms!).

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Let’s make the filling:

Bechamel Sauce with Crab & Mushroom Duxelles:

In my quest to like mushrooms, I picked up some Criminis at Kruger’s to use in the filling. Did you know that Portabellos are mature Criminis? (See? I’m really trying to learn about and like mushrooms.)

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Chop the mushrooms and melt 1 tsp butter in a pan. Add the mushrooms and stir; cook the liquid out. Squeeze in a little lemon juice and, after about 5 minutes, add a chopped shallot. After a minute, add a little heavy cream and cook down for another 3 minutes. Set aside.

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Bechamel Sauce: 

  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup shredded Gruyére

Melt the butter in a saucepan then mix in the flour until blended. Remove from heat. Bring the milk to a boil in another saucepan. Whisk in the roux until blended. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil until lumps dissolve. Remove from heat and add the cheese.  Mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add mushrooms and crab, as you like, to the sauce. Gently fill the pastries, placing the lids on in a haphazard fashion. Garnish with cilantro and lemon. Enjoy!

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Thanks again to Jim, Lidia & Brian for an unforgettable experience. I owe you dinner.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Brian says:

    You’re welcome! Thank you for honoring our crustacean friends by turning them into something delicious.


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