Okay, okay, I know that Bouchée à la Reine is normally served using puff pastry cups and not pie crust, but I wanted to try something a little different. Does that shock you at all? Should I back up? Are you wondering what Bouchée à la Reine really is? Don’t worry…I had no idea what it was until a month ago when the incredible French chef that cooks for my family in Seattle during the holidays (hi Thierry) introduced me to the wonders of this traditional French dish! Puff pastry cups (also known as Vol au Vent) filled with sweet breads, mushrooms and ham (or smoked turkey for us kosher folks) in a thick cream sauce. If you don’t like sweetbreads, you can also use chicken but that would just make me very sad! I’ve been eating sweetbreads, the thymus gland of the cow, my whole life and I practically live by the rule that I must order sweetbreads if they are on the menu of any restaurant I’m at. I broke the rule recently and I’m still regretting that decision! So thank goodness for this Bouchée à la Reine because I’ve been eating it all day.
Bouchée à la Reine Tartlets
3 Tbsp unsalted margarine
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups low sodium beef broth
1.5 lbs. sweetbreads
1 cup button mushrooms, chopped
1/2 tsp dried ground thyme
Non-Dairy Creme Fraiche: 1/2 cup non-dairy sour cream, 1 Tbsp rice milk, 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 egg yolk
1 cup cubed smoked turkey drumstick
pepper to taste
homemade flower tartlet shells (recipe below)
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted margarine, chilled and diced
1/4 cup ice water
1 flower-shaped cookie cutter
I began with the simple tartlet dough since it needed 30 minutes to chill. You can make these adorable little pie shells a day ahead and store in an airtight container. I whisked together the flour and salt then cut the margarine in to the flour mixture with a pastry blender. If you don’t have a pastry blender, you can use a fork! The mixture looked like coarse sand.
I added the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mixed with my hands until a ball of dough was formed. I wrapped the dough in plastic wrap and placed it in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill. Once the dough was ready, I placed it on a baking mat sprinkled with flour. You want to make sure the dough doesn’t stick once it’s rolled out!
I sprinkled my rolling pin with flour, rolled out the dough until it was 1/4 inch thick then cut out flower shapes. You can use whatever size flower cookie cutter you have (thanks for lending me your cookie cutter, Jen!). Just remember that it will affect the size of your tartlet.
I poked holes in each flower with a fork and placed in a cupcake tin prepared with cooking spray. I poked the holes in the dough so that it wouldn’t rise too much in the oven while baking.
I baked the tartlets at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes, until lightly brown. How cute are these?!? I also used a small cookie cutter to make little flowers of pie crust. I baked those for 15 minutes since they were much smaller.
Now on to the sweetbreads! I washed the sweetbreads in cold water and patted dry. You want to wash your sweetbreads since they are usually salted before packaging. You’ll notice that there is no salt on the list of ingredients and that’s because sweetbreads are naturally very salty! I cut up the sweetbreads and set aside.
In a cast iron skillet, I melted the margarine over medium heat then added the onions. I cooked the onions until slightly translucent but still crunchy, around 5 minutes.
I added the beef broth and stirred until the mixture was thick and coming to a boil. I added the sweetbreads, mushrooms and thyme and stirred to combine. I cooked the sweetbreads mixture over medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce should be simmering the whole time. At this point, the sweetbreads mixture is delicious but we’re not done yet! More layers of flavor to come.
Normally, Bouche a la Reine calls for creme fraiche. Since I don’t mix dairy and meat, I made my own creme fraiche by stirring together the non-dairy cream cheese, rice milk and lemon juice. That’s it! You can also use sour cream in place of the cream cheese. After the sweetbreads cooked for 30 minutes, I added the homemade creme fraiche and stirred again. I cooked the mixture for 5 minutes then added the cubed turkey.
I filled the flower tartlets with the sweetbreads mixture and topped with the little flowers of pie crust. The sweetbreads in cream sauce are salty and packed with layers of flavor from the onions, mushrooms and thyme. The homemade creme fraiche turns the sauce from a bechamel to something richer and even creamier than you can ever imagine! And what can be wrong with homemade tartlets in the cutest flower shape?!? In fact, the dough balances out the saltiness of the sweetbreads very nicely and adds a layer of crunch that is needed in this rich and velvety dish.
These are great as an appetizer or hors d’oeuvres at your next party! You might just want to tell people that they are eating sweetbreads. Let’s just say that my mom hates the idea of eating sweetbreads and no one told her that she was eating them when Thierry served us all his traditional Bouchée à la Reine. Oops! She did enjoy it until she found out what she was eating!