Bouchées à la reine are very small flaky pastries that are essentially vol-au-vents. Some say they’re different from vol-au-vents but Larousse describes one as being a “small, individual vol-au-vent.” The pastry is garnished with a dollop of a savoury mixture bound together with a creamy white sauce.
You make the pastry and bake the shells first, and cut off the top, keep them as “hats” for the shells.
Then you re-heat the shells, fill each shell with some of the mixture.
The white sauce is made from stock from poaching the chicken, butter, flour, double-cream, and egg yolk.
The savoury mixture is made from:
- diced chicken breast poached in stock;
- diced truffle poached in white wine;
- quartered white button mushrooms cooked (not browned) in butter and lemon juice.)
Swapping truffles for mushrooms is acceptable if you increase the amount of mushroom used to equal the quantity of chicken. It’s also acceptable to add a small amount of “ris de veau”( thyroid gland of a calf), quennelles or brains that have been cooked in a white sauce and finely chopped.
Then the pastry “hat” is put back on, and it is served hot.
The above is the authorized, official version.
It is actually very hard now to find an official recipe. There are so many different variations now calling themselves “Bouchées à la Reine”: mushroom, chicken and parsley; mushroom, veal and green olive; chopped ham; etc. Now, the white sauce can be a béchamel, an Allemande or a Mornay sauce. The common element in most variations seems to be the pastry shell, the mushrooms, a white sauce, and the “hat”, and served warm.
The number of variations causes some French to throw their hands up in the air and say “Look, let’s call a spade a spade. Bouchées à la reine has a fixed range of ingredients. Just give another name to your inventions — Bouchées à la peine if you want — but keep the names straight.” But they’re probably too late even to correct their own countrymen: instead of Bouchées à la crab or Bouchées à la hot dog wiener, no matter what’s in it, everyone seems to want to call it Bouchées à la Reine.
Bouchées were reputedly created for and made fashionable by Marie Leczinska, aka the Queen of France — wife of Louis XV. There are many different kinds of bouchée dishes, but it’s this combination that was named for her.
Literature & Lore
“BOUCHÉES À LA REINE: Get some little cases from the pastry-cook of puff paste, which are to be filled with sweetbread cut in dice. It is a good plan to heat the cases before filling them.
The filling mixture. Cook the sweetbreads in water with pepper and salt, till done, skin them and cut in dice. Prepare a good bechamel sauce, seasoned with the juice of a lemon, and add to it a few mushrooms that have been fried in butter. Heat the dice of sweetbread in this sauce and fill the cases with it. Put them back in the oven to get quite hot.” — From: Luck, Mrs Brian. The Belgian Cook-Book. London: William Heinemann 1915.
“Bouchées à la Reine” means literally, “The Queen’s mouthfuls” or “The Queen’s Nibbly-Bits.”