Said to have been created by the famous French chef Carême, a vol-au-vent is a puff pastry shell that resembles a pot with a lid. It can be small (individual-size) or large (6 to 8 inches in diameter). The pastry is classically filled with a cream saucebased mixture, usually of chicken, fish, meat or vegetables. The puff-pastry lid is set on top of the filling. This dish may be served as an appetizer or an entrée. The term vol-au-vent, "flying in the wind," refers to the pastry's incredible lightness.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.