Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Chicken, Leek and Asiago Strudel

There were 5 sheets left in the package of filo pastry that I had bought to make canapes for New Years Eve, and I did not want to waste them. Once the package has been opened the sheets tend to dry out very quickly, no matter how well it is wrapped.

I had some cooked chicken in the freezer, 1/4 of a large leek, half of a roasted red pepper, half a container of ricotta cheese and a small piece of asiago  in the fridge. Strudel it would be!

The thin, crispy layers of pastry and the warm, cheesy filling were delicious! This was also very easy to make, so go ahead, give it a try!

In a pan, with a bit of olive oil, cook:

1/4 leek, thinly sliced
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup zucchini, diced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper

In a large bowl, place the diced, cooked chicken.

I had about 3 cups.

To the chicken, add:

the cooked vegetables
1/2 roasted red pepper, diced
1 cup ricotta cheese
3/4 cup grated asiago cheese

Mix well to combine.

Whisk 2 eggs, and then add them to the filling, making sure that everything is well combined.

Heat the oven to 375F, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Melt 1/4 cup of butter with 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Place 1 sheet of filo pastry on the counter and brush lightly with the butter-oil mixture. Place a second sheet on top.

Repeat until all 5 sheets have been layered, ending with butter-oil.

Place the filling in the centre of the pastry, forming it into a log. Sprinkle a bit more asiago along the top.

Fold the short ends of the pastry in, as shown.

Fold one long end over the filling, then brush the top lightly with the butter-oil mixture.

Fold the other side over, totally enclosing the filling.

Place the strudel onto the baking sheet, and brush the top with some of the butter-oil.

Bake the strudel in the pre-heated oven until it is crispy and golden, about 45 minutes.

Allow the strudel to rest for 5 - 10 minutes; this makes it easier to cut. Use a serrated knife to slice it into  thick slices, and serve.

  • Filo pastry is not that difficult to work with, as long as you have everything you need ready to go before opening the package. Keep the sheets of pastry covered with a slightly damp tea towel (clean, of course!) while you are working to prevent it drying out and cracking. For something like this strudel, which doesn't take too long to put together, this is not really an issue. However, if you are assembling canapes, which take longer, then it is important to keep the filo pastry covered.
  • The butter-oil helps the pastry sheets stick together, but also helps to give that crispy, layered texture. You do not need to drench the sheets in butter, just a light coating, paying more attention to the edges than anything.
  • You can omit the butter, and just use olive oil if you would prefer.
  • The strudel can be assembled ahead of time and refrigerated, or even frozen.
  • Individual strudels can also be made, by layering 3 half sheets together and then placing the filling in the centre.
  • If you do not have filo pastry, use puff pastry. Both can be found in most grocery stores, for a fairly reasonable price. They are usually in the freezer section. Some stores have puff pastry that is already rolled out before freezing, so all you have to do is defrost, assemble the strudel and bake it.
  • I usually roast any red peppers that start losing their crispness before they get used. This extends the life of the pepper, and is the reason I always seem to have roasted red peppers to use up! Any vegetables can be used in the strudel; it's a great way to use up leftovers or bits and pieces.
  • Instead of chicken, try some of these ideas: cooked fish, chopped cooked spinach, onions and mashed potato; pork tenderloin that has been seared on all sides, fruit chutney and goat cheese (add curry powder to the butter before brushing it onto the filo); mushrooms cooked with thyme and garlic, cream cheese and caramelized onions; leftover cooked chicken with pesto, ricotta, cooked spinach and feta cheese; cooked lamb, raisins, garlic and onion and toasted almonds.
  • To add extra crunch, and flavour, to the filo layers, sprinkle each sheet with ground nuts or toasted breadcrumbs. Spices such as cinnamon, ground ginger, turmeric or curry powder can also be sprinkled into the layers, or added to the melted butter.
  • Sweet versions of the strudel can be made using cooked fruits such as apples, pears, peaches, rhubarb along with nuts or dried fruit, sweet spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg, and cream cheese or mascarpone cheese to add richness.

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