Curried Chicken and Wild Rice Strudel

strudel finishedI have been making a version of this recipe for a long time. I first found it in a cooking magazine (I think it was Food and Wine) almost 20 years ago and it was one of Husband’s favourites. About 10 years ago, I lost that magazine when I took it to my sister’s to make dinner for family. That dinner was a bit of a disaster in any case because the brush I used to butter the phyllo was defective and we spent the entire meal picking out teeny tiny little bristles from within the cooked pastry. I promptly forgot about the dish until about a year ago when Husband requested it. The magazine was long gone but I found a similar recipe on Epicurious here I’m not sure if this is the exact recipe I used all those years ago, but close enough. I’ve made it a few times in the past year and it’s a very nice, satisfying meal when served with a simple salad (last night it was arugula and thinly sliced apple with a lemon vinaigrette and some grated pecorino pepato).

I’ve switched up some ingredients from the original recipe and simplified the process quite a bit. Next time I make it I’m going to add some panfried mushrooms for extra earthiness, and perhaps a half cup of grated parmesan or pecorino just to sharpen the flavour a touch. As well, I think it’s better to just slightly undercook the rice because it continues to cook once in the oven and I like a touch of chew rather than mush.

Don’t be afraid of the phyllo pastry. It’s super easy and very forgiving. Even if your end result is not picture perfect, the crunchiness of those little layers really add to the dish. And, honestly, it took me 10 minutes to prepare the pastry. Just do it!

1/2 cup wild rice (or a wild/brown rice blend)

5 TBS butter, divided (use 1 TBS to fry chicken and 4 TBS below with phyllo pastry)
3 teaspoons curry powder, divided
3 or 4 (9-12 ounces) skinless boneless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons dry white wine, dry vermouth, or water

1/3 cup mayonnaise (I used “half the fat”)
2 tablespoons mango chutney (The recipe calls for Major Greys which I have used in the past, but I couldn’t find it this time so I used another brand which worked just fine.)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1/4 cup toasted pinenuts
1/4 cup golden raisins, plumped in hot water to cover for 10 minutes and drained

six 18-by 14-inch sheets of phyllo, (The original recipe calls for them to be stacked between 2 sheets of wax paper and covered with a dampened kitchen towel. I did not do this because it took me less than 10 minutes to do prepare the phyllo but if you’re worried it will take you longer, go ahead.)
4 teaspoons fine dry bread crumbs

Cook the rice according to package directions and let it cool in a large bowl.

In a small skillet melt 1 tablespoon of the butter with 1 teaspoon of the curry powder over medium high heat until the foam subsides and in it sauté the chicken, patted dry and season with salt and pepper, for 30 seconds on each side. Add the wine, vermouth, or water. Cover and cook the chicken over moderately low heat for 5 minutes, or until it is just cooked through. Remove the skillet from the heat and let the chicken cool.
strudel chicken

In a small bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons of the chutney, 1 teaspoon of the remaining curry powder, and the lemon juice. Cut the chicken into 1/2-inch dice. Stir it, along with any pan juices, into the rice with the pinenuts, raisins, and mayonnaise sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Let the filling cool. The filling may be made 1 day in advance and kept covered and chilled.
strudel filling

Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a small saucepan or microwave, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter with the last teaspoon of curry powder. Clear and clean a good sized work surface (counter or table). Put 1 sheet of the phyllo on a clean work surface (long side facing you), brush it with some of the curry butter, and sprinkle it lightly with the bread crumbs (I used about 3/4 tsp per layer). On this, layer, brush, and sprinkle 4 more sheets of the phyllo in the same manner and lay the sixth sheet of phyllo on top.
strudel phyllo

Spread the filling in a 3-inch wide strip, mounding it on the phyllo 3 or 4 inches above the near long side, leaving a 2-inch border at each end. Lift the bottom edge of the pastry over the filling, fold in the ends, and roll up the strudel tightly, tucking in the ends. I used a toothpick on each end to secure.
strudel rolling
strudel rolling 2

Transfer the strudel carefully, seam side down, to a lightly oiled baking sheet, brush it with the remaining curry butter, and bake it in the lower third of the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until it is golden (start checking at 15 minutes to ensure it doesn’t burn).
strudel oven

Let the strudel sit for 5-10 minutes before slicing with a serrated knife into 2 inch slices. The strudel may be made 1 day in advance and kept covered loosely and chilled. Reheat the strudel in a preheated 400°F. oven for 15 minutes.