BALTIMORE — A spicy burger made from chicken was crowned the winner of this year's National Chicken Cooking Contest, held this weekend in Baltimore.
A recipe for Pacific Rim Chicken Burgers With Ginger Mayonnaise bested 50 other entries — one from each state and the District of Columbia — and netted Kristine Snyder of Hawaii $25,000 in prize money and a new General Electric oven.
But trying out Snyder's recipe may be a challenge for Utah cooks, since none of the eight local supermarkets we called routinely carry ground chicken, although some will take special orders for it.
Utah's contestant, former Deseret News food editor Jean Williams, took fourth place with Citrus Chicken Thighs With Avocado Butter. This is the third time in a row that the Utah entry placed fourth (Ruth Kendrick of South Ogden placed fourth in 2001 and 1999. The contest is held every other year).
All five winners used some form of chicken leg meat. For the past several years, the contest has offered a $1,000 bonus to any of the top five winners who use dark meat. Americans tend to go for the boneless, skinless chicken breast, leaving producers without a big market for the rest of the chicken.
Ground chicken is simply ground thigh meat, said Richard Lobb of the National Chicken Council. "So I see no reason why you couldn't take a package or two of thigh meat and ask the butcher to grind it for you. They may look at you funny, but that's what butchers are for."
He said availability of ground chicken around the country is spotty, "But one of the reasons for having the contest is to build interest in new things, and hopefully we've got a real hit on our hands. If consumers go into the stores and ask for ground chicken, it may start something."
Ground chicken is more moist than ground turkey, said Snyder. "And when you add ingredients, it takes on the other flavors."
She said she first ventured into cooking contests five years ago after she and her husband moved from Seattle to Maui and she couldn't belong to her cooking club anymore. Since then, she's become a regular on the unofficial cooking-contest "circuit," placing as a finalist in the 2000 Pillsbury Bake-Off and winning Sutter Home Winery's "Build A Better Burger Contest" in 2001 with salmon burgers that were similarly flavored.
"I cook with so much ginger, lime and cilantro because of the climate I live in," she said.
Snyder chose to use cucumber because "I love the crunch and taste, and if you take the seeds out, it takes a lot of the water out and it makes a wonderful crunch."
Snyder said she plans to use some of her prize money to install air conditioning in her home, which can get up to 87 degrees in her kitchen. She also plans to buy a new harp, as she performs at weddings, restaurants, and in orchestras.
Williams received $2,000 for her fourth-place win, plus a $1,000 bonus for using dark meat.
"I just know what flavors go together," she said. "I like soy marinades, and I just knew it was a good base, and I love garlic and it went well with the honey mustard. I didn't even try it; I just sent it in. Then, after it was chosen for the contest, I made it, and it's really good."
This year's finalists dispelled the stereotype of the stay-at-home domestic goddess sending in her family's favorite recipe. Besides retirees and full-time homemakers, contestants came from many professions, including a deputy sheriff, a high school vice principal, a trial lawyer, a business consultant, an artist and an accountant.
Many recipes were created specifically as a contest entry rather than being a traditional favorite.
A lot of the contestants say they stay abreast of recipe contests offered throughout the food industry and send in several recipes to each. If the recipe doesn't make one contest, it's tweaked and submitted elsewhere. Virginia Anthony of Jacksonville, Fla., said her fifth-place recipe, Guava-Sauced Chicken Over Beans and Rice, was entered in the 2001 National Chicken Cooking Contest, "and it didn't do anything. So I went back to the drawing board and got rid of the breast meat and cornmeal coating. "
Jamie Miller of Minnesota, who took second place, said she subscribes to many food magazines and tries to keep up on the trends. It paid off: Miller has also been a finalist in the Pillsbury Bake-Off and Gilroy Garlic Festival, winner of Sutter's "Build A Better Burger Contest" in 2000, and took third place in this year's Gold Kist Chicken contest. She and Snyder will both be competing at the National Beef Cook-Off this fall.
Peggy Katalinich, Family Circle food editor who headed the judges' panel, said the entries reflected a lot of the recent trends she has observed. Some that she saw were:
Speed and convenience products such as pre-cooked chicken and rotisserie chicken.
One-dish meals that make it easier to get dinner on the table.
Caramelizing and glazing as cooking techniques.
Popular ingredients including "gourmet" cheese such as feta and gorgonzola, nuts, cilantro and sweet potato.
For those who want to try their hand at creating a winning recipe, the awards will be even greater at the next contest, slated in 2005. The top prize will be $100,000.
For other winning recipes and information about entering the contest, check www.eatchicken.com.
PACIFIC RIM CHICKEN BURGERS WITH GINGER MAYONNAISE
1 1/4 pounds ground chicken
2/3 cup panko (or bread crumbs)
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 green onions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Asian hot chili sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup bottled teriyaki glaze
4 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 sesame buns, split and toasted
4 leaves red lettuce
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise
Ginger Mayonnaise (recipe follows)
In large bowl, mix chicken, panko, egg, onions, cilantro, garlic, chili sauce and salt. With oiled hands, form into four patties. In small bowl, mix teriyaki glaze and honey. Place oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium high. Add chicken and cook, turning and brushing with teriyaki glaze, about 10 minutes or until done. Place burgers on toasted buns and top with lettuce, cucumber and Ginger Mayonnaise. Garnish with additional cilantro and cucumber slices. Makes four servings.
Ginger Mayonnaise: In small bowl, mix 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish, 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger, 2 teaspoons lime juice, 1 clove garlic (minced) and 1/4 teaspoon salt. — Kristine Snyder, Kihei, Hawaii; First place, 2003 National Chicken Cooking Contest
CITRUS CHICKEN THIGHS WITH AVOCADO BUTTER
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup tamari
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup honey mustard
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons salad oil, divided
Avocado butter (recipe follows)
6 sprigs cilantro
6 lemon wedges
In large bowl, mix tamari, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, honey mustard and 1 cup of the salad oil. Add chicken and marinate in refrigerator one hour. Place remaining 2 tablespoons salad oil in frying pan over medium high heat. Add chicken and brown on each side. Drain chicken and arrange in 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Place in 375 degree oven and bake 40 minutes. Remove chicken to serving dish and top each thigh with 1 tablespoon avocado butter. Garnish with cilantro sprigs and lemon wedges. Makes four servings.
Avocado Butter: In food processor, place 1/2 cup unsalted butter and whip until soft and smooth. Add 3/4 cup cup diced avocado, 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, 3/4 teaspoon chopped garlic and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Whip until well-mixed, roll into 2-inch logs. Wrap in plastic and freeze until ready to use. — Jean Williams, Salt Lake City; Fourth place, 2003 National Chicken Cooking Contest
MOROCCAN CHICKEN AND SQUASH TAGINE
1 whole cut-up chicken
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 14-ounce can low-sodium chicken broth, divided
2 cups chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small jalapeno pepper, minced
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded, cut in 3/4-inch chunks
1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley, divided
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Place olive oil in Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium-hight heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add half of the chicken to the pot and cook about six minutes, turning, to brown. Remove and repeat with remaining chicken; set aside. Add 1/4 cup of the chicken broth to pan; scrape to loosen brown bits. Add onion and saute until soft. Add garlic, jalapeno pepper, cinnamon and ginger. Cook, stirring, one minute. Add squash, apricots, remaining broth and 2 tablespoons of the minced parsley. Bring to a boil; return chicken to pot, cover and reduce heat. SImmer about 35 minutes or until chicken is done and squash is tender. Remove chicken to serving dish. Increase heat and boil squash mixture until slightly thickened, about five minutes. Pour over chicken and sprinkle with remaining parsley and almonds. Garnish with parsley sprigs. Serves four. — Jamie Miller, Maple Grove, Minn. Second place, 2003 National Chicken Cooking Contest
JERK CHICKEN THIGHS ON SWEET POTATO PANCAKES
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons dry jerk seasoning
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons salad oil
2 cups shredded sweet potato
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/3 cup flour
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 12-ounce bottle mango chutney
1 fresh mango, diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parlsey
Rub chicken thighs with jerk seasoning. Place butter and salad oil in oven-proof pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook about two minutes on each side to brown. Place pan in 350-degree oven and cook about 45 minutes or until chicken is fork-tender. Remove chicken and shred. Place sweet potato, onion, slat, cayenne pepper, flour and egg in a large bowl. Stir to mix well. Spray frying pan with cooking spray and place on medium heat. Spoon in sweet potato mixture, two tablespoons at a time, to make small pancakes. Keep pancakes warm while completing cooking. Top pancakes with shredded chicken and small dollop of chutney; place additional pancake on top of chicken. Remove pancake stacks to serving plates and garnish each with diced mango and parsley. Pierce each stack with rosemary sprig. Serves four. — Linda Miranda, Wakefield, RI Third place, 2003 National Chicken Cooking Contest
GUAVA-SAUCED CHICKEN OVER BEANS AND RICE
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon dry jerk seasoning
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
6 tablespoons guava jelly
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/4 cup fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 tablespoon habanero pepper sauce
1 6-ounce package yellow rice
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
Chopped fresh cilantro
Sprinkle chicken with salt and jerk seasoning. In large frying pan over medium-high heat, place oil. Add chicken, cook 4 minutes; turn and cook 4 minutes more. Remove from pan and keep warm. To frying pan, add onion, green pepper and thyme; cook 1 minute. Stir in guava jelly, vinegar, chicken broth and pepper sauce. Add chicken and bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes, turning chicken once. Remove chicken, cover and keep warm. Bring sauce to a boil and cook gently until reduced to a glaze. Cook rice according to package directions. Stir in beans and let stand 5 minutes. Arrange rice and beans on platter; top with chicken and spoon glaze over all. Sprinkle with cilantro. Makes 4 servings. — Virginia Anthony, Jacksonville, FL 5th place, 2003 National Chicken Cooking Contest