Cooking Chicken for Fun and Profit

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The historic Alamo in San Antonio captivated food writers covering the National Chicken Cooking Contest.
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Try Panko Crusted Chicken Salad with Pomegranate Balsamic Dressing for that family gathering.
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Mojito Chicken with Plantain Fried Rice makes a tantalizing platter for your table.
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Chinese Chicken Burgers with Rainbow Sesame Slaw promise to be a barbecue favorite.
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Ginger Scented Honey Hoisin Chicken Thighs with Sesame offer a new flavor to those who like dark chicken meat.
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Parmesan Potato Crusted Chicken with Orzo Caprese Salad may become a new family favorite.

Crowing rights go to a chicken burger.

At the 48th National Chicken Cooking Contest, a chicken burger won the hearts and taste buds of the judging panel, spotlighting the easy use and yumminess of ground chicken. The contest, sponsored by the National Chicken Council and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, happens every two years. This year’s event, set in San Antonio, Texas, brought nine regional winners to the kitchen.

The winning burger recipe, “Chinese Chicken Burgers with Rainbow Sesame Slaw,” was the creation of 28-year-old Brigitte Nguyen of Lexington, Kentucky. Brigitte had a busy week – mere days before her $50,000 recipe win, she accepted the proposal of fiancé Michael Prather.

“Asian cooking is all about balance,” Brigitte says. “The burgers can also be grilled.”

The Judges’ Choice award, worth $10,000, went to Elise Lalor’s “Butterflied Chicken with Herbs and Sticky Lemon.” Elise, from Issaquah, Washington, says that although she was initially reluctant to try the butterfly technique, after practicing several times her fear went away, and she now says the technique is easy to use.

“The recipe has a lot of garlic – 10 cloves – and the sauce is put on at the very end,” Elise says. “I serve it, cut in quarters, with rice or on mashed potatoes.”

Nine regional finalists, who qualified at cook-offs across the country, prepared their dishes in the test kitchens of the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio Branch. The 2009 contest marked the first year regional cook-offs were held instead of bringing all 51 state and Washington, D.C., winners to the finale.

Contestant Ruth Kendrick, of Ogden, Utah, calls the institute’s kitchen setup “terrific,” and Elise says the CIA kitchens had a lot of wonderful space.

For more on the contest, visit the website,, and check out the website,, for more great chicken recipes. 

Chinese Chicken Burgers with Rainbow Sesame Slaw 

Brigitte Nguyen (representing East South Central Region)
Lexington, Kentucky
2009 Grand Prize 

2 pounds ground chicken
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced lemongrass
1/3 cup sliced scallions
6 hamburger buns with sesame seeds
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 tablespoons hoisin sauce
Sliced scallions
Sriracha Lime Mayo, recipe follows
Rainbow Sesame Slaw, recipe follows 
In large bowl, mix together ground chicken, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, lemongrass and scallions. Divide mixture into 6 patties and set aside. Place grill pan over medium heat. Spread softened butter on hamburger buns and place on grill pan until light brown.
Wipe grill pan with paper towel and brush with vegetable oil. Place chicken patties on grill pan and cook over medium high heat, turning once, until internal temperature reaches 165°F, about 7 minutes per side.
During last few minutes of cooking, baste each burger with 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce.
To assemble, place 1 tablespoon Sriracha Lime Mayo on each bottom and top bun. Place chicken burgers on bun bottoms and top each with 1/3 cup Rainbow Sesame Slaw. Serve with any remaining slaw and mayo on the side. Garnish with scallions. Yields 6 servings.
Sriracha Lime Mayo: In small bowl, mix together 3/4 cup mayonnaise; zest and juice of 1 lime; and 2 tablespoons Sriracha Chile Sauce or favorite hot sauce. Set aside.

Rainbow Sesame Slaw

 In medium size bowl, mix together 2/3 cup julienne peppers (red, orange, yellow or any combination); 2/3 cup julienned snow peas, strings removed; 2/3 cup julienned jicama; 1 1/2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar; 1 tablespoon sugar; 1 tablespoon soy sauce; 1 teaspoon Sriracha Chile Sauce or favorite hot sauce; 1 teaspoon sesame oil; and 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds. 

Butterflied Chicken with Herbs and Sticky Lemon 

Elise Lalor (representing Pacific Region)
Issaquah, Washington
2009 Judges’ Choice 

1 whole chicken, back bone and breast bone removed and flattened
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
5 sprigs rosemary
10 long sprigs thyme
10 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons adobo sauce from canned chipotle peppers
2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley 
Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. On cookie sheet, place rosemary sprigs, thyme sprigs and garlic. Arrange flattened chicken on top and sprinkle with olive oil. Place chicken in 400°F oven for 20 minutes. Pour sherry vinegar over chicken and cook additional 15 minutes. Place lemon slices over chicken.
In small bowl, mix together honey and chipotle sauce; brush over lemon slices. Bake chicken additional 10-15 minutes, brushing with honey sauce (use foil to cover chicken if it starts to burn). Test for doneness by inserting instant read thermometer into thickest part of thigh. It should register 180°F. Remove chicken to platter and sprinkle with almonds and parsley. Yields 4 servings. 

Chicken Naan-wiches with Date and Yogurt Sauces 

Jessie Grearson (representing Northeast Region)
Falmouth, Maine
2009 Finalist 

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper, divided
1 1/4 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
3/4 cup flour, divided
1 large egg
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
4 large naan (East Indian flat bread)
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
4 leaves Boston lettuce
Sweet Date Sauce, recipe follows
Tangy Yogurt Raita, recipe follows 
Cut each chicken breast horizontally, stopping 1/2 inch from edge. Open each breast and pound to 1/4-inch thickness or so chicken is same size as naan bread.* Sprinkle with salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
In large pie plate, place panko. Stir in cumin, cayenne, garam masala and remaining 3/4 teaspoon pepper. In another pie plate, place 1/2 cup flour. In third plate, whisk egg and mayonnaise with paprika; whisk in remaining flour until smooth.
Dredge 1 chicken breast in flour; shake off excess. Then dip chicken in egg mixture to coat; next dip in panko. Repeat with remaining chicken breast.
In large nonstick skillet over medium heat, place 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Add chicken and cook, turning once, about 2 minutes per side or until internal temperature reaches 165°F. Remove and keep warm.
Wipe skillet and add remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Add garlic and stir until fragrant. Briefly heat naan in garlic oil, turning once, until soft and golden. Place 1 chicken breast on each naan and top with tomato slices, lettuce leaves, generous tablespoon each of Sweet Date Sauce and Tangy Yogurt Sauce, and remaining naan. Cut each sandwich in half and then half again. Serve with extra sauces for dipping. Two naan-wiches yield 4 servings.

Sweet Date Sauce

In 1 1/2 cups water, simmer 5 ounces dried dates about 15 minutes or until soft. Cool slightly and place dates and liquid in blender; process until fine. Add 1 teaspoon tamarind paste (or 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice); 1 tablespoon brown sugar; 1/2 teaspoon salt; 1 teaspoon cumin; 1/2 teaspoon pepper; 3 teaspoons lemon juice; and 2 tablespoons water. Process to smooth sauce. Additional sauce may be frozen.
Tangy Yogurt Raita: In small food processor, place 1 cup low-fat plain yogurt and 1 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro. Process until sauce turns pale green and cilantro is finely incorporated. Spoon into medium bowl and stir in 1/4 cup finely grated carrot; 1 cup finely minced sweet onion; 1/2 cup grated cucumber, drained; 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin; 1/4 teaspoon cayenne; and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
*Note: If chicken breast halves are too large to fit on naan bread, cut each breast in half to fit bread. 

Ginger Scented Honey Hoisin Chicken Thighs with Sesame 

Ruth Kendrick (representing Mountain Region)
Ogden, Utah
2009 Finalist 

1 tablespoon cooking oil
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
4 cups hot cooked white rice
1/4 cup sliced scallions, green tops included 
In large skillet over medium-high heat, place cooking oil. Add chicken and sauté until browned, about 3 to 4 minutes per side.
In small saucepan, mix together soy sauce, honey, hoisin sauce, chicken broth, ginger and pepper. Bring mixture to boil and simmer to reduce sauce, about 5 minutes. Pour sauce over chicken, turning to coat.
Place chicken in 325°F oven. Bake about 10 minutes or until internal temperature of chicken registers 165°F. Stir in sesame seeds. Place hot rice on serving platter, add chicken and sauce, and garnish with scallions. Yields 4 servings. 

Mojito Chicken with Plantain Fried Rice 

Diane Sparrow (representing West North Central Region)
Osage, Iowa
2009 Finalist 

1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice plus 1/4 cup, divided
2 teaspoons lime zest
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup jasmine rice
2 tablespoons Caribbean jerk seasoning
4 tablespoons cooking oil, divided
2 medium ripe plantains
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 cup chopped fresh pineapple
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
Lime-Coconut Sauce, recipe follows
Lime slices
Toasted coconut
Small red Thai peppers, or other hot red peppers
Mint sprigs 
In large sealable plastic bag, place olive oil, 3 tablespoons lime juice, lime zest, garlic, jalapeño and ginger. Add chicken and marinate in refrigerator at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, place coconut milk and chicken broth. Bring to boil and add remaining lime juice and salt. Stir in rice, cover, reduce heat and cook 30 minutes.
Remove chicken from marinade and discard marinade. Sprinkle chicken on both sides with jerk seasoning and place on broiler pan. Place under hot broiler about 8 inches from heat. Cook about 8 minutes per side or until internal temperature reaches 165°F.
While chicken cooks, in medium skillet over medium-high heat, place 2 tablespoons cooking oil. Peel plantains and cut in 1/2-inch-thick slices. Fry in hot oil about 1 1/2 minutes per side, pushing down with back of spatula to flatten. When browned, remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Cut each slice into quarters, leaving a few whole for garnish.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in skillet. Add green onions and cook until soft. Stir in cooked rice, pineapple and soy sauce. Add chopped mint and cut plantains.
Place rice and chicken on serving dish, top with reserved fried plantains. Pour some of Lime-Coconut Sauce over top and pass remainder in small bowl. Garnish with lime slices, toasted coconut, red peppers and mint sprigs. Yields 4 servings.

Lime-Coconut Sauce

In small saucepan, place 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon grated lime zest, 2 tablespoons dark rum, 1/4 cup fresh lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Place over medium-high heat and stir until hot. 

Panko Crusted Chicken Salad with Pomegranate Balsamic Dressing 

Nancy Walters (representing West South Central Region)
New Orleans
2009 Finalist 

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 tablespoons water
3 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 cups arugula, washed and dried
Caramelized Fruit, recipe follows
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Pomegranate Balsamic Dressing, recipe follows
Place chicken between 2 sheets plastic wrap and pound to 1/2-inch thickness. Sprinkle breasts with salt and pepper.
In deep dish, place eggs and stir in water. In another dish, place panko. Dredge each chicken breast in egg wash, let excess drip off and then place in panko. Coat both sides of chicken with panko and press so panko adheres. In sauté pan over medium-high heat, place butter and olive oil. Add chicken and cook about 10 minutes, turning once. Chicken should register 165°F on instant read thermometer. Remove chicken from pan and cut into slices.
On each of 4 serving plates, place arugula and top with chicken. Add Caramelized Fruit and feta. Drizzle with Pomegranate Balsamic Dressing. Yields 4 servings.

Caramelized Fruit

Cut 2 firm plums and 2 firm peaches into halves to remove pits.* Cut pitted fruit into 6 wedges. In saucepan over medium heat, place 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add fruit and cook 4 minutes on each side, just until fruit starts to turn brown and caramelize. Remove from heat and set aside.
Pomegranate Balsamic Dressing: In small saucepan over medium heat, place 3/4 cup pomegranate juice and 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar. Cook about 20 minutes, stirring often, until syrupy. Stir in 2 tablespoons honey and 3 tablespoons orange juice and simmer about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in 1/2 cup olive oil.
*If fresh fruit is unavailable, frozen may be used. 

Parmesan Potato Crusted Chicken with Orzo Caprese Salad 

Suzanne Banfield (representing Mid-Atlantic Region)
Basking Ridge, New Jersey
2009 Finalist 

1/2 cup instant potato flakes
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed for salad
1/2 teaspoon pepper, plus more as needed for salad
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons cooking oil
8 ounces orzo pasta, cooked according to package directions
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut in cubes
1/4 cup julienned sun-dried tomatoes in oil, plus 2 tablespoons of the oil
1/4 cup fresh basil, sliced in strips
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 ripe tomatoes
In shallow dish, mix together potato flakes, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, oregano, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Dip chicken, first in beaten eggs and then in potato mixture, coating all sides well. In large skillet over medium-high heat, place oil. Add chicken and cook until browned, about 3 minutes per side. Remove chicken to baking sheet and place in 350°F oven for about 15 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165°F.
In large bowl, mix together orzo, mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes and oil, basil and garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Slice tomatoes and arrange on 4 plates. Mound 1/4 of salad on tomatoes on each plate and add a chicken breast. Yields 4 servings. 

Spanish Style Sweet and Sour Chicken 

Lillian Julow (representing South Atlantic Region)
Gainesville, Florida
2009 Finalist 

1/2 cup blanched whole almonds
2 slices (1/2 inch thick) French bread
3 pounds mixed bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts and thighs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons soft unsalted butter
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 inch fresh ginger, grated
2 tablespoons sugar
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 
On tray in toaster oven, place almonds and bread.* Bake at 350°F until light brown, turning once. Set aside and cool to room temperature.
Heat oven to 375°F. With scissors, trim chicken skin so it just covers meat. Cut chicken breasts in half crosswise (if wings are attached, remove and discard tips). Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. In large heavy skillet over medium-high heat, place olive oil. Add chicken in batches, starting with skin side down and turning once until well browned on all sides; transfer to 2 l/2-quart casserole with cover.
Discard oil in skillet but retain browned bits and any remaining chicken juices. Return skillet to medium heat and add butter and chicken broth. Simmer, stirring, until all brown bits are incorporated into stock mixture; set aside.
Tear toasted bread into small pieces and place in small bowl containing vinegar. Place almonds in food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add soaked bread, cinnamon, ginger and sugar to processor and pulse until smooth. Pour in juices from skillet and process again. Pour sauce over chicken, cover and bake about 30 minutes or until tender and internal temperature reaches 170°F.
Arrange chicken with sauce on platter and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Yields 4 servings.
*Almonds and bread may also be browned under a broiler. 

Warm Lemon Chicken over Panzanella Salad with Basil Aioli 

Susan Cortesi (representing East North Central Region)
Northbrook, Illinois
2009 Finalist 

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper, divided
5 cups country Italian-style bread, cut in 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 English cucumber, cut in 1/2-inch slices and then quartered
2 medium plum tomatoes, cored and cut in 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup large black olives, halved
2 cups cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
5 ounces sharp provolone cheese, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
Hot Dressing, recipe follows
Basil Aioli, recipe follows
1/2 cup torn fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
2 basil sprigs
2 lemon slices 
Place chicken in large bowl. In small bowl, whisk together lemon juice and olive oil. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon cracked pepper. Pour mixture over chicken; cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.
Spread bread cubes on two baking pans and toast in 400°F oven about 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.
In large bowl, place red onion, cucumber, tomatoes, olive, cannelloni beans and provolone cheese.
Heat large grill pan over high heat. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Sprinkle chicken with remaining salt and pepper. Place chicken on hot grill pan, lower heat to medium-high and cook 8 to 9 minutes. Turn chicken and cook 10 to 12 more minutes or until thermometer reaches 165°F. Remove chicken to cutting board; cover with foil.
To bowl of vegetables, add bread cubes; stir to mix well. Reheat dressing over high heat about 1 minute; pour over bread mixture and toss to coat. Sprinkle with torn basil leaves; toss again and arrange on serving platter. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts. Slice chicken crosswise into 1/2-inch slices and arrange over salad. Spoon Basil Aioli over top of chicken and garnish platter with basil sprigs and lemon slices. Yields 4 servings.

Hot Dressing

In small saucepan, heat 1/4 cup olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 2 cloves minced garlic and cook about 2 minutes to soften. Lower heat to medium and whisk in 1/4 cup red wine vinegar; 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice; 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard; 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest; 1/2 teaspoon salt; and 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper. Turn off heat and set aside.

Basil Aioli

In bowl of food processor or blender, place 1/2 cup mayonnaise; 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves; 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest; 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice; and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Pulse or blend to mix well and finely chop basil; remove to small bowl, cover and refrigerate.

Senior Associate Editor Jean Teller enjoys attending the National Chicken Cooking Contest, and tasting the best cuisine an area has to offer, no matter where the contest takes place.