Potato shells stuffed with chicken wins cooking contest

''Here's something most people don't know about chicken,'' the young man said , expertly slicing deep into the breast with a serrated knife to remove the bone.

After watching people cook in the Delmarva Chicken Cooking Contest for nigh onto 18 years, I doubted very much that any young whippersnapper could tell me much I didn't know about chicken.

Wrong.

''There's a tenderloin, along each side of the bone, right in the middle of the breast. You have to pull it out and get rid of it. Otherwise, to get the chicken tender, you have to overcook the rest of the breast. That's why you usually end up with dry white meat.''

The thirtyish fellow, one of five men competing in the three-state cookoff, is a part-time cook in Rehoboth Beach, Del. He teaches history, math, and economics when he's not finding some new way to cook chicken. His name is Bill Cooksey. He didn't win this year, although he certainly whipped up a beautiful recipe.

But the competition was evidently even better, since the judges chose as top winner from Delaware an unusual combination of potato shells stuffed with a chicken-sour cream-parmesan mixture, created by Paul Hayes.

Mr. Hayes, too, is a part-time cook, having worked in England, Nevada, and California before returning to Delaware as a student. He plans to be a teacher, and the $500 prize money will help with his tuition bills. If he wins the national contest in August in Dallas, the prize will be $10,000, which ought to ensure that degree.

Here is a sampling of what was cooked at the 35th annual contest. Chicken Stuffed Potato Shells 1 broiler-fryer chicken, cut in parts 11/4 teaspoons salt, divided 3/8 teaspoon pepper, divided 2 cups water 2 large baking potatoes, baked 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese 1/2 cup sour cream 1/2 cup mayonnaise 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion 1 tablespoon seasoned bread crumbs

Place chicken in deep saucepan. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Add water. Cover and simmer about 1 hour or until fork can be inserted in chicken with ease. Cool. Separate meat from bones. Discard bones and skin. Dice chicken and set aside.

Halve potatoes lengthwise, scoop out centers, and set aside potato pulp for another use (such as potato pancakes).

In bowl, make stuffing by mixing together diced chicken, Parmesan cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, onion, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

Pile chicken mixture into the potato shells; sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake , uncovered, in 350-degree F. oven about 30 minutes or until light brown. Makes 4 servings. Chicken Korma 8 broiler-fryer chicken thighs, skinned 1 carton (8 ounces) plain yogurt 2 teaspoons curry powder 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon coriander 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger 4 cloves garlic, minced 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice 2 tablespoons shortening 1 medium onion, chopped 1 large tomato, peeled, chopped 2 bay leaves

In deep bowl, make marinade by mixing together yogurt, curry powder, salt, coriander, ginger, garlic, red pepper, and lemon juice. Add chicken, turning to coat. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

In frypan, place shortening and heat to medium temperature. Add onion and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes or until light brown. Stir in tomato and bay leaves; cook 5 minutes.

Add chicken and marinade mixture to contents of frypan and mix thoroughly. Cover and simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 30 minutes or until fork can be inserted in chicken with ease. Serve over hot cooked rice. Makes 4 servings. Chicken Herb Delight 3 whole broiler-fryer chicken breasts, halved, boned, skinned 1 8-ounce package cream cheese 2 tablespoons sour cream 1/2 cup margarine, softened 1 tablespoon chopped parsley 1 teaspoon dillweed 1/2 teaspoon marjoram leaves 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper 1 clove garlic, minced 2 teaspoons lime juice 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon white pepper 1/2 cup flour 1 egg, beaten 1/3 cup bread crumbs 1/2 cup butter 1/2 cup cooking oil

In bowl, make filling by mixing cream cheese and sour cream. Add margarine, parsley, dillweed, marjoram, garlic salt, red pepper, and garlic; stir to mix. Divide into six equal portions; roll each portion into finger shape; chill.

On hard surface, with meat mallet or similar flattening utensil, pound chicken to 1/8 inch thickness. Sprinkle lime juice, salt, and pepper over chicken. Place 1 portion of filling on each breast.

Fold breast around filling and fasten with a wooden pick. In three separate bowls place flour, egg, and bread crumbs. Place chicken, one piece at a time, first in flour, then egg, then crumbs, turning to coat. Chill, uncovered, 1 hour.

In frypan, place butter and oil and heat to medium temperature. Add chicken and cook, turning, 10 minutes on each side or until fork can be inserted with ease. Makes 6 servings.

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