WITHIN EVERY amateur chef lies the dream of winning The Big One. The big bucks, the trip for two, photos in national magazines, TV talk shows -- all for winning a cooking contest.
Each year, the food industry launches regional and national contests to promote products, stir up publicity and create new markets. Entry blanks are frequently available in magazines, newspapers and supermarkets. The winning recipe could be a family favorite, a spin-off from a cookbook or a recipe specifically developed to include a particular ingredient. Winning selections are generally judged on originality, taste and appearance.
If you're interested in entering, be sure to read the rules carefully and make sure that your recipe is accurate. Chances are it will be read by a home economist or professional food tester; some companies even test the recipes themselves before asking the contestant to prepare the dish in public. List ingredients in order of their appearance in the instructions. Even if it means making the dish again, check measurements carefully. Give specific dimensions for baking pans. Calling for a loaf pan is not sufficient; there are at least four different sizes on the market.
For inspiration, here are some of last year's winning recipes:
Lavelle Breland of Wiggins, Miss., earned a $1,500 grand prize at the sixth annual National Beef Cook-Off with her spicy ground beef filling for corn crepes.
For information on this year's National Beef Cook-Off, write Mrs. Stuart Anderson, 2534 Boulder, Kingman, Ariz. 86401. FIESTA CREPES EN CASSEROLE (10 servings) 2 pounds ground beef chuck 1/2 cup onion, chopped fine 1/2 cup celery, chopped fine 1 can (17 ounces) cream-style corn 2 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce 1 envelope (1 1/2 ounces) taco seasoning mix Cornmeal crepes (see recipe below) 4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded 1/3 cup sliced ripe olives
Brown beef, onion and celery in large frying pan. Pour off drippings. Stir in corn. Combine tomato sauce and taco seasoning mix, stirring to blend. Add 1 1/3 cups tomato sauce mixture to meat and corn, mixing well. Spoon 2 tablespoons meat mixture onto each cornmeal crepe and roll to enclose filling. Spread remaining meat mixture in 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Place crepes, seam side down, on top of meat. Spoon remaining tomato sauce over crepes. Bake in a moderate oven (375 degrees) for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and top with olives. CORNMEAL CREPES (Makes 10) 1 cup flour 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal 1 1/2 cups milk 3 eggs Dash salt Oil
Combine flour, cornmeal, milk, eggs and salt; beat with rotary beater until smooth. For each crepe, pour 1/4 cup batter into hot, lightly oiled crepe pan or small frying pan; tilt to coat bottom evenly. Cook over medium heat until top is dull and underside is delicately browned. Turn; cook 10 to 15 seconds. t
The National Broiler Council awarded $10,000 to Barbara Long, a freelance writer from Laramie, Wyo., for her stuffed chicken breast recipe.
Entries for this year's contest should be mailed to Chicken Contest, P.O. Box 28158, Central Station, Washington, D.C. 20005 by March 15. The national cook-off will be in Atlanta on Aug. 6. CURRIED CHICKEN ROLLS (4 servings) 2 chicken breasts, halved, boned and skinned 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/3 teaspoon pepper 1 tablespoon margarine 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped 3/4 cup cooked rice 1/4 cup raisins 1 tablespoon chopped parsley 1 teaspoon curry powder 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning 1 teaspoon brown sugar Dash of garlic powder 1 tablespoon cooking oil 1/2 cup white wine 1 teaspoon granulated chicken boullion
Pound chicken breast with meat mallet or flattening untensil to 3/8-inch thickness. Sprinkle salt and pepper on chicken.
Make stuffing by melting margarine in skillet over medium heat; add onion and saute until soft (about 3 minutes). Add rice, raisins, parsley, curry powder, poultry seasoning, brown sugar and garlic powder. Stir well. Divide stuffing into 4 portions and place 1 portion on each piece of chicken. Roll and fasten with wooden picks.
Place oil in another skillet and heat to medium temperature. Add chicken rolls and cook (turn as necessary) about 15 minutes or until brown on all sides. Add wine and boullion, cover and simmer about 30 minutes, or until fork can be inserted in chicken with ease.
A $15,000 first prize went to Joe Stewart of Fair Oaks, Calif., for Reno Red Chili, the winning recipe in the 18th Annual International Chili Society competition.
For information about the International Chili Society, write Ics, P.O. Box 2966, Dept. A, Newport Beach, Calif. 92663. RENO RED CHILI 3 pounds round steak, coarsely ground (or cut into small chunks) 3 pounds chuck, coarsely ground 8 tablespoons chili powder 3 tablespoons cumin seed, crushed 6 medium cloves garlic, minced 6 dried red chili peppers, stemmed, seeded and boiled 30 minutes in 3/4 cup water 1 tablespoon oregano brewed in 1/2 cup beer (like tea) 3 medium onions, chopped 2 tablespoons paprika 2 tablespoons cider vinegar 2 cans beef broth 1 cup stewed tomatoes, pureed 2 tablespoons masa flour
Brown meat in rendered beef fat adding black pepper to taste. After browning, drain meat. Add chili powder, crushed cumin seed and minced garlic. Cook 30 to 45 minutes using as little liquid as possible, adding cooking water from peppers as necessary.
Remove skins from boiled chilis, mash pulp and add to meat mixture. Add onions, oregano and beer mixture, paprika, vinegar, one can of beef broth and tomatoes. Simmer 45 minutes.
Dissolve masa flour with water, stir into chili and simmer 30 minutes.
Taste and add additional salt, chili powder, oregano, garlic powder to taste, if needed. Simmer 15 minutes and serve.
Lucia T. Maggiani of New York City won a week for two in San Francisco plus $1,000 for her lamb shanks recipe in the Christian Brothers California Sherry/Bon Appetit Recipe Contest. i
Unfortunately, it's too late to enter this year's contest. The closing date was Dec. 31, 1979. THE BROTHERS' LAMB SHANKS (4 servings) 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves 4 lamb shanks (3/4 to 1 pound each) 1 tablespoon tomato paste 3/4 cup golden sherry 1 eggplant (3/4 to 1 pound) 2 large green peppers, cored, seeded and cut in chunks 3 medium onions, cut in wedges 3 medium tomatoes, cut in wedges 2 tablespoons chopped parsley 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
Combine salt, pepper and rosemary. Sprinkle lamb shanks with half the seasoning mixture. Place in a 9-by-13-inch pan; broil about 5 minutes on each side. Remove from oven.
Combine tomato paste and sherry. Pour over lamb shanks; marinate, turning occasionally.
In a large bowl, combine eggplant, peppers, onions, tomatoes, parsley and garlic. Toss with remaining salt/pepper/rosemary mixture. Turn into roasting pan, surrounding lamb shanks. Cover tightly with foil. Bake at 300 degrees 30 minutes.
Remove pan from oven, and turn over lamb and vegetables. Add additional sherry diluted with water as needed. Cover and continue baking 30 minutes longer or until lamb is fork tender and vegetables are cooked.
A recipe for pineapple-cheese baklava won the National Pineapple Cooking Classic grand prize of $25,000 for Annette Erbeck, a former New York City resident, who now lives in Mason, Ohio.
For information about entering the 1981 contest (there will not be one in 1980), write Pineapple Association of Hawaii, 747 Front St., Fourth Floor, San Francisco, Calif. 94111. PINEAPPLE CHEESE BAKLAVA (Makes 16 pieces) 1 can (1 pound, 4 ounces) crushed pineapple in syrup 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened 1 cup ricotta 1 cup granulated sugar 2 egg yolks 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel 1 teaspoon vanilla 1/2 pound phyllo leaves 1/2 cup butter, melted 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Turn pineapple into a strainer and drain, saving syrup.
In mixer bowl, combine cream cheese, ricotta, 1/2 cup sugar, egg yolks, lemon peel and vanilla. Blend together on medium speed. Stir in drained pineapple.
Place phyllo leaves between damp towels to keep moist. Place a sheet of pastry in well-greased 9-by-2-inch pan. Brush with melted butter. Repeat with three more leaves. Spoon on the pineapple-cheese mixture, and spread level. Top with remaining phyllo, brushing each sheet with butter.
Mark pastry into diamonds with point of sharp knife. Bake in 350-degree oven about 50 minutes, or until golden brown.
Combine 1/2 cup reserved pineapple syrup, remaining 1/2 cup sugar and lemon juice, and cook to a thick syrup. When baklava is baked, spoon the hot syrup evenly over top. Cool, then cut into diamonds at markings.