A ground-chicken burger with an Asian flavor zing earned Brigitte Nguyen of Lexington, Ken., the top prize of $50,000 in the 48th National Chicken Cooking Contest.

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Brigitte Nguyen with her NCCC winner Chinese Chicken Burgers with Rainbow Sesame Slaw.

Nguyen, a part-time bookkeeper and a baker at a wine shop and deli in Lexington, topped a field of nine finalists from across the country in a competition sponsored by the National Chicken Council with her Chinese Chicken Burgers with Rainbow Sesame Slaw. The event was held at the San Antonio campus of the Culinary Institute of America with members of the Texas Poultry Federation serving as local hosts.

"The burger had a clear Asian flavor profile with zing, some sweetness, and lime and lemongrass notes; it was just delicious," said Kathy Martin, food editor of the Miami Herald and chairman of a panel of judges drawn from newspapers and magazines. The burger recipe is based on ground chicken and includes soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, lemongrass, and scallions. It is served on a toasted bun and is topped with lime-accented mayonnaise and chile sauce and served with a slaw of julienned peppers, snow peas, and jicama.

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A Judge’s Choice award and $10,000 went to Elise Lalor, a travel agent from Issaquah, Wash., for Butterflied Chicken with Herbs and Sticky Lemon. Martin said the dish featured a sweet but spicy sauce, spooned over lemon slices that caramelized in the oven. She said the chicken was moist throughout. The judges also praised the use of the butterfly technique, in which the backbone of a whole chicken is cut out and the chicken is flattened.

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Elise Lalor with her Judge's Choice award-winning Butterflied Chicken with Herbs and Sticky Lemon.

"It makes the chicken cook more evenly," she said. "People are surprised when they learn how easy it is to butterfly a chicken." 

Christine Koury of Woman’s World magazine, also a member of the judging panel, said the entries were a varied and "interesting" group that "really demonstrates the versatility of chicken."