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National Chicken Cooking Contest

May 9, 2007

I've had a wonderful few days, starting with attending the National Chicken Cooking Contest in Birmingham, Alabama. We had many wonderful meals in Birmingham, starting with a tour of Southern Living's multi-terraced magnificent buildings. We wandered outdoors in candlelight, eating Shrimp and Grits, chicken and other wonderful delicacies, in a perfectly balmy evening. If you haven't been there, its an ideal working environment, a perfect blend of indoor and out.

Another outstanding meal was at Bodega, Frank Stitt's second restaurant. A souffle-like parmiagianno reggiano custard was surrounded with a buerre blanc and little English peas, slivers of asparagus and fava beans. Not a word was heard until a collective sigh spread throughout the room. A miracle to serve that many people such a superb dish simultaneously. Our paillard (of pounded chicken) was surrounded by a sauce that included a tiny bit of tomato conserve. He uses a local one, but I have a similar recipe in Southern memories. I never thought of adding a bit of it to a sauce. (Its in his fabulous cookbook, along with a sauce for the conserve.) Finally, he served a cake with a honeysuckle sauce. Really! He added freshly picked honeysuckles to our plates, and people pulled off the buds to suck the honey out as if they were five years old. He's one of the world's great cooks, and we were fortunate to eat there.

We had great fun walking around the contest, as individual cooks from each of the states stood over their hot stoves and prepared their dishes. I bet on the South Carolina dish, which didn't win. The lady who won was a first time Chicken contest contestant. What I like about this contest is that you are required to only use one product -- chicken. Many other contests make you use lots of other ingredients, and dilute your creativity. The prize was $100,000.00, which is a lot of chicken!

The NCCC is sponsored by the National Chicken Council and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association. The Alabama Poultry & Egg Association serves as the local host. They always treat food writers royally.

The next (48th) National Chicken Cooking Contest will be held in 2009. Recipes to that Contest may be submitted starting January 1, 2008, until October 15, 2008. Information on entering the 48th NCCC will be available on the chicken industry Web site, www.eatchicken.com, starting January 1, 2008. So start cooking! You could be the lucky next winner.

Recipes of all state finalists are available in a new edition of The Chicken Cookbook, available for the first time at the Contest. Also included in the 128-page paperback are winning recipes from previous Cook-Offs, and chicken recipes from popular Birmingham chefs and restaurants.

The cookbook may be ordered at a special price of $2.95 (check or money order; no cash), sent with name and complete mailing address to:

Chicken Cookbook
Department NCC
Box 307
Coventry, CT 06238

Layered, fluffy, feathery, silky, soft, and velvety biscuits all come together in Southern Biscuits, a book of recipes and baking secrets for every biscuit imaginable.
The magical combination of shrimp and grits, whether for pre-dawn breakfast on a shrimp boat or as an entrée in the finest New York restaurant can be deliriously wonderful.
A beautiful book, winner of the James Beard Award for Entertaining, that will help the novice and the experienced alike.
The best of traditional Southern cooking, as well as innovative, new cuisine.
This book will be a keepsake for anyone with Southern roots, and a practical book for those who like to cook! A winner of the 1994 James Beard Award.
Master index to all of Nathalie's cookbooks

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