The Gazette's Big Game Recipe Contest sent more than 50 Broncos fans to their recipe boxes in hopes of scoring one of the top three prizes. While most of the offerings — many of them the predictable dips, salsas and crock pot dishes — sounded tasty enough on paper, we zeroed in on about a dozen unique ones that read like they'd be no-fumbles in the kitchen. We tried them out, and three won us over with their flavors.
Scoring King Soopers gift cards are:
WINNER: June Heimsoth
First place, with a $250 gift card, goes to June Heimsoth for her super easy, five-ingredient John Wayne Chicken ?la Orange. Actually you'll probably have to pick up only two ingredients for this dish: chicken and a can of Mandarin oranges. The chicken gets tossed in flour, salt and pepper, stuff everybody has in their pantry.
"I learned this recipe over 50 years ago from John Wayne's former next-door neighbor in their Mexico City home," she wrote. "I always think of John Wayne when I serve this. It is slightly sweet and juicy."
We couldn't believe that such a simple recipe could deliver so much flavor. Heimsoth adapted it for wings, but we used chicken drummettes for the recipe test because they are meatier. She suggested garnishing the dish with orange slices and blueberries for a nod to the Broncos.
John Wayne chicken a la orange
Yield: 4 servings
2 pounds chicken drummettes 1 (11-ounce) can Mandarin oranges, undrained 1/4 cup flour Salt and pepper to taste
Procedure: In a plastic bag combine chicken, flour, salt and pepper. Shake to coat chicken. In a nonstick skillet fry chicken until brown on all sides. Add Mandarin oranges. Cook, turning the chicken so the juices infuse the chicken and it gets glossy. Cook on medium low heat until the oranges are reduced to a light brown color and caramelized. The sauce should be the consistency of applesauce and about the color of caramel candy, with the orange slices broken down. Stand over this and watch carefully as the oranges can burn. Cook until the chicken is done, about 20 minutes.
SECOND PLACE: Jane Pickard
Jane Pickard took second place, netting a $100 gift card, for her Onside Kick Quesadilla, with an interesting twist on the Mexican-style grilled cheese treat. She put cooked shrimp on the flour tortilla and gave it a citrus flavor with fresh pineapple topped with mango salsa. The kick comes from pepper jack cheese.
Onside "Kick" Quesadilla
Yield: 12 servings
6 medium flour tortillas 18 extra jumbo (26-30) cooked shrimp, roughly chopped 1/2 fresh pineapple, chopped in small chunks or small can crushed pineapple, drained 3/4 pound shredded pepper jack cheese, 4 sprigs fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Procedure: Place tortilla in a warmed skillet, add a generous amount of cheese, the eqivalent of 3 shrimp and spread pineapple evenly on half of the tortilla. Add a sprinkling of cilantro and fold in half. Cook lightly on one side and then flip. When cheese is melted, transfer to platter and use a pizza cutter to cut into triangles. Serve with mango salsa, recipe follows. Quesadillas can be cooked on grill or in a panini cooker to get grill marks as seen in photo.
1 mango, seeded, peeled and diced , 1 jalapeno finedly diced, 1 red onion, diced , 2 tablespoons lime juice, pinch of salt , 1 tablespoon oil, 2 sprigs of cilantro, finely diced
Procedure: Mix together and let marinade for an hour to develop flavors.
THIRD PLACE: Nani Lincoln
Third place, with a $50 gift card, goes to Nani Lincoln for her Spicy Chicken Melts. She used a store-bought rotisserie chicken to make a flavorful topping for slices of French baguette. It's like a bruschetta. The crowning glory of this dish is the sliced tomato on top that becomes a little saucy during baking. Another interesting ingredient that brought some action to the game was chipotle-style mayonnaise. It gave the chicken salad a spicy, smoky flavor.
Spicy chicken melts
Yield: 24 servings
1 baguette sliced thin , 1 cup chopped rotisserie chicken, 1 cup shredded Colby cheese, 1/2 cup each chopped onion and bell pepper, dash of garlic salt, 1/4 cup chipolte style mayonnaise , 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, 2 roma tomatoes sliced thin.
Procedure: In a bowl mix mayonnaise, cheese, chicken, onion, bell pepper, cilantro, and garlic salt.
Place sliced baguette on a baking sheet. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spoon chicken mixture on to open faced slices of bread. top each with a slice of tomato. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the edges of the bread are golden brown. Serve warm.
Game plan tips: The wings can be made ahead and reheated when ready to serve. The filling for the quesadillas and chicken melts can be made ahead, too. Assemble both when ready to serve. The mango salsa is best made on the day it's to be used.