Anne Bialeski of Mattituck is getting her 15 minutes of fame — and maybe more — thanks to her fondness for chicken salad.
After working for 25 years in doctors’ offices, she hardly considers herself a professional cook. Even so, Ms. Bialeski was recently named a finalist in Smucker’s $20,000 traditions recipe and essay contest and will be chauffeured into New York next month for the final judging.
She doesn’t remember how she discovered the contest, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t over the moon about it.
“I still have the voice mail on my phone,” she said about learning the news.
Her entry was a chicken salad recipe modeled after one she’d eaten once a week for as long as her boss’ one-time girlfriend owned the Folktales gourmet deli in Aquebogue. “It’s not your typical mayonnaise-y white chicken salad,” Ms. Bialeski said. The recipe includes curry, apples and honey.
“I just played around in the kitchen one day, added a couple things here and there and the recipe was born. I think it came out close to what she had done,” she said.
Recipes submitted to the contest had to include at least a quarter-cup of Smucker’s jams, jellies, preserves or fruit butters. Ms. Bialeski’s chicken salad, which uses Smucker’s apricot preserves, is one of the final five.
“I don’t measure when I cook, so I just made up the measurements when I submitted it and I didn’t test it,” she said. “So when the woman called, I told her I hadn’t taste-tested the recipe and she said not to worry because they had.”
To get as far as she did, Ms. Bialeski also had to submit an essay of no more than 200 words. She described how her recipe has become a family tradition and is regularly served at celebrations.
She learned that she was a contest finalist in early January but was unable to say anything until the company announced it last week. A car will pick up Ms. Bialeski and her husband, Felix, and take them to the city for a 90-minute final judging on March 9.
“The PR person told us that we would recognize the names of the chefs in charge of the judging, which kind of made me nervous,” she said. “I keep wondering who I’m going to be cooking for.”
Last year’s winner, a recipe for slow cooker marmalade pork tenderloin, came from a Texas woman.
If Ms. Bialeski wins this year, she said, part of the money will go toward extending invitations to a family reunion at her Mattituck home. As for the rest, she said, “I’m sure it’ll go pretty quickly. And then you’ve got to put away money for Uncle Sam because he’s going to want his part of it, right?”
Winning the money would be nice, but more than anything, she said the validation of her take on a culinary favorite is what she would savor most.
TRY THE RECIPE
3 large boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup Smucker’s Apricot Preserves
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 cup chopped green or red delicious apples (or 1/4 cup of each type)
Couple squeezes of lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped green grapes
1/2 cup chopped red grapes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white ground pepper
BOIL chicken breasts in a 4 quart pot of water, boil until cooked, approximately 20-30 minutes.
CHOP apples and squeeze a little lemon juice on them to keep them from turning brown while chicken is cooking. Chop the grapes.
ONCE the chicken is cool, pull chicken breasts apart into bite size pieces and place in a bowl.
ADD in chopped fruit, preserves, mayo, honey, curry, salt and pepper.
TOSS till mixed well, refrigerate.
SERVE on your favorite bread or croissants or on a bed of fresh greens.