Hilton Head Island second-grader national finalist in JIF recipe contest

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Hilton Head Island second-grader national finalist in JIF recipe contest

By JUSTIN PAPROCKI
jpaprocki@islandpacket.com
Published Tuesday, January 17, 2012   |  640 Words  |  

Who knew that a peanut butter chicken quesadilla could turn out so tasty?

Mallory Russell, a second-grader at Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts, is a top 10 finalist in the Jif Most Creative Sandwich Contest. Her invention is the P-Nutty BBQ Chicken Quesadilla.

Jif judges selected the finalists. Now, the people will determine their favorite recipes in an online vote.

The top five finalists will get a trip to New York, where they'll make their sandwich for judges.

The winner gets a $25,000 college scholarship plus $10,000 for supplies.

The whole process started one day last summer when Mallory's mother, Tonya, was looking for ways to contribute to the scholarship fund for Mallory and her twin brother, Lathan. The Jif contest piqued her interest. Mallory, 8, had taken a liking to cooking, just like her father, Chris, who's the chef of the family (parents are allowed to help in the contest as long as they're not culinary professionals).

Dad and daughter spent two weekends playing with ideas -- peanut butter pizza, grilled cheese with peanut butter. Nothing turned out. The main problem was that the peanut butter overwhelmed the other flavors.

"They didn't really taste that good," Mallory said.

Mallory got the idea to combine her favorite foods -- peanut butter, barbecue and Mexican food. Dad helped with proportions, but the concoction was mainly Mallory's, he said. They mixed extra crunchy peanut butter, barbecue sauce and lime juice and spread it on the tortilla. They then sandwiched in roasted chicken chunks, green onion, corn and cheese. Dad heated it on the stove. Mallory garnished it with chopped tomatoes, cilantro and sour cream. What resulted was a tangy, nutty mix. They could taste the peanut butter, but it complemented the other flavors well, they felt.

They sent in the recipe in July. They didn't think much about it until Dec. 1, when the Jif judges told them they'd made the top 10.

"I froze. I didn't know what to do," Mallory said. "My mom went crazy. My teachers went nuts."

No matter how the vote turns out, the Russells realize they might have stumbled across a budding talent in their household. Could this mean a future for Mallory in the restaurant world?

"There's plenty of restaurants here," Chris said. "We can certainly find out."

P-Nutty BBQ Chicken Quesadilla

Makes: 1 serving

2 tablespoons Jif Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter

1/3 cup Brown Sugar & Hickory BBQ Sauce

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1 soft tortilla

1/3 cup of low fat shredded Mexican four-cheese blend, divided

1/3 cup of pre-packaged oven roasted chicken, chopped

1 tablespoon finely diced green onion

2 tablespoons frozen corn kernels

2 tablespoons tomato, chopped

2 tablespoons cilantro, divided

1/2 tablespoon butter

Start by mixing first three ingredients in a small bowl. Combine well. Place butter in large frying pan over medium high heat. Lay tortilla on to work surface. Spread 2 tablespoons of sauce over entire surface of tortilla. Evenly sprinkle half of the cheese on half of the tortilla. Add chicken, green onion, 1 teaspoon cilantro, corn kernels and 2 tablespoons of tomato on top of the cheese. Sprinkle on remaining cheese. Fold and lightly press tortilla together. Roll melted butter around pan. Place quesadilla in the hot pan and grill for approximately 2 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and allow to rest on cutting board for about 2 minutes. Cut in half and place two pieces on plate. Garnish with remaining cilantro, tomato and dollops of sour cream.

Note: You will have enough sauce left over to make another.