Thursday, April 30, 2009

Your Daily Dose of Derby -- Food!

While running around from pillar to post during Derby, there is a common theme---the food! Everyone has their favorite party foods but it's hard to escape the Festival without having had at least one of the following tried and true Southern items:


Beaten biscuits are leavened with air by beating the dough repeatedly. They are not the same as regular flaky southern biscuits or even "whack" biscuits (from a can you whack to open on the edge of the counter). They are hard and white and very much a labor and time suck. They do stand up beautifully to country ham, though, which as we all know is the prize product of that most loved of all animals, the hog. There are a few companies that make them and most Southern cooks just buy them now but if you think you need to make a bread item that has to be beaten 100 times here's a recipe or go here for an interesting treastise on the breads of rural Kentuckians in the 20th century. (Actually quite fascinating).

This is what we call food that might just as well be given its' place of honor on the body from the get-go. It's going to reside on the thighs or gut no matter what. Hot Browns are toast with white bechamel or mornay sauce, cheese, turkey, bacon and tomatoes all grilled up and hot. They are a revelation to anyone who's never had one. Originally they were served at the Brown Hotel in the 1920's in the wee hours to partiers that had been up all night and still continue to be served there to this day. Here is the original recipe for them:

The Legendary Hot Brown Recipe
Ingredients:4 oz. ButterFlour to make a Roux (about 6 tablespoons)
3 - 3 1/2 cups Milk
1 Beaten Egg
6 tablespoons Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 oz. Whipped Cream (optional)
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Slices of Roast Turkey
8-12 Slices of Toast (may be trimmed)
Extra Parmesan for Topping
8-12 Strips of Fried Bacon
Melt butter and add enough flour to make a reasonably thick roux (enough to absorb all of the butter). Add milk and Parmesan cheese. Add egg to thicken sauce, but do not allow to boil. Remove from heat. Fold in whipped cream. Add salt and pepper to taste.
For each Hot Brown, place two slices of toast on a metal (or flameproof) dish. Cover the toast with a liberal amount of turkey. Pour a generous amount of sauce over the turkey and toast. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese. Place entire dish under a broiler until the sauce is speckled brown and bubbly. Remove from broiler, cross two pieces of bacon on top, and serve immediately.

If you've never had a benedictine sandwich it is hard to imagine what all the fuss is about. This is, after all, a food that uses green food dye. Benedectine is a sandwich spread made with cream cheese, cucumber and onion and the previously noted dye. It is often served on crustless bread and vies with pimiento cheese for the yummiest thing that looks like you shouldn't be eating it. Most people add a bit of Tabasco for a kick and add bacon to the sandwiches because once again, the hog makes everything better.
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
3 tablespoons grated cucumber, drained well with paper towel
1 teaspoon finely chopped green onions with tops
1 drop green food coloring
Blend all ingredients together and mix well.
Yield: 10 to 12 servings
Note: Serve as dip or use as spread for finger sandwiches.


Derby pies have spawned lawsuits and court battles over their origins and makeup but the truth is, Derby Pie is really just a pecan pie with some bourbon and chocolate chips thrown in. Derby Pies that are not the official Derby Pie are often called Thoroughbred Pies to keep the Derby Pie Police from getting their knickers in a twist. No matter. It is an easy dessert to make and worth the effort. Serve with bourbon laced whipped cream or ice cream.

· 1 cup all purpose flour·
6 tablespoons butter, cut into at least· 8 pieces·
1/2 teaspoon salt·
1 egg·
1 tablespoon cold water

Chocolate nut filling:
· 2 eggs·
1 cup sugar·
1/2 cup melted butter
· 1/4 cup bourbon·
1/4 cup cornstarch·
1 cup chopped pecans·
1 cup chocolate chips (6 ounces of morsels)

To make crust: Combine flour, butter and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Use a pastry cutter or 2 knives to cut the butter into flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. In a small bowl, beat egg and water together. Stir into flour mixture until well combined, then press the mixture together with your hands to form a ball. Flatten the ball into a disc 1 inch thick, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until ready to use. Roll the crust to fit a 9-inch pie pan.
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
To make filling: Beat eggs and sugar in a medium bowl until blended. Stir in butter, bourbon, then cornstarch. Sprinkle pecans in the bottom of the pie crust, then top with chocolate chips. Pour egg mixture over the top and bake 45 minutes. Serve slightly warm with whipped cream if desired.
Serves 8.


This picture is of the $1,000 Julep. It is served in a 24 ct. gold julep cup with Master Distiller's Rserve bourbon from Woodford Reserve,mint from Ireland and superfine sugar from Australia. It doesn't make it taste any better. I consider myself a commonsewer of fine bourbons, our house bourbon of Old Crow included. It's actually quite good for the money. I also grew up smelling the mash on the Kentucky River from the Wild Turkey distillery. Bourbon is in my blood and the mint julep is a travesty. The only people who buy the 120,000 juleps sold at the Derby are non-natives. The rest of us are drinking proper manhattans and old-fashioneds or just a little bourbon and branch (tap water) like the good Lord intended.

These foods just graze the surface of the yummy that is the Derby Festival. Maybe next year we'll talk about cheese grits, red eye gravy and Henry Bain sauce. Remember, sign up to follow or comment to win!


Treehouse Chef said...

Yum! All of this food makes me hungry. Beautiful photos.

tradeshowmaven said...

Hats, flowers and food--not what I would have expected from a commentary on Derby. Love it!

Having never been to one, I feel like I could go now and love it.

Thank you
Gail, The Trade Show Maven

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