Food & Drink

Bluegrass cooks share their favorite Derby recipes

Elle Fernandez converted the ingredients of a hot Brown into a dip that she says is always a hit at Derby parties. She serves it with crackers and chips.
Elle Fernandez converted the ingredients of a hot Brown into a dip that she says is always a hit at Derby parties. She serves it with crackers and chips. Herald-Leader

Thousands of racing fans will pack Churchill Downs on Saturday for the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby.

Even more people will gather at the homes of friends or business associates for parties.

Derby parties at home can rival the glamour and glitz of the party on Millionaire's Row. Caterers are booked months in advance, but many parties are potluck, with guests bringing their best appetizers, side dishes or desserts.

We asked readers to send us the Derby recipes they rely on each year for a successful party. We hope you'll try a few while you're enjoying the race.Jackie Bondurant of Lexington said baked beans are a must at the Derby party she and her husband, David, throw each year. She found the recipe many years ago in a newspaper article.

"When we first started hosting a Derby party, I cooked most of the food. It's grown a lot through the years, and the 'regulars' decided it should become a potluck dinner. So now, I never know what will be on the menu."

"There is now too much food for the dining room table, so we added a desert station and drink station, and have even spilled over to our neighbor's house. It's a fun time, rain or shine," she said.


Mixed baked beans

1 package thick-sliced bacon

1 large white onion, chopped

1 can (28 ounces) pork and beans

1 can (14 ounces) great northern beans, drained

1 can (14 ounces) red kidney beans, drained

1 can (14 ounces) lima beans, or butterbeans, drained

1 can (14 ounces) white beans, drained

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup white vinegar

Cut bacon into 1-inch pieces and fry until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Save about 2 tablespoons of fat in the skillet to sauté onions until golden.

Drain all the beans, except the pork and beans, and put in a large bean pot. Add crumbled bacon, onion, brown sugar and vinegar. Mix together. Bake at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly, about 45 minutes.

Makes 12 servings.

Elle Fernandez of Lexington scales down the original hot Brown to make a cooler version that's a hit at parties.

Hot Brown dip

3 ounces cream cheese

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon chicken flavored instant bouillon

1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

3/4 cup shredded Swiss cheese

1 small roma tomato, seeded and chopped

1/2 cup diced, cooked turkey breast

2 slices bacon, crisp and crumbled

2 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley

In a small mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, bouillon and cayenne pepper. Let stand for 15 minutes. Stir again to ensure that bouillon is dissolved. Spread in bottom of 9-inch glass pie plate.

Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over cream cheese mixture. Top with Swiss cheese, tomato, turkey and bacon. Garnish with parsley. Chill until ready to serve. Serve with crisp crackers or chips.

Brenda Bush of Lexington said she doesn't have plans to host a Derby party this year, but she offered her recipe for asparagus rolls, which she has served and taken to Derby parties in the past.

"I have had this recipe for so long, I don't remember from whence it came. It is so easy and always a big hit," she said.

Asparagus rolls

3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 squirt prepared mustard

3 to 4 slices crisply fried bacon, crumbled

Sandwich bread slices with crusts removed

Asparagus spears, canned or fresh, steamed tender

Melted butter

Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, mustard and bacon. Spread on bread. Place asparagus spear on bread and roll up. Cut into bite-size pieces. Place upright on baking sheet. Brush rolls with melted butter and sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese. Bake about 12 minutes until lightly browned.

Katherine Orton of Danville shares this family recipe for ham rolls.

"I have made it for many years, especially for Derby parties," she said.

Ham rolls

2 sticks butter, softened

1 small onion, grated

3 tablespoons poppy seeds

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

3 teaspoons dry mustard

1 pound country ham (ground)

1⁄3 pound grated Swiss cheese

3 packages Pepperidge Farm party rolls or similar size

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except party rolls. Spread on bottom part of rolls and cover with tops. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes. This can be made ahead and frozen.

Instead of having a Derby party this year, Janette Heitz of Lexington is hosting a Derby breakfast.

"Here is a great recipe that is one of the most delicious breakfast main courses that I have ever eaten. The directions look long, but it is really an easy recipe to prepare. I found it in a cookbook called Modern Hospitality," Heitz said.

Breakfast grits cakes

21⁄3 cups water

1 cup quick-cooking grits

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 teaspoon salt

1⁄8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1⁄3 cup all-purpose flour

5 eggs, or more

Salt and pepper to taste

5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (or ham combined with the eggs when scrambling)

1/4 cup sliced grape tomatoes

3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons chopped scallions

Bring 21⁄3 cups water to boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in grits, reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally until grits reach porridge consistency, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 2 tablespoons butter, salt, black pepper and cayenne, if using.

Line a small rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Pour grits in the center and spread, using a spatula, to a thickness of 3⁄8 inch. Let cool until grits are set, about 30 minutes.

Using a 3-inch cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out 12 circles from the cooled grits. Dredge both sides of these grits cakes in flour.

Heat a large cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and swirl to coat the bottom. Working with half the cakes at a time, cook until lightly browned, 11/2 to 2 minutes each side. Carefully remove with a spatula and drain on a plate lined with a paper towel. Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter to the pan and cook the remaining cakes.

Preheat broiler and line broiler pan with foil. Scramble eggs in a small skillet. Place cakes on the broiler pan. Spoon scrambled eggs onto cakes. Top with bacon, tomatoes and cheese. Broil until the cheese melts, 1 to 2 minutes.

Place grits cakes on a plate and sprinkle with the scallions. Serve hot.

Makes 6 servings.

Kay Cannon of Paris said these are the "greatest sausage balls ever" and perfect for a Derby party.

Kentucky Kernel sausage balls

2 pounds Tennessee Pride sausage

8 ounces finely shredded cheddar cheese

2 eggs

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1½ cups Kentucky Kernel seasoned flour

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix together with your hands until everything is well incorporated. Roll into ¾-inch balls and bake 35 to 45 minutes until golden brown. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Barbara Harper Bach of Lexington has won several blue ribbons for her creative pie recipes. This is a perfect pie to serve at your Derby party.

Racetrack pie with bourbon whipped cream

1 cup all purpose flour

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 cup melted butter

4 tablespoons Maker's Mark bourbon

2 cups chopped walnuts

2½ cups dark chocolate morsels

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 pinches salt

Bourbon whipped cream (recipe follows)

In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix flour and sugar. Add eggs and butter, and mix on low to combine. Add bourbon, walnuts, chocolate morsels, vanilla and salt. Mix thoroughly on medium speed. Pour into two 9-inch unbaked pie crusts and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Let cool and serve with bourbon whipped cream.

Makes 2 pies.

Bourbon whipped cream

1 pint whipping cream

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1 tablespoon bourbon

Chill a small bowl and beaters. Pour cream, sugar and bourbon into bowl and beat with a hand-held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Store in refrigerator; it will stay stiff for a day or two.

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