Food & Drink

Junior League cookbook offers entertaining menus for Derby, other occasions

Raspberries top a mascarpone-yogurt filling in these tarts, left, while a jalapeño-laced cocktail sauce accompanies roasted shrimp.
Raspberries top a mascarpone-yogurt filling in these tarts, left, while a jalapeño-laced cocktail sauce accompanies roasted shrimp.

It's party time in the Bluegrass.

The glitz and glamour of Kentucky Derby parties tempt many of us to bring out the linen tablecloths, fine china and silver julep cups. Even if we normally don't entertain in such lavish style, we do like to celebrate the Run for the Roses with friends and family.

For the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville on May 4, you could plan a party around Bluegrass Gatherings, a new cookbook from the Junior League of Louisville.

The first Junior League of Louisville cookbook since 2000, Bluegrass Gatherings makes an ideal guide for Derby entertaining. The menu-based cookbook is designed for all seasons, and you may choose from five spring menus that will simplify the planning of your Derby party.

If you choose to have a Lilies for the Fillies cocktail party for Oaks Day on May 3, here's what to serve: pulled pork corn poppers, Kentucky country ham torte, call-to-post asparagus salad, Aunt Sally's pickles, down-the-stretch shrimp and grits, roasted butterflied leg of lamb with mint pepper jelly, pomegranate salmon, bourbon balls, Kentucky tiramisu and Triple Crown pie shooters.

Here's what the cookbook suggests serving for a Run for the Roses brunch: and they're off amaretto fruit salad, Bibb lettuce with Benedictine dressing, miniature hot Brown appetizers with mornay sauce, pimento cheese-stuffed mushrooms, fast-track frittata, winner's circle corn pudding, Southern country ham and chive biscuits, bourbon banana bread with strawberry compote, and mint julep cake.

Cookbook co-chair LaCinda Glover of Louisville recommends the brunch menu.

"I'd be too exhausted after the races to cook," she said. "Our Run for the Roses brunch menu would be my go-to."

Glover calls Bluegrass Gatherings "truly a Kentucky lifestyle book. It's such a versatile book. It not only has great recipes but also beautiful photography, entertaining tips and ideas, a Kentucky farm glossary and produce buying guide, and a wine pairing for each menu. Not to mention, it screams Bluegrass," she said.

Glover and Susan Hovekamp worked for three years compiling recipes with other committee members.

"We solicited recipes from League members, their family and friends, and also talented local chefs," Glover said. "Because the book is menu-based, the recipes had to pair well with other dishes that we wanted to include.

"We also focused on fresh, local ingredients, so recipes that included loads of processed ingredients were thrown out. We tested all the recipes multiple times, sometimes at the dinner table of our League members and other times at parties, meetings and other events."

One of Glover's recipes in the book is her own creation: Triple Crown pie shooters.

"They are a twist on the famous Derby Pie and are elegant, fun and easy," she said.

The book, which is $29.95, is available in Lexington at L.V. Harkness, 531 West Short Street; the University of Kentucky bookstore, 106 Student Center Annex; and Keeneland Gift Shop, 4201 Versailles Road. It also is available at


Triple Crown pie shooters

1 cup sugar

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 stick salted butter, melted and cooled

2 tablespoons Kentucky bourbon or water

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup shortbread cookies, crumbled

1 cup pecans, finely chopped

1 cup (6 ounces) miniature chocolate chips

1 can (7 ounces) refrigerated whipped cream

Additional finely chopped pecans and miniature chocolate chips for garnish

Whisk sugar, flour and cornstarch in bowl. Whisk in eggs, butter, bourbon and vanilla until smooth. Pour into saucepan or skillet. Cook until slightly thickened, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and cool slightly. (If batter cools completely or becomes too thick, cook over low heat, adding 1 tablespoon water at a time and stirring until mixture warms and thins.)

Layer 2 teaspoons crumbled cookies, 1 teaspoon pecans and 1 teaspoon chocolate chips in each of 24 (2 ounces each) shot glasses (see note). Top each with 2 teaspoons of the custard, 1 teaspoon pecans and 1 teaspoon chocolate chips. Top each with a dollop of whipped cream. Garnish with additional pecans and chocolate chips.

Arrange shooters on a serving tray and insert a miniature tasting spoon into each shooter. Makes 24 servings.

Note: Disposable shot glasses can be found at most party supply stores.

Mint julep cake

For cake:

3 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

2 cups sugar

2 sticks butter, softened

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk

For bourbon sauce:

½ cup sugar

1 stick butter, softened

½ cup Kentucky bourbon

Mint leaves for garnish

For mint glaze:

1½ cups confectioners sugar

1 tablespoon milk, or more

1 tablespoon clear crème de menthe

To make cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda together. Beat sugar and butter in mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add dry ingredients and buttermilk alternately, stirring just until combined after each addition.

Pour into 10-inch bundt pan coated with nonstick cooking spray; smooth the top. Bake in 325-degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack.

To make bourbon sauce: Heat sugar, butter and bourbon in a saucepan until butter is melted, stirring constantly. Poke holes in top of the cake with skewer. Pour bourbon sauce evenly over hot cake. Let cool completely. Invert cake onto serving plate. Drizzle with mint glaze and garnish center of cake with mint leaves.

To make mint glaze: Whisk confectioners sugar, milk and crème de menthe in a bowl until smooth. Whisk in additional milk if glaze is too thick to drizzle. Makes ¾ cup.

Spicy roasted shrimp cocktail and sauce

For roasted shrimp:

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon minced shallot

2 pounds jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

For cocktail sauce:

½ cup ketchup

½ cup chili sauce

¼ cup grated sweet white onion

½ teaspoon finely chopped jalapeño or other hot chile

2 tablespoons horseradish

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1⁄8 teaspoon salt

To make shrimp: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine garlic, shallot, shrimp, olive oil, salt and pepper in bowl and toss to mix. Spread shrimp in single layer on a heavy rimmed baking sheet. Roast in 450-degree oven for 3 minutes. Turn shrimp over and roast 2 to 4 minutes longer or until shrimp turn pink. Remove shrimp to a shallow dish and partially cover. Chill for 2 hours. Serve with cocktail sauce.

To make cocktail sauce: Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Chill, covered, for up to 24 hours. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Fresh watermelon cucumber salad

For salad:

4 cups chopped seedless watermelon

½ large red onion, thinly sliced

1 large seedless cucumber, chopped

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint

¾ cup kalamata olives, pitted

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

½ teaspoon sea salt

Mint sprigs for garnish

For balsamic vinaigrette:

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon brown sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

Pat watermelon, onion and cucumber dry with paper towels and place in bowl. Add mint and toss to mix. Add olives, cheese and salt, and toss to mix. Add balsamic vinaigrette and toss gently to coat. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs. Makes 6 servings.

To make vinaigrette: Whisk all ingredients in a bowl.

Note: This salad is attractive served in clear martini glasses.

Raspberry tart

For almond crust:

2⁄3 cup confectioners sugar

¼ cup almonds, ground

1¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, sifted

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1 egg

1 tablespoon (or more) ice water

Additional butter

Additional all-purpose flour

For filling:

8 ounces mascarpone cheese, softened

½ cup plain Greek yogurt

4½ tablespoons confectioners sugar

Seeds from 1 vanilla bean

16 ounces fresh raspberries

¾ cup salted pistachios, shelled and coarsely chopped

To make crust: Mix confectioners sugar and almonds in bowl. Stir in flour. Add butter, egg and 1 tablespoon ice water, and mix until dough sticks together. Add additional ice water, 1 teaspoon at a time, if dough is too dry. Shape dough into ball. Freeze, wrapped in plastic, for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter six 4-inch tart pans and dust with flour. Divide dough into six balls. Roll out each ball on a floured surface to a 5-inch circle. Fit each circle into a prepared tart pan and trim edges. Prick the pastry shells all over with a fork. Line each with a 6-inch square of parchment paper and then fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake in 350-degree oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Remove parchment and pie weights.

To make filling: Whisk cheese, yogurt, confectioners sugar and vanilla seeds in a bowl until thick and smooth. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of cheese mixture evenly into each cooled tart shell. Arrange equal portions of raspberries in an attractive low mound on top of each tart, and sprinkle with the pistachios. Chill at least 15 minutes. Remove from tart pans to serve. Makes 6 servings.

Variations: To keep from buying additional ingredients and to switch things up, try substituting chopped almonds for the pistachios. If using unsalted almonds, add a pinch of salt before sprinkling over raspberries.