RECIPE: Kentucky Derby

cuffs054December 8, 2006

Want to host a Derby party in May 2007. Have zero ideas for food and drink. Any ideas?

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Mint then youy ought to have mint growing.
Linda C

    Bookmark   December 8, 2006 at 3:50PM
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Burgoo is traditional. Either the original mutton-only version; the mixed-meats type; or the modern burgoo made with chicken.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2006 at 5:22PM
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gardenlad, you just went over my head! I'll admit it. I have never heard of Burgoo, can you help?

Lindac, I had thought of that also, BUT, gots lots'o people on the guest list. Can I serve in anything but silver?

    Bookmark   December 8, 2006 at 8:03PM
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A double old fashioned glass works very well.....and I have had mint juleps served in a tumbler.....but I barely made it home!!!
There are more versions of Kentucky Burgoo than there ae horses in Kentucky....none is wrong...
It's pretty mush a spicy beef stew, with okra in a sweetish gravy.
Linda C

Here is a link that might be useful: one version of Burgoo

    Bookmark   December 8, 2006 at 11:59PM
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Kentucky Derby Pie

    Bookmark   December 9, 2006 at 10:49AM
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At one time, Kentucky was the largest sheep producing state in the country, and mutton was much more common than in other areas of the south. Burgoo, when it originated, was therefore based around mutton, with other meats added in. Game, beef, chicken, whatever was available.

Im not going to take the time to type all the history of Burgoo. Historically it was made in prodigious quantities---50-gallon recipes abound, for instance. But a Derby Day party just isnÂt a Derby Day party without this Kentucky specialty.

The following comments and recipe comes from John EgertonÂs "Southern Food: At Home, On the Road, In History," and are just a part of his burgoo discussion. The recipe provided will do for a party of up to around 20 people.

"Most recipes for burgoo are based on mind-boggling quantities such as Jaubert and Looney used when they were cooking in enormous kettles (six hundred pounds of meat, two hundred pounds of potatoes, etc.). One virtue of Tandy Ellis recipe is that it makes a more manageable amount of stew---about 1 ½ gallons; enough to ladle out hearty servings to fifteen or twenty people. Ellis gave the recipe to Kentucky cookbook writer Marion Flexner in the 1940s, and it has since appeared in print enough times to be thought of as a public trust and a standard by which modern burgoo is made. We used it as the basic formula for a splendid pot of the historic stew, modifying little except to increase the spiciness and tang with small amounts of cayenne pepper, vinegar, and lemon juice. A squirrel or two would have added much in the way of both flavor and history, but a very good burgoo can be made without any game meat at all, as witness this version.

"In a large, heavy kettle (2-gallon capacity or more), put 2 pounds of lean beef (cubed), ½ pound of lamb or mutton, and 1 medium sized chicken (cut up). Add 4 quarts of water, bring to a hard boil, reduce heat, and simmer the meat for about 2 hours with the pot covered. Remove chicken, discard bones and skin, cut up the meat, and return it to the pot. Continuing to simmer, add these ingredients one at a time, stirring them in well: 2 cups of diced potatoes, 2 cups of diced onions, 2 cups of small green butter beans or baby limas, 2 green bell peppers, diced, 3 carrots, diced, and 2 cups of fresh corn kernels (canned or frozen yellow kernel corn can be substituted.) Keep simmering for about 3 hours, stirring occasionally, and add more water from time to time if the stew seems too thick. For seasoning, put in 1 or more red pepper pods, 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and as must salt and black pepper as your taste dictates. After the burgoo has been on the stove for about 6 hours, add 2 cups of cut-up okra (fresh is best, but frozen will do), 1 dozen fresh tomatoes (peeled, cored, and cut up) or the contents of a 1-quart can of tomatoes, 2 cloves of garlic, minced, ¼ cup of cider vinegar, and ¼ cup of fresh lemon juice, and keep simmering for at least 3 hours more, stirring and tasting occasionally and adjusting the seasonings and adding water if necessary. The Ellis recipe suggests 7 hours of cooking, by which time the burgoo should be beginning to take shape---or rather to lose shape---and become a real stew. Seven hours is a minimum; 10-12 seems much more appropriate, the better to blend the flavors and give the stew a rich and hearty character. Like many great soups and stews, it improves with age, both on the stove and in the refrigerator or freezer. Served hot with a barbecue sandwich or with homemade light bread or cornbread, burgoo is a genuine Kentucky wonder, the gastronomical equivalent of a superlative Louisiana gumbo."

If I were planning a Derby Day party, burgoo is one of the two must-haves---the other being Juleps. And, in all due respect to Linda, if it's not served in a silver cup it's not a genuine Kentucky Mint Julep.

I would also include other Kentucky specialties, such as Hot Browns, Benedictine, Chess Pie, and Bourbon Balls. Not that they are required---Derby Day hostesses serve everything from hot dogs to 10-course sit-down meals. But I feel such dishes are in keeping with the theme. And I'd have other southern specialties that are common to the Bluegrass, such as country ham & biscuits and spoonbread.

William Whitiker is the father of American racing. He introduced the concept of an oval track (before then horse racing was done on a straight track), and insisted that American horses run counterclockwise to make them different from the British. He used to host race day breakfasts, and I have a copy of one of those menus from around 1781. I've often thought of replicating it for a Derby Day party that would really be meaningful.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2006 at 4:01PM
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It looks like Burgoo is a must! I had planned on Juleps. The best I've had were made one at a time, but that's going to be problems with this crowd. Any suggestions on how to make a big'o batch?

    Bookmark   December 10, 2006 at 9:26AM
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You're right, Cuffs, the best juleps are made one at a time. But that's difficult with a large group.

You never said how many were actually expected. But it's not hard to adjust. Here's how to make juleps for a crowd:

Start by making a mint syrup. Combine 1 cup sugar with 1 cup water. Boil until sugar dissolves, about five minutes. Let cool. Combine with 5-6 large, bruised mint leaves. Refrigerate overnight. This will make enough syrup for about 20 servings.

When ready to serve, mix the syrup with bourbon at the rate of 1 tbls syrup for each 2 ounces of bourbon. Fill julep glasses with crushed ice and poor about two ounces of the mix into cup. Stir heavily so the glass gets frosted. Garnish with fresh mint leaves, and a straw just taller than the ice.

It is crucial that you use a premium bourbon for juleps, saving the cheap stuff for mixed drinks and cooking. There are lots to choose from. FWIW, my current favorite is Woodford Reserve.

I would mix the syrup and bourbon in a punch bowl, with a block of ice to keep it cool. Then I'd have a large bowl of crused ice next to it. Use a two-ounce ladle in the bowl for portion control, and you're good to go with no loss of time.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2006 at 11:22AM
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Here is a link containing an article entitled, 'How to Throw a Kentucky Derby Party.' Hope it helps.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2006 at 11:43AM
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gardenlad, I'm thinking about 50 people. I'll do the food buffet style and if the weather is good will have the bar in the back yard. If all goes as planned it will include "dress in period outfits" which will make the juleps all that more important!

    Bookmark   December 10, 2006 at 7:14PM
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Sounds like a lot of fun, Cuffs.

The question is, what period are you talking about vis-a-vis outfits? The first Kentucky Derby was run in 1875 and there have been a lot of clothing changes in the past 130-odd years.

We're talking Victorian and Edwardian during the first half century. Then the wild fashions of the 20s and 30s. Fashion changed again during the war, and then, again, after it. Etc. etc.

If you triple the recipe I gave you that should be more than enough for 50 people. I guarantee there will not be many requests for seconds, because, frankly, mint juleps suck as a drink. Indeed, most Kentuckians will tell you that a julep is a waste of good bourbon. It's only tradition that keeps them going; and nobody drinks them any other time. So make sure and have other potables around.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2006 at 8:46PM
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gardenlad, sounds like I need to hire you for this! The period "dress" idea came out of too much vino! I agree about the juleps. One is usually more than enough. Sadly, our little "village" has become quite the "peeing contest" for parties. While, I would never stoop so low as to try to outdo my friends(!) I would like to ensure a good time is had by all. Surely, you can understand(!). Any other ideas you have would be greatfully received.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2006 at 8:15PM
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>gardenlad, sounds like I need to hire you for this!Funny thing, I was just thinking the same thing. Where you located?

    Bookmark   December 11, 2006 at 8:44PM
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How about those Kentucky Hot Browns Sandwiches? They would be simple enough. If you do a search on this website several recipes should come up.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2006 at 8:56PM
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Hot Browns are a great idea, Jackiwolfe. That's why I suggested them above.

Most recipes are, unfortunately, far from the original. Check them out and you'll find that they use a Cheddar sauce, and combine turkey & ham. This makes a great tasting open-faced sandwich. But it's not the Hot Browns as originated at the Brown Hotel in Louisville.

The true gelt uses a Mornay sauce and poached chicken. Many of the spin-off versions use a tomato topping along with the bacon, but the original used a mushroom. Later on the Brown Hotel used turkey, but the other ingredients remained the same.

For a party such as Cuffs envisions, I would make mini-hot browns because they are fairly rich, to begin with, are easier to manage in a home oven, and, with the burgoo and other edibles, his guests won't need a full serving.

To make these, I would use a cookie cutter to make bread rounds about 2 1/2 inches in diamter. On each of these would go a couple of slices of chicken or turkey---in this case I would use thick-sliced from the deli counter, and use the same cookie cutter to shape them.

These would be lined up in baking pans and covered with the Morney sauce. Each would get topped with a sprinkle of crushed bacon and a sauteed mushroom cap, then popped under the broiler to acquire a suntan.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2006 at 8:45AM
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gardenlad, I'm in beautiful downtown Monticello, GA

    Bookmark   December 12, 2006 at 7:50PM
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Ahhh! Monticello. Gateway to the Oconee National Forest. ;>) That would be about 6, 6 1/2 hours from here.

Didja get my email re: a total menu for the party?

    Bookmark   December 12, 2006 at 10:16PM
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gardenlad, I did not get your email.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2006 at 9:34PM
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Cuffs, I just saw this post over on the entertainment forum, FYI..............

Posted by ilovepink (My Page) on Tue, Dec 12, 06 at 22:09

Baby Hot Browns are popular in my house for Derby parties and the holiday parties. Here is the recipe. Very yummy.
Very different too.

24 pumpernickel party rye bread slices
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups (4 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups diced cooked turkey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
6 bacon slices, cooked, crumbled, and divided
5 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced

Arrange bread slices on a lightly greased baking sheet. Broil 6 inches from heat for 3 to 4 minutes.
Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat; add flour, and cook, whisking constantly, until smooth. Gradually whisk in milk; cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Add Cheddar cheese, whisking until cheese melts. Stir in diced turkey, salt, and ground red pepper.

Top bread evenly with warm cheese-turkey mixture. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese and half of bacon.

Bake at 500° for 2 minutes or until Parmesan is melted. Top with tomato slices, and sprinkle evenly with remaining bacon.

To make ahead: Prepare the cheese-turkey mixture, cook the bacon, and grate the Parmesan the day before the party. To reheat cheese mixture, place pan over low heat, stirring constantly, until smooth and warm. Assemble and proceed as directed.

Yield: Makes 2 dozen

I've made them with beef before and they were good. But, the turkey is much better.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2006 at 10:07AM
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Hmmmmmmm? I sent it via GardenWeb, Cuffs, and you should have gotten it. Wonder where it disappeared to?

What I suggested was this menu:

Mint Juleps
Benedictine Spread with Crackers & Crudities
Ambrosia Salad
Mini-Hot Browns
Beaten Biscuits & Country Ham
Chess and/or Derby Pie
Bourbon Balls

Had some comments, too, about quantities, costs, and the logistics of serving that I thought you'd find useful. If you want them, contact me at and I'll send them to you directly.

BTW, have you checked the calendar? You might have a conflict with your party-animal neighbors, because Cinco de Mayo falls on the same day. Just another excuse for a party! :>)

    Bookmark   December 14, 2006 at 4:34PM
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GL, quite a lot of emails sent through GW don't make it through - they just disappear.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2006 at 4:46PM
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I'll take your word for it, Woodie. This is the first time it's happened to me. In the past, if I get that "message accepted" thing, the mail has gone through.

Ah well, just one more in a long list of modern stuff that can't be counted on.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2006 at 9:33PM
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gardenlad it happens often, seems to be a glitch with the reciever not the sender.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2006 at 2:29PM
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You might consider Potpie's Beef and Noodles. Her recipe sounds so amazingly good!

    Bookmark   December 17, 2006 at 4:54PM
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I agree, that does sound good.

But IMO, a theme party should be bound together with food fitting the theme. Each of the items in my suggested menu does that, with either a general Kentucky or specific Derby connection.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2006 at 6:02PM
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I think gardenlads recipe is spot on, and its making me kinda hungry. Only 5 more days to go till all the fun and frivolity begins huh!
Lets hope they print the glasses right this year - ok I know its a long time ago, but ya never know it could happen again!

    Bookmark   May 25, 2010 at 1:40PM
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