- Hope Gibbs
It’s the first Saturday in May y’all, and that means only one thing for this southern gal…The Kentucky Derby! Today, my home state has the eyes of the world on it, and nothing makes me happier than the spotlight being on the Bluegrass.
It’s so important to me that I even included it in my upcoming contemporary romance novel, Where the Grass Grows Blue, debuting May 16th.
“Though Penny loves Georgia, its splendor doesn’t compare to that of her old Kentucky home. In her biased opinion, Kentucky’s the prettiest state in the Union, though it’s technically a Commonwealth. The greatest two minutes in sports happen here, the Kentucky Derby. The first Saturday in May, Churchill Downs is always packed with horse lovers from around the world, dressed to the nines. The fairer sex dons over-the-top hats and fascinators, while the men in their midst strut around in their Sunday suits.” -Excerpt from Where the Grass Grows Blue
As a little girl in the seventies (the golden years of Triple Crown racing), I remember my mother making a big deal of the Derby. We’d always gather around our television set and sing "My Old Kentucky Home" before cheering on our favorite horses. I dreamed of seeing it in person, all dressed up with the perfect hat upon my head.
As an adult, that dream came true when I attended the 121st Kentucky Derby and watched Thunder Gulch cross the finish line first, then draped in the traditional garland of roses. That was the first of many. Now, I love to attend Derby parties around Nashville when the opportunity arises.
To celebrate this glorious day, I’m going to share my three favorite Derby recipes with you, so you too can have a little piece of Kentucky as you watch the 149th Running of the Roses. They are all simple and delicious.
First, the signature cocktail of Churchill Downs—the mint julep.
This traditional southern drink is simple, with only four ingredients. Simple syrup (which is equal parts sugar and water boiled and cooled), crushed ice, fresh mint, and bourbon. But I’m not a big whiskey fan, though I love to cook with it, and I make mean bourbon balls at Christmas. What do I do? I add a twist to my julep: blackberries and champagne. It completely transforms it.
Next is benedictine. This is Kentucky’s famous spread. Created in 1893 at a restaurant in Louisville, no Derby is complete without it.
And last, but not least, is Kentuckey Derby pie. Now you have a menu fit for any good Kentuckian. Enjoy the Derby!
Until next time…
BLACKBERRY MINT JULIP RECIPE
· Crushed ice · 1 tsp. simple syrup · 2/3 cup blackberries · Mint leaves · 3 ounces bourbon · Champagne or prosecco · Mint and blackberries for garnish Directions Fill a julep cup with crushed ice. Muddle the blackberries, mint leaves and simple syrup. In a shaker, add ice cubes, bourbon, and blackberry puree to the shaker and shake. Strain then pour into glass. Top with prosecco, and stir. Garnish with mint and a blackberry. OR you can pour the blackberry, bourbon mixture into a champagne glass and top with prosecco, skipping the ice.
· 1 English Cucumber diced
· ½ onion finely chopped
· 1 block of cream cheese, softened
· 3-4 drops green food coloring
· 4 tbsp. mayonnaise
· 2 tsps. of sour cream
· A couple of dashes any hot sauce
· salt to taste
· garlic powder to taste
Remove seeds from a cucumber and finely dice. Add onion, cream cheese, sour cream, mayo, hot sauce, salt, and garlic powder into a bowl and mix. Add green food coloring.
You can make sandwiches with it or use as a dip for veggies and crackers. It’s so yummy!
KENTUCKY DERBY PIE RECIPE
· 9” uncooked pie crust
· 1 tsp vanilla
· 4 eggs
· 3/4 cup brown sugar
· 3/4 cup corn syrup
· 1/3 cup flour
· 1 tsp vanilla
· 1/2 cup butter, melted
· 2 ½ tbsp Maker’s Mark
· 1 cup chocolate chips
· 1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (but I find them bitter)
Preheat oven to 325ºF. Whisk eggs. Then add brown sugar, corn syrup, and flour. Mix together. Add vanilla, butter, bourbon, chocolate chips and pecans. Pour into prepared pie shell. Bake for 60 minutes. Remove and let cool completely before serving; serve topped with whipped cream or ice cream.