Many of you already know Beverly from Beverly’s Back Porch. But did you know she’s my aunt? And I can just drop by her house any old time I feel like it and she’ll feed me? It’s good to be me. Anyway, she’s been cooking up a storm for Derby, and after more debate than most Supreme Court decisions warrant we finally narrowed her guest post down to three Derby dishes. No, you can’t serve just these three things because people will be there all day long and half the night, but this will get you started and you can drop by Beverly’s for all the other recipes you’re gonna want. But you have to have these three things or it’s not a Derby Party: Mint Juleps, Hot Browns, and Derby Pie!
Mint Juleps, the traditional drink of the Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky legend is that a boatman made the discovery when he left the Mississippi River in search of spring water to mix with his bourbon and as a whim added some of the mint growing beside the spring. The actual date of discovery is unknown but the drink was adopted by genteel Kentucky society in the nineteenth century. The cup in which a mint julep is traditionally served is made of sterling silver (originally coin silver), about 4 inches tall and three inches in diameter. A complete set, with the names of all the Derby winners, is in the director’s room of Churchill Downs. The following is Henry Clay’s recipe, which was found in a diary.
“The mint leaves, fresh and tender, should be pressed against a coin-silver goblet with the back of a silver spoon. Only bruise the leaves gently and then remove them from the goblet. Half fill with cracked ice. Mellow bourbon, aged in oaken barrels, is poured from the jigger and allowed to slide slowly through the cracked ice. In another receptacle, granulated sugar is slowly mixed into chilled limestone water to make a silvery mixture as smooth as some rare Egyptian oil, then poured on top of the ice. While beads of moisture gather on the burnished exterior of the silver goblet, garnish the brim of the goblet with choicest sprigs of mint.” ~Henry Clay
Less romantic but perhaps more interesting to the contemporary taste is the recipe for Mint Juleps by the Pitcher. I really don’t know anyone who drinks more than 1 or 2 of these, they are sweet. But please have at least one or your hostess will never shut up. Have a biscuit with country ham, the salt in the ham will help with the sugar in the julep.
Mint Juleps by the Pitcher
(approx. 5 juleps)
2 cups really good Kentucky Bourbon, I like Old Pogue
1 cup minted simple syrup, (recipe below)
Crushed Ice, have tons of crushed ice on hand
Mint Sprigs, for garnish
Combine bourbon and minted simple syrup in a pretty pitcher or decanter. Chill overnight, or until needed. The mixture should be very cold. Fill julep cups . . . what, no julep cups? Okay use your rocks glasses, and fill with crushed ice (pack down). Wait for a thin layer of frost to appear on the outside of the glass. Into each cup or glass, pour the chilled minted bourbon. Decorate with mint sprigs. Sip through short straws, this way you will get a whiff of mint with each sip.
Minted Simple Syrup
(makes 1 cup)
To make minted simple syrup, boil 1 cup water and 2 cups sugar for five minutes. Cool. Add 1/2 cup packed mint leaves and let brew overnight or 12 hours, stirring once or twice. Strain through a fine sieve, discarding mint.
It is fine to double the recipe, but no more than that. If you need more start a new batch. Never, never use Cheddar Cheese in a Hot Brown, unless of course you are doing a “Truck Stop or Diner” theme. These will become a family favorite regardless of the time of year.
The Legendary Hot Brown
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4 slices of toast
12 ounces sliced turkey breast
4 cups Mornay Sauce (recipe follows)
1/2 cup grated Romano Cheese
8 slices tomato (optional)
8 strips half-cooked bacon
4 ounces of butter
1/2 cup flour
2 cups strong chicken broth (I prefer chicken stock)
2 cups scalded milk
1/2 cup grated Romano Cheese
Salt and white pepper to taste
In a saucepan, melt butter and blend in flour, but do not let it brown. Remove saucepan from heat and chill. Heat broth and milk to boiling point. Add milk mixture to the flour mixture while beating vigorously with a wire whisk until sauce thickens. Season with salt and white pepper and cheese. Simmer until cheese melts. To assemble Hot Brown, trim toast and place on 4 individual ovenproof platters. Arrange the turkey slices over the toast and divide the Mornay Sauce over each servings, covering turkey and toast completely. Sprinkle with grated Romano Cheese and dust with paprika. In none of the older recipes could I find the use of tomatoes, however a lot of restaurants do use them now. Place two slices of tomatoes opposite each other and in between, 2-strips of bacon. Place platters in preheated 375 degrees F. oven for 15 minutes or until Hot Browns are bubbly.
Cook’s Note: I have also added a paper thin slice of country ham under the turkey slices for a very nice touch.
Kentucky Derby Pie
3/4 cup of white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup English walnuts( I use half English and half black walnuts)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup melted butter (1 stick)
1 unbaked pie crust
Mix flour and sugar; add eggs, and butter; add nut, chocolate chips and vanilla extract. Mix thoroughly. Pour into unbaked pie crust. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F. oven for 45-60 minutes. Test with toothpick, pie should be chewy but not runny – Bake longer if necessary.
Top with slightly sweetened whipped cream before serving.
Cook’s Note: If I remember I soak my walnuts overnight in bourbon. If I don’t remember I pour about a teaspoon of bourbon over each slice before I top it with the whipped cream. It is also allowed to add a teaspoon or two of bourbon to your whipped cream.