From the perfect mint julep to herb-roasted pork subs with garlicky spinach, here are the dishes that should be on your Kentucky Derby party menu.
Food & Wine
1 of 12Seth Smoot
Fresh Corn Grits with Shrimp
When F&W gave our market basket challenge to Top Chef Season 5 contestant Jeff McInnis, the owner of Miami's Southern-inflected Yardbird restaurant, we purposefully included shrimp but no grits. McInnis didn't care: He made his own fast, fresh version with the corn that was also in the basket. He added pecan butter to his grits, and here's why: "My grandma Daisy had a huge pecan tree in her front yard in Brewton, Alabama," says McInnis. "She'd break the pecans into little pieces with a mallet; I'd eat the sticky nut butter with my fingers."
When New Orleans bartender Chris McMillian mixes mint juleps at Bar UnCommon, he recites an ode, written in the 1890s by a Kentucky newspaperman, that calls the cocktail "the zenith of man's pleasure...the very dream of drinks."
The chicken in this delightful sandwich is brined in spicy dill pickle juice, then fried and tossed with schmaltz (chicken fat) and Korean chile powder. At Leghorn in Chicago, chef Jared Van Camp makes his own pickles, but he suggests using Tabasco's dill pickles as an easy substitute.
Bar manager Jennifer Zerboni likes to tinker with the classic mint julep during horse-racing season. She used to flavor this julep with a mint granite, but that proved "too sticky and messy." Now she makes the drink with mint simple syrup.
To create this outstanding sandwich, Matt Neal rubs pork shoulder with an herb-and-garlic mixture and then slow-roasts it for hours ("Forever," he says). He piles the meat high with pickled peppers and spinach sautéed with garlic. One key to the sandwich is to slice the pork very thinly; to do so, be sure the pork is very cold and use a deli slicer or a thin, sharp knife.
For the ultimate crispy fried chicken recipe, we turned to Scott Peacock, the chef at Watershed in Decatur, Georgia, and coauthor, with Edna Lewis, of The Gift of Southern Cooking. The chicken is deliciously tenderized by a nice long soak in tangy buttermilk. This recipe, which was originally published in F&W in March 2000, makes a generous amount of gravy; serve any leftovers with homemade biscuits.
"Rio Negro is like the Garden of Eden, with fruit trees everywhere," Piero Incisa della Rocchetta says about the region in Patagonia where he makes wine. Local chef Mauricio Couly created these tarts filled with local fruits like pineapple, mango and blueberries that grow around Bodega Chacra. The filling can, of course, vary depending on the season.
At Seattle's High 5 Pie, owner Dani Cone has responded to popular demand by making these adorable, portable pies (she calls them "flipsides"), available not just in the fall but year-round. When she tries to take them out of the rotation, customers get angry; one time, she says, a woman even cried.