The Chef's Guide to Throwing a Last-Minute Kentucky Derby Party
No disrespect to the racers, but everybody knows that the Kentucky Derby is about mint juleps and snacks. At least that's what makes Derby Day such a glorious ordeal: the ice-cold cocktails, the deviled eggs, the Kentucky Hot Browns.
With the big race just around the corner—it's Saturday, May 5, at Churchill Downs—we're here to help you put together a sort-of-last-minute, but no-less-memorable-for-it, party with tips from our favorite chefs.
Try deviled eggs, three ways.
1. Ford Fry puts goat cheese, Dijon mustard, cornichons, and Benton's country ham in his. (Get the recipe.)
2. Katie Lee turns deviled eggs into a spread that guests can smear on toasted bread. (Get the recipe.)
3. Bobby Flay tops his dill-packed deviled eggs with pickled shrimp. (Get the recipe.)
Put pimento cheese in everything.
Another Flay pro-tip: fold pimento cheese into grits. And serve extra pimento cheese on the side, just for good measure. You can order some great ones online—or you can make it yourself. (While you're at it, here are ten ways to add pimento cheese to everything.)
Master the julep.
Here are four great twists on the classic from bartenders we love. And before you start making them, make sure to master your crushed ice technique. (Yes, there is such a thing as crushed ice technique.)
Think outside the julep, too.
At The Woodsman Tavern in Portland, Oregon, mixologist Evan Zimmerman makes a drink called the Kentucky Special that's a fantastic riff on an old-fashioned. (He infuses cherry liqueur with the smoked tea Lapsang souchong.)
We also love Carey Jones' rum julep—sacrilege, we know, but it's delicious.
Incorporate bourbon into your snacks.
Why would you settle for only drinking your bourbon when you could eat it as well? Here are eight bourbon-infused recipes to try, including black pepper biscuits with bourbon-molasses butter, bacon-bourbon brownies, maple-bourbon banana pudding cake, and country-style ribs with apple-bourbon barbecue sauce.
And, make sure to keep in mind a few key tips from chef Newman Miller on pairing bourbon with food.
"If I have a bright acidic drink, I'm going to cook something that’s the opposite; that’s what's going to get country ham and gravy," he says. "An old-fashioned is going to get a lighter flavor dish, because there really should only be only one big star."
Make party-friendly versions of Kentucky Derby classics.
Making individual Kentucky Hot Browns for an entire party isn't easy. That's why you might want to consider these three recipes: the hot brown quiche, the hot brown muffin, and mini hot browns.
Alternatively, you could just lean in and make several trays of Bobby Flay's Kentucky Hot Browns. No one would be mad at you for it.
Don't overlook desserts.
While savory snacks may come to mind first when you think Derby, don't miss out on all of the dessert opportunities. We put together our favorite dessert recipes for Derby-watching (and spring, in general). Pastry chef Koa Duncan passion fruit and coconut cream parfait is one of the best.
We can't imagine a better excuse to bake more pecan pies than you could ever possibly finish.