I absolutely love horse racing! First of all, I adore horses and hope to own a few one day when I have the proper amount of time and money to care for them. Few things get me as excited as the Kentucky Derby. You get to drink real cocktails, dress girly, and it is one of the few acceptable occasions in the U.S. for a woman to wear a large hat without donning a swimsuit. What could be better?
I ordered the official 138th Kentucky Derby invitations to request the pleasure of my friends' company. I then scoured the web searching for traditional Kentucky Derby recipes, party decor, and proper fashion inspiration.
I came across the May 2012 issue of Southern Living while shopping at HEB and decided the room featured on the cover was so beautiful, I had to treat myself (let's be honest, I often do). What I didn't know at the time of purchase was that the editors had completely planned my entire party for me - and exquisitely, I might add.
I just about fell over when I saw this elegant spread - it was exactly what I was picturing for my party. I instantly decided to recreate most of the recipes and style for my own fete.
First things, first - the main course. Ham biscuits with Figgy Port Chutney and blue cheese butter. I cheated a bit and didn't make the biscuits - instead, I used store bought dinner rolls from the bakery. In hindsight, I wish I would have gone the extra mile and made the biscuits. My review of the recipes? The ham turned out good, but not sure if I basted it too much? The ginger ale and bourbon mixture pretty much burned to the bottom of my roasting pan in the last 30 minutes of cooking. I added more bourbon and some water, but I think it was too late. It didn't seem to affect the ham at all. As for the combination with the Figgy Port Chutney and Blue Cheese Butter, it turned out simply amazing. The sweet-tangyness of the chutney and the rich blue cheese were a perfect compliment to the ham and the flavor was indulgently complex.
Recipes (all courtesy of Southern Living)
Fluffy Cream Cheese Biscuits
Ginger-Ale Brown Sugar Smoked Ham
Figgy Port Chutney
Blue Cheese Butter
Next up: Roasted Brown Butter Pecans with Rosemary. Simply delicious and very easy to make. My husband went crazy for these nuts. Sometimes raw pecans can taste bitter to me, but roasting them in brown butter completely removes that unpleasant taste and gives them an incredibly rich flavor along with the savory Rosemary and sea salt. This one is definitely going in my party recipe rotation.
Roasted Brown Butter Pecans with Rosemary
Southern Living's version of crudite with a whipped lemon aioli. I didn't actually make this, I made more of a traditional crudite with ranch dressing, but their presentation is lovely.
Although all of the recipes turned out great, these Derby Truffles might have been the biggest hit, with the exception of one guest with nut allergies - sorry Nick!
I've got my Southern Living out on the counter, measuring the bourbon for the Derby Truffles. I used the 1792 Kentucky Bourbon from our bar. Red roses are for the 'Run for the Roses'. My magazine was so messy by the time I was finished cooking, I called my mom to see if I could have her copy for my recipe files!
My bar - at the ready with Bulleit Bourbon & 1792 - both Kentucky bourbons. I've also got a muddler (which we didn't end up using), simple syrup steeped with mint, fresh sprigs of mint from my mom's garden and my signature drink - Flirtini's.
Aren't Mint Juleps so fun to drink? Just like a Martini can instantly transport you to Manhattan, a Mint Julep places you in Kentucky, in that slow, Southern style. I just love Mint Julep cups and have decided I am going to start collecting one each year. They are expensive, but in 8 years or so, I'll be ready to serve my guests a Mint Julep in its proper vessel.
Classic Mint Julep - Southern Living
Place mint leaves and Mint Simple Syrup in a chilled julep cup. Gently press leaves against cup with back of spoon to release flavors. Pack cup tightly with crushed ice; pour bourbon over ice. Insert straw, place mint sprig directly next to straw, and serve immediately. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.
Note: For testing purposes only, we used Woodford Reserve Distiller's Select Bourbon.
My sister and I with our Derby hats and mint juleps. I did a terrible job of taking photos at this party - Stacy, we will recreate the photo op the next time you come over! Only my sister picked the winning horse - I'll Have Another. One of my picks, Bodemeister, came in 2nd. Now that I'll Have Another has won the Preakness, it will be SUPER exciting watching him go for the Triple Crown!!!! The Belmont Stakes is this Saturday, so tune in with me to see if he can do it!
Everyone had a great time, such a great time that my husband conked out on the sofa with our dog, Razz, by the end of the evening. Notice the fedora I made him wear for the occasion!
To read Southern Living's Guide to the Kentucky Derby, click here - http://www.southernliving.com/food/entertaining/your-guide-to-the-kentucky-derby-00417000072799/