Friday, May 4, 2012

Kentucky Derby Party & Menu

Last night my sister hosted her monthly cooking club, and this one was a run for the roses! Jennifer's husband is from Kentucky, so Saturday's annual Kentucky Derby provided a fun seasonal theme for last night's festivities.

Growing up, my horse-loving sister tried for years to convince my parents that we could keep a horse in our backyard. So this party gave Jennifer an opportunity to show some equestrian love with horseshoes, bits and bridles tucked into her decor.

Of course, hats were a must for Jennifer's Derby Party! My sister is the cutie in the black and white sundress and wide black hat. Some of you have gotten to know Jennifer through her Etsy printable shop The Polka Dot Party. In this group of pretty ladies, you can also spot well-known blogger Kristie Barnett of The Decorologist sporting a smart black hat on the back row.

Jennifer designed water bottle labels for a fun cooking club activity. Each bottle bore the name of a horse from the 2010 Kentucky Derby, and the girls cheered for the horse on their bottle while they watched the derby. This got everyone in the derby spirit, and the winner took home a box of dark chocolate derby mints.

Jennifer planned a cocktail menu of appetizers and desserts perfect for munching while watching the thoroughbreds. Her cooking club menu and recipes follow. These recipes look perfect for sampling during tomorrow's run for the roses.

Derby Day Cocktail Menu

Silver Cup Mint Julep (Non-Alcoholic)

Sweet Kentucky Iced Tea

Racing Asparagus Rolls

Pecan & Gorgonzola-Coated Grapes

Furlong Mushrooms in Filo Shells

Buyer’s Blue Cheese & Bacon Puffs

My Mare’s Mini Hot Brown

Back Stretch Baked Apricots

Tack Box Celery & Carrot Sticks

Kentucky Derby Pie Bars

Derby cookies

Bourbon truffles

Silver Mint Julep (Non-Alcoholic)
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves
2 cups crushed ice
1/2 cup prepared lemonade
Fresh mint sprigs, for garnish
In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar and 1 tablespoon of chopped mint. Stir and bring to a boil. Cook until sugar has dissolved, then remove from heat and set aside to cool. After about an hour, strain out mint leaves. Fill 2 cups or frozen goblets with crushed ice. Pour 1/2 of the lemonade into each glass and top with a splash of the sugar syrup. Garnish each with a mint sprig and a straw. Serve on a silver platter.

Mint Simple Syrup

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring ½ cup sugar and 1 cup water to a boil. Add ½ cup fresh mint leaves. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Transfer syrup to a small metal bowl and let sit until cool, about 10 minutes. Use warm, let cool to room temperature, or store, covered and chilled, up to six months.

Sweet Kentucky Iced Tea

2 large tea bags, decaffeinated or regular
16 cups boiling water, divided
2 cups sugar
Lemon slices or a mint sprig for garnish
Place tea bags in a large heat-proof container. Carefully pour 8 cups of boiling water over tea bags and steep for 5 minutes. In another container, place sugar and pour in the boiling water and stir until the remaining sugar is completely dissolved. Add this warm syrup to the steeped ice tea. Cool. Pour into tall tea glasses with lots of ice. Add lemon or mint sprig. (Serves 10.)

Racing Asparagus Rolls

2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
1 loaf soft white bread, crusts removed
1 egg, beaten
4 ounces soft bleu cheese
8 ounces soft cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, melted
Cook asparagus in boiling water until crisp-tender. Drain and set aside. With a rolling pin, roll bread slices very thin. In a bowl, combine beaten egg with bleu cheese and cream cheese. Spread mixture on one slice of bread. Roll one asparagus stalk in each bread slice. Dip into melted butter. Place seam side down on a baking sheet. Freeze for one hour. When ready to bake, defrost slightly. Cut roll into 3 pieces and bake in 400-degree oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown. (Serves 10-12.)

Pecan & Gorgonzola-Coated Grapes

2 cups finely chopped pecans
12 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
8 ounces cream cheese
44 seedless red grapes
Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast in a 325-degree oven. In a bowl, cream the Gorgonzola and cream cheese with a wooden spoon or electric mixer. Wrap each grape in one tablespoon of cheese mixture, shaping with hands. Roll the covered grapes in pecans and place on a serving tray. Chill for 30 minutes until coating is firm. (Serves 10.)

Furlong Mushrooms in Filo Shells

3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
6 ounces Portobello and button mushrooms, chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¾ to 1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 package frozen filo shells, thawed
In a skillet, sauté the shallots and mushrooms for 3 to 5 minutes. Blend in the flour, cream and cheese and cook until mixture is thickened. Spoon mixture into filo shells and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. (Serves 8.)

Buyer’s Blue Cheese & Bacon Puffs

1½ cups water
¾ cup butter
1½ all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
6 large eggs
8 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
8 to 10 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
4 green onions, finely chopped
Bring water and butter to a boil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, salt, black pepper and red pepper. Cook; beating with a wooden spoon, until mixture leaves the sides of pan and forms a smooth ball of dough. Remove from heat and cool 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well with a spoon after each addition. Beat in cheese, bacon and chopped green onions. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto lightly greased baking sheets. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden. Puffs will be moist in the center. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Yield 36.)

My Mare’s Mini Hot Brown

2 chicken bouillon cubes
½ cup hot water
1½ cups half-and-half
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups Swiss cheese, shredded
8 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
1 French baguette, ¼- to ½–inch slices
1 pound country ham, sliced
1 pound turkey, sliced
¼ small onion, sliced thin
Parsley for garnish
In a large measuring cup, dissolve the bouillon cubes in hot water. Cool slightly before slowly adding the half-and-half. Melt butter in a saucepan and add flour, whisking until the mixture is creamy. Add the bouillon mixture while continuing to whisk until the sauce bubbles and thickens. Add the Swiss cheese and stir until smooth. If sauce is too thick, simply add water and heat to thin. Spray baking dish with cooking spray and place bread slices on the bottom. Layer ham, turkey and onion on the bread. Cover with cheese sauce and top with crumbled bacon. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned and bubbly. Garnish with parsley. (Serves 8-10.)

Back Stretch Baked Apricots

8 cups canned apricot halves, drained
1½ cups packed brown sugar
½ cup Kentucky bourbon
1½ sticks butter, melted
2½ cups crushed butter crackers
Spray a large baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Spread well-drained apricots in the dish. Sprinkle with brown sugar, then drizzle with bourbon. Combine melted butter with cracker crumbs and sprinkle over apricots. Bake at 325 degrees for 25-30 minutes. (Serves 8.)

Tack Box Celery & Carrots

15-ounce jar smooth peanut butter
5 tablespoons honey
¼ cup chopped walnuts
¼ cup raisins
1 bunch celery stalks
1 pound bag baby carrots
Mix peanut butter, honey, walnuts and raisins together in a medium bowl. Wash the celery and cut into 3 to 4-inch lengths. Serve carrots and celery with the peanut butter dip.

Derby Pie Bars

For the shortbread crust:
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
For the filling:
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups sugar
3 eggs
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons bourbon or whiskey (or more to taste)
1½ cups chocolate chips
1½ cups chopped walnuts
To make the crust, combine the powdered sugar, flour, and salt In the bowl of a food processor. Add cubes of butter and pulse until it resembles coarse cornmeal. (You can also use your fingers or a pastry cutter to incorporate the butter. Whatever is easiest for you.) Firmly pat the mixture into the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Bake the crust at 350 degrees for about 20 to 23 minutes until just lightly golden.

To make the filling, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, flour, salt , and bourbon and continue to mix until well combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts. Pour batter over partially baked crust. Bake until filling is set and top is light golden brown, approximately 25 minutes. Allow bars to cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting into 2-inch squares (or desired size).

Bars will keep in an airtight container for at least a week. (Yields 24 2-inch squares.)

My best girlfriend, Vonda, gave me this cookbook a couple of years ago, and it is a Kentucky treasure! Sterling Bitsfeatures menus and recipes for horse-themed events, like the birth of a foal. Jennifer found several of her derby party recipes in this cookbook. Non-cooks will appreciate this book for its lovely artwork and regional connection. 

Thanks to my sister and her friends for letting us come along for the ride as they made a run for the roses with a fun cooking club meeting!

"Ah, steeds, steeds, what steeds! Has the whirlwind a home in your manes? Is there a sensitive ear, alert as flame, in your every fiber? Hearing the familiar song from above, all in one accord you strain your bronze chests and, hooves barely touching the ground, turn into straight lines cleaving the air, and all inspired by God it rushes on!" ~ Nikolai V. Gogol, 1842


Kristie at The said...

Thanks for the mention, Melissa! The party was so much fun - Jennifer is so creative and talented, bringing the Kentucky Derby theme to life. Beautiful job on the photography of all the special touches Jennifer created!

Laura Frantz said...

Being a Kentuckian, this post is dear to my heart:) Thanks for sharing the fun with this derby-deprived girl! I do have a beautiful hat for the race, however!!

The Tablescaper said...

This looks like a fantastic party! And so seasonal. I would love to have you be a part of Seasonal Sundays.

- The Tablescaper

Lois Evensen said...

What a fun party and THANK YOU for publishing all of the recipes.

Jennifer said...

Love that wreath!

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