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Saturday, May 7, marks the 137th "Run for the Roses" at Churchill Downs - more commonly known in layman's terms as the Kentucky Derby.
While we're all for hoofs, hats and hedged bets, the actual race lasts for, oh, about three minutes, so you're definitely going to need some traditional Derby vittles and libations to kill the extra time.
Burgoo, and bourbon, and Hot Browns - oh my!
Five Kentucky Derby Favorites: Edward Lee
It consists of sliced turkey, crispy bacon, and buttered toast submerged in a creamy Mornay sauce, which is like Béchamel with tons of grated cheese melted into it. This is the perfect foundation for a day built on celebrating and boozing. This isn’t a time for moderation; it’s a pageant of glamour and surfeit. So, why fight it?
I always have one on Derby day. It’s my reward for a hard-fought week. I close my eyes, let the gravy drip off my chin and loosen my belt buckle. Making one at home is easy since it’s not a complicated dish. Just remember one tip: Make double the amount of gravy you think you’ll need. It will get eaten."
2. Kentucky Burgoo
A favorite on Derby day, no proper celebration should be without it. I can’t say I’ve ever had a good version of it because I don’t really know what it’s supposed to taste like. Suffice to say, I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad version of it. In all of us is a primordial craving for mystery meat boiled beyond recognition, and burgoo always fits that bill.
I can’t provide a recipe [Editor's note: we can], but a few simple rules will be helpful. Start with as much meat as you can hold in both arms: a combination of mutton, beef, pork and chicken will do fine (if you are planning to serve this to anyone other than a rabid glutton, I’d steer clear of the possum and squirrel).
Chop up an assortment of corn, potatoes, lima beans, tomatoes, and okra until your arms give out and a feeling of abandon creeps over you. Add spices, Worcestershire, cornmeal ... add whatever you want, really, because it’ll all magically come together in the end.
Boil low and slow while stirring, drinking and cussing until your wooden spoon stands straight up in the stew. When you can no longer discern a strand of any ingredient in its original form, you are ready to eat. I like mine with a little Texas Pete on the side."
3. Mint Julep
Pewter julep cups are de rigueur; the mint needs to be spearmint and fresh (just picked from a garden is ideal); the bourbon should have at least 10 years of age at barrel proof. Bruising the mint with a muddler is too violent, a gentle coaxing is enough. The ice must be ground so fine it almost floats, and use just enough simple syrup to give you the intent of sweetness.
It arrives on a lace napkin and calms all your fears about placing that 20 to 1 longshot bet."
4. Pappy Van Winkle
A fine bourbon is best sipped with a cube of ice, maybe a few droplets of water added. That’s all. And there is none finer than the Pappy Van Winkle aged bourbons, still carefully crafted by the patriarch of bourbon himself, Julian Van Winkle. These are coveted bottles, meant only for the closest of friends and dearest of family.
Now depending on the win, place or show of your horse wager, you can crack open the 12 year or splurge on the crown jewel of the line, the rare 23 year, which is not just a bourbon but history in a bottle. It is best accompanied by a cigar, a pleasant degree of humidity, women in sundresses and a juicy, uncensored yarn about someone sitting just out of earshot."
5. Derby Pie
Inside the delicate crust is a filling of chocolate and nuts so unbearably sweet, your teeth will quiver. Whipped cream does nothing to soften the blow. This is one intense dessert. You can try making one yourself or, if you are like me and crave the sugar overdose of the real thing, you can simply order one online. Best eaten with a dinner fork and a mug of strong coffee, it is a fitting exclamation point for your Derby festivities."
Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.