Derby Day delights
May 4th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Fear not fascinator fanatics, even if the Royal Wedding pandemonium is over, you have yet another occasion to don your favorite chapeau this weekend. ... Except maybe you, Princess Beatrice.

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.

That is exactly why we've recruited Louisville's own James Beard finalist Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia to share all the fixings for a true taste of the Derby.

Burgoo, and bourbon, and Hot Browns - oh my!

Get Kentucky Derby recipes

Five Kentucky Derby Favorites: Edward Lee

1. Hot Brown
"Pretty much unchanged since its invention by the chef of the Brown Hotel in the 1920s, this open-faced, spare-no-calories sandwich has gained worldwide popularity while increasing belt sizes all over Louisville.

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
"Like all worthy stews of the region, this one has unconfirmed origins, countless recipes and territorial guardians who proclaim that theirs is the 'right' way to make it.

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
"Every year, the Kentucky Derby brings horses, celebrities, monumental hats and, yes, a mad call for mint juleps. All over Louisville and at every Derby party across the nation, there will be all sorts of boozy minted concoctions passing themselves off as juleps, but don’t be fooled. Anything less than perfection renders this cocktail unpalatable.

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
"Now that you’ve had your mandatory julep, it’s time to get down to the serious business of drinking. Bourbon is made from at least 51 percent corn and aged in charred oak barrels that give it that distinctive sweet bite and alluring smokiness.

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
"Invented over 50 years ago at the Melrose Inn in Prospect, Kentucky, this festive pie has become so popular (and profitable) that the name has been trademarked and annual sales easily exceed 100,000 pies a year. I’ve never used the words Derby Pie on my menu, but I’ve heard from people in the shadows that you don’t want to do that if you know what’s good for you. That’s how protective they are of the name. And rightfully so.

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.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Events • Kentucky Derby • News • Southern • Think

soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. r

    Yikes! All these sound icky to me. As for a drink with mint leaves, I'll take a Mojito.

    May 8, 2011 at 11:04 am |
  2. j

    Maybe they can eat some of those horses that do not win that they send to illegal slaughter houses. Or the ones that have never been out of a stall in over three years because they are deemed poor quality. The horses that do not win races are treated horribly and thrown away as soon as they cam get rid of them, usually to a slaughter house.

    May 7, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
    • Randel

      Do you know where I can get a Mink coat?

      May 3, 2014 at 5:28 pm |
  3. teacups6666

    sounds like one hell of a good time

    May 7, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  4. kyrunner

    A GREAT SPORTING EVENT , PRECEDED BY A WEEK OF CELEBRATION , PARTIES FOR EVERYONE (INCLUDES WHO'S WHO and THE REST OF US) AND UNBELIEVABLE FOODS AND BOURBONS ! I lived there for 25 years and during that time rented my east end home twice during DERBY , while staying with friends in Louisville. I've been to the infield and been in some well positioned box seats. The excitement is unbelievable and very memorable ! BUT YOU NEED TO BE THERE TO KNOW THE REAL "DERBY" FEELING AND ATMOSPHERE !

    May 7, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  5. Blogson

    Royal Wedding – SNORE!!, Kentucky Derby – SNORE! Is it the Champions League football (soccer) championship final yet?

    May 7, 2011 at 12:34 am |
  6. Kiminva

    Being from the ville, you just need to hit the chow wagon for your derby food....they have beer, hot dogs and funel cakes...what else do you need?

    May 6, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
  7. TracyB

    Don't forget the sliced tomato for the Hot Brown!

    May 5, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  8. derby fever

    Edward is the best Chef in Louisville, if you go there for Derby you need to check out his restaurant 610 Magnolia, it will complete your Kentucky Derby experience. Bourbon all the way!

    May 5, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  9. PappyFan

    Ice!! Water11 in Pappy's. Never!!!!

    May 5, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  10. NCKY

    My family is from Louisville and most have returned (not me yet) but I still make a Derby Pie each year. For note: I have always been told when looking for a true recipe for this decadent dessert, do not choose one that uses corn syrup in the filling.

    May 5, 2011 at 7:53 am |
  11. Whee Doggy

    Sounds heavenly ... er, I meant the food. Yeah, that's it, the food.

    May 5, 2011 at 7:02 am |
  12. Susan

    I'd probably never make it to the pie...hahaha Hot Brown and then, start hitting the bourbon!

    May 4, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  13. AmyGdala

    Best Burgoo I've had is at Moonlite BBQ in Owensboro, KY. They jar it up and sell it in stores in the surrounding states, but it IS NOT as good as it is at the restaurant. Do yourself a favor and save it for the restaurant.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
  14. Navy Proud

    So where did they go and when will they come back? Meaning "Boxed Lunch" "Lunch time Polls" and the all important TV line up on the breakfast buffet.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      TV isn't coming back unless something really notable is on. The others will return as soon as I stop traveling for five seconds, I swear. Have barely been back in NYC for nearly a week now. At the CNN mothership in Atlanta right now.

      May 5, 2011 at 12:11 am |
  15. Burbank

    My maternal family line is from the Louisville area but all these dishes sound horrible to me. I'd need about 4-5 Juleps to choke any of them down. Guess I just didn't get the maternal-side genes for that kind of palate. My taste buds are more oriented to like hot spicy Asian or Mexican food washed down with a good, light golden beer.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • Da Professor

      I did not note any mention of a horse meat sandwich? Maybe because we do not know at this point which horse is finishing last?

      May 7, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
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