As folks love to say, the Kentucky Derby is the fastest two minutes in sports - but what are your party guests going to do for the rest of the evening? Keep your gathering galloping right along with these classic dishes and drinks from the Bluegrass State.
Keep in mind that there are as many methods and recipes as there are residents of the state, so feel free to share your favorite in the comments below.
Simple Mint Julep
Note: Juleps are traditionally served in silver cups because they retain an even chill. If you don't have one, a chilled tumbler will do just fine.
Spoon the sugar into the bottom of the cup. Place the leaves on top of the sugar and crush, pushing down and twisting with a muddler or wooden spoon until slightly pulped.
Fill the cup with crushed ice, pour the bourbon over the ice, garnish with the mint sprig and serve.
Want to get fancier? Here are five more mint julep recipes.
Bourbon slush was standard on party buffet tables when I was growing up in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, but I've rarely - if ever - seen it served outside of Northern Kentucky. That's a real shame.
Here's a fairly standard recipe that packs a solid, sneaky alcohol wallop, as it goes down so very smoothly. It's easy to double, triple or quadruple, but fair warning - you can never have enough on hand, because no one ever has just one.
My husband and I sampled it at our annual Derby Day party as well as our wedding. Now guests to subsequent soirees barely say hello upon arrival. Even the most demure bee-line for the freezer to scoop out a drink and then start in with the pleasantries.
In a lidded, freezer-proof container or two (Tupperware and Rubbermaid pitchers work well), stir together all ingredients except ginger ale until thoroughly blended. The concentrate should not be prediluted with water, and plain tea like Lipton or Red Rose works well.
Place the container(s) in the freezer overnight or for at least 4-6 hours depending on the make and model of your appliance. It should be firm all the way through, but it will not freeze completely solid.
Scoop around half to three quarters of a cup of the slush into a tumbler, top with ginger ale or lemon-lime soda to taste and serve.
And did I mention how sneaky it is? Keep an eye on your guests, lest they slip too far into the slush pile.
Note: Don't splurge on the good stuff for this. Save your Woodford and Booker's for sipping and juleps (and hand your Van Winkle on over this way). Evan Williams is cheap, respectable and gets the job done.
Kat's Brooklyn Burgoo
Serves 30-40 hungry guests.
2 lbs bone-in pork (shank, neck, etc.)
Place all the meat (no need to chop it up) into a 4 gallon or larger pot and cover it with cold water. Bring it to a boil, and simmer until the bones slide out easily, and the chicken fully collapses. Remove all the meat and bones from the stock, discard the bones and chicken skin, and chop the meat into bite-sized pieces once it's cooled.
Peel and dice the onions and potatoes, and add them to the stock along with the chopped meat and all remaining vegetables. Simmer until thick, stirring often. As it gets thicker, stirring should become more frequent to prevent the bottom from burning. The cooking may 8-10 hours or more to complete, and the objective is to break down the meat and vegetables until the consistency is uniform - almost like a gravy.
Once it's to this state, pull out the pepper pods (if you can find them - and if you can't, then please caution guests!), and season with salt, cayenne, Tabasco and Worcestershire to taste. I tend to under-season a little, heat-wise and allow guests to apply hot sauce as liberally as they desire.
Serve in a bowl with a hunk of cornbread, and accept any offers of shoulder and arm massages. You'll need 'em.
Note: Many traditional recipes call for squirrel. The legalities vary from place to place and it's exceptionally unlikely that you'll find any for sale. If you're handy with a shotgun - have at it, or make the acquaintance of someone who is. The squirrels should be thoroughly skinned and gutted. Add the whole squirrels (minus the heads and feet) when you're cooking the rest of the meat - and make sure to warn any squeamish guests.
Kentucky Benedictine Dip
1 large cucumber
Peel the cucumber, and either juice it with a citrus juicer, or grate as finely as possible. With either method, reserve the juice and set aside. Follow the same procedure with the onion.
Combine cucumber pulp/shreds, 2 tbsp onion pulp/shred, cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, salt, and optional green food coloring in a bowl or food processor, and blend, adding cucumber juice and onion juice until desired taste, color, and smoothness is achieved.
Serve with crudité, crackers or triangles of cocktail rye.
More on Kentucky's cuisine: