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Hosting A Kentucky Derby Party? Here’s What The Chef Of Churchill Downs Suggests You Make

What do you plan to pair with your mint julep on Derby day?

The 114th Kentucky Derby is quickly approaching on Saturday, May 5, so now is the perfect time to start planning your viewing party menu.

Not sure where to begin? We have the perfect dishes for you courtesy of “The Bourbon Country Cookbook” by the executive chef of Churchill Downs, David Danielson. He shared four vibrantly flavored Southern dishes from his book with Simplemost — from appetizers all the way to dessert — each perfect for watching the Derby.

Amazon/Agate Surrey

So pull out your big hats, take a look at the recipes below and get ready to bring a taste of the Derby right to your own kitchen!

Kentucky derby photo
Getty Images | Andy Lyons

1. Bacon and Pecan Pimento Cheese

Makes: 3 cups

Ingredients: 

12 ounces grated sharp yellow cheddar (3 cups)

12 ounces grated extra sharp white cheddar (3 cups)

1 cup mayonnaise

1 (4-ounce) jar diced pimentos, drained

¼ cup toasted pecan pieces (see Note)

½ cup cooked and diced bacon (about 8 strips)

½ tablespoon Dijon mustard

Pinch cayenne pepper

Pinch celery seed

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the yellow cheddar, white cheddar, mayonnaise, pimentos, pecans, bacon, mustard, cayenne pepper and celery seed. For a smoother mixture, use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes. When the mixture is completely combined, taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

(Note: To toast pecans at home, preheat the oven to 325°F. Place the pecans on a baking sheet and bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until the nuts begin to brown and become fragrant.)

The Bourbon Country Cookbook

2. Derby Shrimp and Grits with Tasso Gravy

Makes: 6 servings

Ingredients: 

Shrimp

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Grits

2 cups water

2 cups whole milk

1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1 cup stone-ground white grits

8 ounces grated white cheddar (2 cups)

1 teaspoon ground white pepper

Tasso Gravy

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ pound Tasso ham, diced

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup strongly brewed coffee

2 cups chicken broth

2 dashes Tabasco

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Directions:

To make the shrimp, in a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the shrimp and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, just until they are pink. Transfer the shrimp to a plate. Season with salt and black pepper and set aside.

To make the grits, in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the water, milk, and salt, and bring the mixture to a boil. Slowly add the grits, stirring to combine. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook, stirring frequently to prevent the grits from sticking, for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the cheese, stirring until smooth. Season with the white pepper and more salt as needed.

To make the gravy, in a medium skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in the Tasso ham and sauté until the ham is just browned. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is lightly browned. Whisk in the coffee, broth, and Tabasco and let simmer. Keep whisking until the sauce thickens and becomes smooth, about 15 minutes. Taste and add salt and black pepper as needed.

To serve, place the grits on a large platter. Place the shrimp on top of the grits and ladle on the Tasso gravy. Garnish with the chopped parsley and serve immediately.

The Bourbon Country Cookbook

3. Bacon-Wrapped Beef Tenderloin with Henry Bain Sauce

Makes: 8 servings

Ingredients: 

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1½ tablespoons finely minced garlic

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 (4-pound) center-cut beef tenderloin, trimmed of fat

1 pound sliced bacon

Henry Bain Sauce

Makes: 8 cups

1 (17-ounce) jar Major Grey chutney

4½ ounces store-bought pickled walnuts (optional)

1 (14-ounce) bottle ketchup

1 (10-ounce) bottle steak sauce

1 (10-ounce) bottle Worcestershire sauce

1 (12-ounce) bottle tomato-based chili sauce

1 dash hot pepper sauce, or to taste

Mix the chutney, pickled walnuts, ketchup, steak sauce, Worchestershire sauce, chili sauce and hot pepper sauce in a large bowl. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use or for up to 2 weeks. Serve at room temperature.

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a small bowl, combine the rosemary, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the herb mixture evenly over the tenderloin and rub it in with your fingers. On a clean work surface, place the bacon slices lengthwise side by side, overlapping them slightly. Use enough slices so the width of the bacon layer is about 2 inches shorter than the length of the tenderloin.

Place the tenderloin perpendicular to the bacon in the center of the slices. Fold the ends of the bacon over the tenderloin, then roll the tenderloin toward you so the ends of the bacon are on the bottom of the tenderloin. Stretch the bacon slices if necessary to fit around the tenderloin.

Heat a baking pan in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and carefully place the meat, bacon-ends down, in the hot pan. Roast, uncovered, for 50 to 60 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the tenderloin registers 135°F for medium rare.

Remove the meat from the oven, cover it with aluminum foil, and let it rest for 15 minutes. The temperature of the meat should rise to 145°F while it rests. Cut the meat into ½-inch-thick slices and transfer to a serving platter. Serve with the Henry Bain Sauce on the side.

The Bourbon Country Cookbook

4. Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie

Makes: 8 servings

Ingredients:

Pie Crust

1¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 stick unsalted butter, chilled and cut into ½-inch cubes

3–5 tablespoons ice water

Filling

3 large eggs

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

½ cup light corn syrup

½ cup dark corn syrup

¼ cup bourbon

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1½ cups pecan halves, divided

¾ cup bittersweet chocolate chips, divided

Directions:

To make the pie crust, in a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter and, using a fork, cut it into the flour mixture until the butter is about the size of large peas. Slowly add 3 tablespoons of the water, mixing with a fork just until the dough holds together. Add more water only if needed. Using your hands, flatten the dough into a disk. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, or until chilled.

On a floured work surface, roll the dough into a ⅛-inch-thick round. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie plate. Trim the edges of the dough, allowing ½ inch to hang over the rim of the plate. Fold the extra dough onto the rim of the plate and crimp the edge with a fork.

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

To make the filling, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, light and dark corn syrups, bourbon, butter, and salt. Stir in 1 cup of the pecans and ½ cup of the chocolate chips. Pour the filling into the crust and sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of pecans and the remaining ¼ cup of chocolate chips. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the filling is set. Cool the pie on a wire rack to room temperature before serving.

The Bourbon Country Cookbook

Looking for more recipes? Danielson’s new book, “The Bourbon Country Cookbook” is available on Amazon and features 90 southern food and drink recipes.

Will you be watching the Derby, and if so, what recipes are you planning to make?

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