Cooking

Derby Dancing

Try these traditional Kentucky dishes and drinks for a Derby Day party
Photos: Tasting Table
Derby Day

The Kentucky Derby is often cited as the fastest, greatest or most exciting two minutes in sports, depending on who's doing the talking. It's also a great excuse for a party—not to mention a chance to make your friends dress up in seersucker and over-the-top hats—but how does a host keep the party galloping along once the winning horse noses past the finish line?

My solution for the past decade: Put out a generous spread of traditional Bluegrass State delicacies and let my guests graze and sip to their hearts' content. I grew up in Kentucky, and though we ate our fair share of fried chicken (and toured distilleries on class trips), I've always found it unfair that the regional cuisine doesn't often make it past the state's borders.

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Everyone knows and loves mint juleps (and they're a must at any Derby party), but they may not be aware of the pleasures of bourbon slush (see the recipe), a sweet, tangy, sneakily boozy frozen concoction that's scooped by the panful at house parties. Food-savvy travelers might have sought out the state's famous barbecued mutton, but have they been lucky enough to ladle out a bowl of burgoo (see the recipe), made from long-simmered vegetables, beef, pork, chicken, lamb and veal? (Squirrel is traditional but entirely optional. And, yes, I have served it that way, too.)

RELATED   Make Juleps with More than Mint »

It would be truly unkind to deprive the good people from outside the Commonwealth of the pungent, mustard-and-garlic-amped beer cheese (see the recipe) often found in a crock atop the bar at older taverns. Or the cool, cucumber-bolstered Benedictine dip (see the recipe) that's equally delicious on a pinky-up, crust-off tea sandwich. And especially the boozy, cocoa-dusted pecan bourbon balls (see the recipe) that'll take your party to an awfully sweet (and tipsy) state.

Saddle up, bet on this menu and post up to the hosting hall of fame.

Get the recipes: 
Benedictine Dip
Kentucky Beer Cheese
Brooklyn Burgoo
Bourbon Slush
Bourbon Balls

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