Exactly What to Make for Your Kentucky Derby Party, Straight from Churchill Downs

05/01/2014 at 02:52 PM ET

Kentucky Derby Recipes
Courtesy Levy Restaurants

Hats, horses and Hot Brown sandwiches: The race is on to the Kentucky Derby.

If you’re hosting a watch party on Saturday, you’re probably planning to serve a mint julep cocktail and some Southern eats to line your guests’ stomachs accordingly.

What better than the food straight from the kitchen at Churchill Downs? Derby executive chef David Danielson shares three recipes that’ll take you straight to Louisville, at least in spirit.

Nearly 120,000 mint juleps are served at the racetrack each year during Derby weekend, and mixing your own couldn’t be simpler: Danielson’s recipe has just 5 ingredients, and one of them is ice.

The Hot Brown dates back to the 1920s, when the chef at Louisville’s Brown Hotel created the open-faced sandwich for the hotel’s nightly dinner dance. The version at Churchill Downs sticks to traditional ingredients — turkey, tomatoes, Texas toast and rich Mornay sauce — but is served closed-faced, meaning you (thankfully) don’t need to deal with silverware.

And because your guests will inevitably want something sweet, Danielson has turned a Southern bread pudding recipe into bite-size pieces perfect for eating with a mint julep in hand.

Drinks, check. Food, check. That hat? You’re on your own.

Kentucky Derby Recipes
Courtesy Levy Restaurants

Kentucky Derby Mint Julep
Makes 8

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
10 sprigs fresh mint, divided
Crushed ice
16 oz. Kentucky bourbon

1. To make simple syrup, combine water and sugar in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes.

2. Cool simple syrup and place in a covered container with 2 sprigs of fresh mint. Refrigerate overnight.

3. To make mint juleps, fill 8 glasses with crushed ice. To each glass, add 1 tbsp. mint simple syrup and 2 oz. Kentucky bourbon. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the glass and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

Kentucky Derby Recipes
Courtesy Levy Restaurants

Hot Brown Smasher
Makes 4

1 lb. roasted turkey breast
8 slices applewood smoked bacon
1 cup Mornay sauce (recipe below)
4 thick tomato slices
8 slices Texas toast

1. Place 4 oz. sliced turkey on one piece of Texas toast and top with a slice of tomato, ¼ cup Mornay sauce and two pieces of bacon. Place second piece of Texas toast on top.

2. In a hot skillet or sandwich press, heat up sandwich until bread is golden brown. Slice in half and serve immediately.

Mornay Sauce
Makes 1½-2 cups

3 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. finely chopped onion
3 tbsp. flour
½ tsp. salt
⅛ tsp. ground white pepper
1 cup chicken broth
½ cup light cream or half-and-half
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup shredded Swiss cheese

1. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter. Add onion and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Add flour, stirring until well-blended, then stir in the salt and pepper.

2. Gradually stir in the chicken broth and cream. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until smooth and thickened. Continue cooking, stirring, for 5 minutes. Stir in the cheeses and continue cooking and stirring until melted.

Kentucky Derby Recipes
Courtesy Levy Restaurants

Bread Pudding Bites

2 cups sugar
1 quart whole milk
4 eggs
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. cocoa powder
2 oz. bourbon
12 slices day-old bread
Equal parts cinnamon and sugar

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a stainless steel or glass mixing bowl, whisk sugar, milk, eggs, cinnamon, cocoa powder and bourbon until thoroughly combined.

3. Rip bread into small pieces and place in a well-greased baking pan. Pour the custard over the torn bread and allow to soak in for a few minutes.

4. Cover your bread pudding tightly with parchment paper and heavy-duty aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes, then gently shake the pan. If there is still movement of the ingredients, bake covered for 5-10 additional minutes.

5. Cool bread pudding in refrigerator, uncovered. Once chilled completely, remove from baking dish and, on a cutting board, cut into 1-inch cubes.

6. Deep fry the bread pudding at 350 degrees in a countertop deep fryer until golden brown and crispy, about 1-2 minutes. If you don’t have a deep fryer, fill a pot with oil and heat over high heat until bubbling, then drop in the bread and cook until golden brown and crispy, about 1-2 minutes.

7. While bread pudding bites are still hot, toss in a large mixing bowl with cinnamon and granulated sugar. Serve hot.

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