Happy 142nd Derby!

Here in Kentucky, we celebrate Derby Day like any other big holiday. We host gatherings with friends & family, put too much thought into our outfits, and lay out festive menus of Bluegrass favorites like pimento cheese, benedictine, and Derby pie.

I’ve been coming up with Derby recipes ever since I started cooking on TV back in 2009 and I have finally solved the conundrum of how to serve hot browns to a crowd. I’ve tried making hot brown-inspired everything, from mini hot browns (too much assembly work!) to hot brown pimento cheese (delicious, but it’s a cold spread). Enter my Hot Brown Dip. It’s like a giant casserole of Hot Brown goodness–cheesy mornay, chunks of turkey, sliced tomatoes, and bacon crumbles, ready to be slathered on toasted bread. And what party would be complete without a Crock Pot of meatballs? Kentuckify them with local beef and Henry Bains, a Louisville tradition.

Cocktails are just as important as the food on Derby. Make your life much easier by using Gents Original syrups made by Lexingtonians Tim and Jessica Jones. Most julep syrups are overly minty (hello, toothpaste!) or sugary. Gents is subtly sweet and tastes of fresh mint and honey. Just follow the directions on the bottle, using crushed ice and bourbon. Unlike your Derby bet, it’s a sure win.

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Hot Brown Dip

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  • 8 slices bacon, diced
  • 6 tbsp flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups grated white cheddar cheese
  • 1lb roast turkey breast or deli turkey, cubed
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 3 roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • Sliced baguette, for serving

In a medium saucepan, cook the bacon over medium high heat to render the fat and crisp. Remove the bacon bits with a slotted spoon and remove all but 4 tbsp bacon grease from the pan. Stir in the flour to form a roux. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then whisk in the milk and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and add the cheese, reserving 1/2 cup for the topping. Stir in the turkey and season well with salt and pepper. Transfer this mixture to a baking dish and top with the sliced tomatoes. In a small bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, reserved cheese, garlic salt, and bacon bits. Sprinkle over the entire dish and bake at 375 degrees until bubbly and brown, about 15-20 minutes.

Meatballs with Henry Bains Sauce

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  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 cup cracker crumbs, bread crumbs, or matzo meal
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 8-12 oz jar Henry Bains sauce

In a medium bowl, combine the ground beef with the crumbs/meal, egg, onion, parsley, salt, and pepper. Add 1/4 cup of the Henry Bains sauce to the meat and mix thoroughly. Portion into 1 inch meatballs (about 20-24) and place on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees until golden brown and cooked through, about 12-15 minutes. Heat the remaining Henry Bains sauce and toss with the meatballs.