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Authentic Treats for Derby Day

Growing up in Southern Ohio, my family made the annual pilgrimage to visit our Louisville, KY relatives and celebrate the Kentucky Derby weekend.  Here are some of our favorite dishes that became a...


Growing up in Southern Ohio, my family made the annual pilgrimage to visit our Louisville, KY relatives and celebrate the Kentucky Derby weekend.  Here are some of our favorite dishes that became a highly anticipated tradition every year.




In the 1920's, The Brown Hotel drew over 1,200 guests each evening for its dinner dance. By the wee hours of the morning, guests would grow weary of dancing and make their way to the restaurant for a bite to eat. Sensing their desire for something more glamorous than traditional ham and eggs, Chef Fred Schmidt set out to create something new to tempt his guests' palates. His unique dish? An open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon and a delicate Mornay sauce. The Hot Brown was born!

Makes 2 Hot Browns
  • 2 oz. Whole Butter
  • 2 oz. All Purpose Flour
  • 8 oz. Heavy Cream
  • 8 oz. Whole Milk
  • ½ Cup of Pecorino Romano Cheese
    Plus 1 Tablespoon for Garnish
  • Pinch of Ground Nutmeg
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 14 oz. Sliced Roasted Turkey Breast, Slice Thick
  • 4 Slices of Texas Toast (Crust Trimmed)
  • 4 Slices of Crispy Bacon
  • 2 Roma Tomatoes, Sliced in Half
  • Paprika
  • Parsley

In a two‑quart saucepan, melt butter and slowly whisk in flour until combined and forms a thick paste (roux). Continue to cook roux for two minutes over medium‑low heat, stirring frequently. Whisk heavy cream and whole milk into the roux and cook over medium heat until the cream begins to simmer, about 2‑3 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and slowly whisk in Pecorino Romano cheese until the Mornay sauce is smooth. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.

For each Hot Brown, place two slices of toast with the crusts cut off in an oven safe dish – one slice is cut in half corner to corner to make two triangles and the other slice is left in a square shape - then cover with 7 ounces of turkey. Take the two halves of Roma tomato and two toast points and set them alongside the base of the turkey and toast. Next, pour one half of the Mornay sauce to completely cover the dish. Sprinkle with additional Pecorino Romano cheese. Place the entire dish in the oven. Suggested bake time is 20 minutes at 350º. When the cheese begins to brown and bubble, remove from oven, cross two pieces of crispy bacon on top, sprinkle with paprika and parsley, and serve immediately.



Tomato Pie with Pimento Cheese Topping

This recipe adapted by the Julia Moskin for the NY Times from Virginia Willis' original recipe features farm fresh tomatoes and a pimento cheese topping.  Pimento cheese is a Southern staple and if you have not experienced it before you are in for a real treat! (Note: you can skip the scratch made crust if you want but if you have the time the crust is definitely worth making!)

  • 2 cups/250 grams all-purpose flour, more for flouring the work surface
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 ounces/113 grams chilled unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 large egg yolks
  •  Ice water
  • 1 ½ pounds ripe tomatoes (about 3 medium)
  •  Kosher salt
  • 2 thick slices bacon, cut into lardons (large matchsticks), or 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, such as Vidalia or red onion, very thinly sliced
  • ½ cup mixed chopped fresh herbs, such as chives, parsley and basil
  •  Ground black pepper
  • 1 ¼ cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)
  •  cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon diced pimentos (roasted, preserved sweet red peppers
  1. Make the dough: In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the flour and salt. Add the butter. Process until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, 8 to 10 seconds. Add the egg yolks and pulse until just combined. Pulse in 5 to 6 tablespoons ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, just until the mixture holds together as a soft dough, not crumbly or sticky. Use your hands to shape into a 1-inch-thick disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes (or longer, if desired).
  2. Lightly flour a clean work surface and rolling pin. Unwrap and roll out the dough, starting in the center and rolling up to, but not over, the top edge of the dough. Return to the center, and roll down to, but not over, the bottom edge. Give the dough a quarter turn, and continue rolling, repeating the turns until you have a circle about 1/8-inch thick.
  3. Transfer to a 9-inch pie pan, being careful not to stretch or pull the dough. Cut away any excess dough, leaving enough to make a thick edge around the rim. Tuck the edges under, press together and, if desired, crimp the edge. Chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.
  4. Bake the crust: Heat oven to 425 degrees. Prick the bottom of the dough lightly all over with a fork. Line the dough with parchment paper and fill with pie weights, dried beans or uncooked rice, enough to come halfway up the sides of the pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and remove the paper and weights. Set crust aside to cool to room temperature.
  5. Meanwhile, line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels. Using a serrated knife, core the tomatoes and slice them 1/4 inch thick. Place a layer of tomato slices on the baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Top with more paper towels and repeat with remaining tomatoes. Set aside for at least 30 minutes. 
  6. If using bacon, place in a medium skillet over medium heat, and cook until just crisp, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Pour off all but about 1 tablespoon of the rendered fat from the pan (discard the fat or reserve it for another use). Or, skip the bacon and start the next step with 1 tablespoon olive oil in the pan.
  7. Heat the bacon fat or olive oil over medium heat, then add onions and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until lightly caramelized and golden brown, about 20 minutes. (Don’t rush this process: the onions should not be white or crunchy.)
  8. Assemble the pie: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Pat half the tomatoes dry with paper towels and arrange closely in the pie crust. Add half the onions, bacon and herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Repeat with remaining tomatoes, onions, bacon and herbs.
  9. In a bowl, combine the cheese, mayonnaise and pimento very well. Gently spread the mixture on top of the pie. Bake for 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Transfer to a wire rack to cool at least 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, slicing with a serrated knife.


Derby Pie

In 1954 George Kern made up the recipe for this pie when he was the manager of the Melrose Inn in Prospect, Kentucky,  The name "Derby Pie" has been trademarked by the Kern family, which is extremely vigilant about unauthorized use. Their recipe is a secret, but this one, adapted by John Mitzewich is similar to the Melrose Inn's famous version.



Prep:5 mins
Cook:45 mins
Total:50 mins
Servings:8 servings

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled

  • 2 tablespoons Kentucky Bourbon (splurge on this with Maker's Mark or Four Roses)

  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped

  • 1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Pinch salt

  • 1 ready-made pie crust (for a 9-inch pie)


  1. Heat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Combine the flour and sugar in a mixing bowl.
  3. Add the eggs and melted and cooled butter, and mix to combine.
  4. Stir in the bourbon, walnuts, chocolate chips, vanilla, and salt.
  5. Pour the mixture into the unbaked pie crust.
  6. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the filling is set.
  7. Set the pie on a wire rack and let cool before slicing. Serve and enjoy.


Bourbon Balls

Two young teachers, Rebecca Gooch and Ruth Hanly created the first Bourbon Balls in 1938.  After the success of their candy took hold they left their teaching jobs to start Rebecca Ruth Candies  in Frankfort, KY.  The company is still in business today and sells the famed Bourbon Balls along with other treats. The original recipe is still a secret but this adaption from Christin Mahrlig is great!


  • 1 C. finely chopped pecans
  • 5 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons shortening (Crisco)
  • roughly 30 pecan halves


  • Combine the chopped pecans and bourbon in a small bowl. Cover and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour or overnight.
  • Beat butter with electric mixer and gradually add powdered sugar. Once mixture has completely come together, add pecan-bourbon mixture and mix. If mixture is too soft, add a little more sugar.
  • Use a small ice cream scoop or a teaspoon measuring spoon to form balls that are slightly larger then 1-inch. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or wax paper and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.
  • Melt chocolate chips and shortening in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Once smooth, start dipping the balls into the chocolate mixture using a toothpick. Place back on baking sheet and top with a pecan to cover the hole from the toothpick.
  • Return bourbon balls to refrigerator to set the chocolate.


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