Friday, May 6, 2011

For a tasty Derby Day ...

The Kentucky Derby is an excellent, and strange, sporting event. It’s the exact opposite of other sporting events. We expect the athletes (the human ones) to be small and light and to avoid making contact with the others. It is only two minutes long, which leaves no room for boredom, as with baseball, soccer or hockey. And, it gives beer drinkers an excuse to imbibe a cocktail with a French-sounding name infused with pretty little herbs. Also: gambling.

The day of the Kentucky Derby is also an excellent day for eating. The Super Bowl may have nachos, pizza and all, but the Derby allows for richer, more refined binging. Yes sir, I will have another handful of buttered pecans sprinkled with cayenne pepper and brown sugar with my bourbon.

If you have not already planned a celebration for Saturday’s Derby, you should consider it. Listed below are some ideas for drinks and eats. I named each after a fictional racehorse.


Start your day off right with sugar, butter, bourbon and espresso. It’s a bourbon ball and a couple of shots of espresso. I had never heard of a bourbon ball until this story on NPR. A bourbon ball is a chocolate confection with a butter cream center infused with the liquor. And the alcohol from the bourbon is not cooked off, though the confectioner on the radio said it’s not enough to impair you. Combine that with some espresso and you’re OK to operate heavy machinery.

Indiana Pants

This is rolled oysters – a Louisville delicacy – and fried lemons. This one is easy because you can batter and deep-fry both at the same time. Bathe your oysters in an egg, milk and cornmeal batter, then roll them in crackers (I’d use buttery Ritz), then fry. For the lemons: slice them thin, then dunk in that same batter; instead of crackers, coat them in a mixture of Panko, cayenne, black pepper and salt. Serve it all with aioli or mayonnaise mixed with adobo sauce and minced chipotle peppers.

Yes And No

You have to eat pecans. There are many recipes for improving on an already perfect snack – especially this one.

Lazy Diplomat

Salted watermelon and whiskey. You really don’t need to salt the watermelon, but I once knew a guy who put salt on all his fruit, and the salted watermelon was really good. I’ve never combined watermelon with whiskey before. But I know that some people infuse fruit and liquor to make liquor fruit. But I’d suggest having the watermelon and whiskey separate – it’s fancier.


This might be best for a small gathering, or if you’re just sitting around on Saturday afternoon and want to make a hearty lunch: a fried catfish po-boy with a lager tallboy. Catfish is good because you can still get it fresh if you live far from the ocean. Get a couple of filets, dip in cornmeal and any other spice you like and fry. Serve on a crispy bun with spinach (or tomatoes) and mayonnaise. Or, deconstruct it and serve deep-friend catfish fingers wrapped in spinach with mayo on the inside, or on the side. And you already know that lager complements any fried food. I suggest the tallboy size because the lead-up to the Derby is a couple of hours.

Good luck on your Derby Day, and may you eat well, drink responsibly and pick the right horse!

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