It’s Derby time

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 29, 2014

This Saturday’s 140th Kentucky Derby is nearly upon us, and it is, by far, “the most exciting two minutes in sports.”

Held in Churchill Downs, Ky., the thoroughbred race draws an estimated 150,000 visitors each year. Local residents, visitors, celebrities, politicians and members of the royal family are all in attendance.

NBC’s derby coverage is scheduled from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday. According to the Washington Post, the broadcast is “two minutes of race, two hours 58 minutes of hats.” This year’s fashion commentators are Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski.

I donned my own Kentucky Derby hat, one that I made with my 3-year-old, and headed to crash the Country Club of Salisbury’s kitchen yet again. Chef David Thomas and I set out to make a few simple recipes in celebration of the Kentucky Derby.

What’s Cookin’?

All over social media, people are discussing upcoming Derby-themed parties, and there are quite a few in Rowan County. Here are a few recipes that are extremely easy, flavorful and perfect for your Derby extravaganza!

The first and most important recipe for any Kentucky Derby party is the Mint Julep, the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. Pamela Holm, food and beverage manager, taught me how to make a julep using four ingredients: simple syrup, bourbon, mint leaves and ice. I had no idea this drink was so easy to make.

Then I headed to the kitchen to make a few easy dishes with Chef David. The first was a Spinach and Strawberry Salad with a Champagne Dressing. We then made another simple appetizer: Crostino with Boursin and Sun Dried Tomatoes. The final appetizer — Baked Brie in Puff Pastry — he garnished with toasted almonds, honey and a strawberry/raspberry preserve.

Whether you are hosting a Kentucky Derby party, attending one, or just celebrating at home, these recipes are simple, easy, and will put you in the Derby spirit!

• Leaves from 4-5 mint sprigs

• 1/2 oz. simple syrup

• 2 oz. of bourbon whiskey

• Mint sprig for garnish

Place the mint and simple syrup or sugar into a julep cup or double old-fashioned glass. Muddle well to release the oil and aroma of the mint. Add the bourbon. Fill with crushed ice and stir well until the glass becomes frosty. Garnish with the mint sprig.

Adjust according to how many people you are serving.

• Spinach

• Sliced strawberries

• Thinly shaved red peppers

• Candied pecans

• Mandarin oranges

• Champagne dressing

Fold spinach with Champagne dressing to coat. Place spinach on a plate, molded with your hands. Top with strawberries, shaved red peppers, candied pecans and mandarin oranges.

• ľ tsp. kosher salt

• 16 oz. olive oil

• 2 Tbsp maple syrup

• 1 sm. shallot finely diced

• 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

• A small bottle of Sparkling

Wine or Champagne

Mince shallots, place all ingredients in processor and pour oil slowly while processor is running. Re-season if needed.

• 9 Crostino pieces

• 1 package of Boursin

• 3 sundried tomatoes

• Chives for garnish

Toast crostino until golden. Chop a few sundried tomatoes very, very finely. Whip with Boursin. Using a pastry bag (or a zip lock bag with a tiny hole cut in the corner), decorate crostino with Boursin mixture. Garnish each crostino with a single chive.

• A package frozen puff pastry,

thawed

• 1 (8 ounce) package brie

cheese, round

• toasted almond, slices

(optional)

• Ľ cup honey (optional)

• Ľ cup your favorite preserves

Lightly grease cookie sheet. Cube Brie (be sure to cut off white wax rind first). Roll puff pastry out slightly. Use a cookie cutter to make small circles of puff pastry. Fill each piece of puff pastry with a cube of brie and fold over to make small pockets. Place pockets on cookie sheet and bake on 425 for 5 minutes. Serve with toasted almonds, honey, and your favorite preserves.

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