Mint Julep

Kentucky Derby Party – Part II

Now that I’ve given you all the photos and fashion from Derby day, here is the menu (and recipes!) that conspired to make Kentucky Derby day such a rousing success:

  • Mint Juleps
  • Grilled Pimento Cheese and Fried Green Tomato Sandwiches
  • Watermelon and Feta Bites
  • Charles’ Pan-Fried Chicken (my dear friend H. brought this special delight)
  • Mini Grits and Greens (homemade by the one and only J.D.)
  • Laurie Osteen’s Coconut Cake
  • Other savories: a shrimp platter, Late July Sweet Potato Chips, Maille Cornichons, sweet tea


The Perfect Mint JulepIMG_1286
adapted from The Food Network (makes 10-12)
I am so happy I read through the recipe first. This must be made 24 hours in advance for proper marrying of flavors!

4 cups bourbon (I used Maker’s Mark. You’ll need two 750ml bottles)
1 bunch fresh mint
1 cup distilled water
1 cup granulated sugar


To prepare mint extract, remove about 50 small mint leaves. Wash and place in a small bowl. Cover with 3 ounces bourbon. Allow the leaves to soak for 15 minutes. Then gather the leaves in paper toweling. Thoroughly wring the mint over the bowl of whisky. Dip the bundle again and repeat the process several times.

To prepare simple syrup, mix 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 cup of distilled water in a small saucepan. Heat to dissolve sugar. Stir constantly so the sugar does not burn. Set aside to cool.
To prepare mint julep mixture, pour 3 1/2 cups of bourbon into a large glass bowl or glass pitcher. Add 1 cup of the simple syrup to the bourbon.

Now begin adding the mint extract 1 tablespoon at a time to the julep mixture. Each batch of mint extract is different, so you must taste and smell after each tablespoon is added. You are looking for a soft mint aroma and taste-generally about 3 tablespoons. When you think it’s right, pour the whole mixture back into the glass bowl or a pitcher and refrigerate it for at least 24 hours to “marry” the flavors.

To serve the julep, fill each glass 1/2 full with ice. Insert a spring of mint and then pack in more ice to about 1-inch over the top of the cup. Then, insert a straw that has been cut to 1-inch above the top of the cup so the nose is forced close to the mint when sipping the julep.

Pour the refrigerated julep mixture over the ice. Serve immediately.



grilled-pimiento-cheese-and-fried-green-tomato-sandwich-gpc-646Grilled Pimento Cheese and Fried Green Tomato Sandwiches
adapted from Bon Appetit (makes 4)

3/4 cup shredded mozzarella
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar 1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons chopped roasted red pepper
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic paste
Kosher salt

Mix mozzarella, cheddar, mayonnaise, cream cheese, roasted pepper, hot sauce, and garlic powder in a medium bowl; season with salt. Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill.

2 large green tomatoes, sliced 1/3-inch thick (I used 3 small tomatillos instead)
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon paprika
2 cups panko
Vegetable oil (for frying; about 3 cups)
4 ciabatta rolls, split
8 slices bacon, cooked until crisp

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: A deep-fry thermometer

Place tomatoes on a large paper towel–lined baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Whisk eggs and hot sauce in a shallow medium bowl. Whisk flour, garlic powder, and paprika in another shallow medium bowl. Place panko in a third shallow medium bowl.

Using paper towels, pat tomatoes dry. Working in batches, dredge in flour mixture, shaking off excess. Coat with egg mixture, allowing excess to drip back into bowl. Coat with panko, pressing to adhere.

Pour oil into a large deep skillet to a depth of 1 inch and heat over medium heat until thermometer registers 350°. Working in batches, fry tomatoes, turning halfway through, until golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes per batch. Transfer to a paper towel–lined baking sheet to drain.

Meanwhile, preheat broiler. Spread cut sides of each roll with pimiento cheese. Place rolls, pimiento cheese side up, on a baking sheet and broil until cheese is melted, about 2 minutes. Build sandwiches with rolls, cooked bacon, and fried green tomatoes.

IMG_0055Watermelon and Feta Bites


~2 lbs of cubed watermelon
6-8 ounces feta cheese
4-5 tablespoons of whole milk
1 organic cucumber


With the small end of a melon baller tool, cut little half rounds out of the center of each cube of watermelon. Whip feta cheese and milk together in a food processor until creamy.  Scoop the cheese into the indentations. Garnish with a tiny slice of cucumber. Place on a platter and serve.

Mini Grits and Greens
adapted from Southern Living by J.D.


  • 1 package of instant grits
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz.) freshly shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


  • 8 oz fresh spinach leaves
  • 3 oz pancetta, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar


  1. Make instant grits according to package directions, using chicken broth as opposed to water. Whisk in Cheddar cheese and next 4 ingredients, whisking constantly until cheese melts. Keep warm.
  2. Stack spinach on a cutting board. Tightly roll up leaves, and thinly slice into 1/8-inch strips. Quarter chorizo lengthwise, and cut into small pieces.
  3. Sauté pancetta in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 2 minutes. Add spinach, vinegar, and sugar. Cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or until greens are bright green and just tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Place about 1 Tbsp. grits into each mini dish, and top with spinach mixture. Serve immediately.


Laurie Osteen’s Coconut Cake

from Bon Appetit (serves 10)

When I read this recipe in an old (2013) issue of Bon Appetit, I tore it out immediately and marked it “Kentucky Derby Party.”

photo 2


  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • All-purpose flour (for pans)
  • 1 15-16-ounce box yellow cake mix
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT:  Three 8-inch-diameter cake pans (I ordered mine from Amazon)


Preheat oven to 350°. Coat cake pans with nonstick spray. Dust with flour, tapping out excess.

Whisk cake mix, eggs, oil, and 1 cup milk in a large bowl until no lumps remain. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans; smooth tops.

Bake cakes until a tester inserted into the centers comes out clean, 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix coconut, sugar, sour cream, salt, and remaining 1 tablespoon milk in a medium bowl to combine; set frosting aside.

Transfer pans to wire racks; let cool 5 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks and spread frosting over tops of warm cakes, dividing evenly. Stack cakes. Let stand at room temperature, covered with a cake dome, or loosely tented with foil, at least 4 hours before serving.

DO AHEAD: Cake can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

photo 1
Until next year, Derby lovers. xoxo.