9 Easy Kentucky Derby Recipe Ideas You Can Whip Up In No Time

Something to munch on between mint juleps.

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David Burtka

Two things come to mind when you think of the Kentucky Derby: horses, and mint juleps. But what happens when you want to make a day of the races and have some friends over? You need sustenance. This is a marathon, not a sprint–especially when the Kentucky Derby and Cinco de Mayo conveniently land on the same weekend.

Celebrity chef and entertainment expert David Burtka is breaking down exactly what you need to make your Derby Day fabulous from start to finish. David's advice: Stick with simple and easy foods. "If you're hosting a Derby party where people are up and about, better to have easy-to-eat finger foods."

Below are a few recipes David and husband Neil Patrick Harris will be enjoying during the races. Don't worry about the cocktails, we've got you covered whether you're a mint julep person or not. And if you happen to run out of food, don't doubt your pimento cheese. "You probably already have most of the ingredients in your fridge" says Burtka. Which means you can handle any unexpected guests and appear to be the hostess with the mostess.

Once you devour these recipes, check out David's new book, Life is a Party: Deliciously Doable Recipes to Make Every Day a Celebration, for daily inspo. "I'm a huge proponent of cutting down on food waste," he says. A lot of people don't know all the ways you can use scraps."

Plus enjoy more Derby Day recipes from Churchill Downs Executive Chef David Danielson.


Corn Cakes with Bacon Jam

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Corn Cakes with Bacon Jam
David Burtka

Ingredients (makes 20-24 small cakes and 2 cups jam):

For the Bacon Jam:

  • 1 pound bacon slices, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide pieces
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt

    For the Chive Sour Cream:

    • 1/2 cup sour cream
    • 4 tablespoons sliced chives
    • For the Corn Cakes
    • 2 cups fresh corn kernels (from 2 to 3 large ears of corn)
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
    • 2 large eggs, separated
    • 1/3 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
    • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
    • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning

      Directions:

      1. Make the bacon jam: Place the bacon in a large cast-iron skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the fat has completely rendered and the bacon is crispy and deeply golden brown, about 25 minutes. There should only be about 2 tablespoons of rendered fat in the pan at any time; as the bacon cooks, carefully spoon the excess fat into a glass jar or bowl and set it aside. You’ll use it later for frying. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a large paper towel–lined plate to drain. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan, if necessary, and return the pan to medium heat.
      2. Add the onion and a splash of water to the pan. Use the back of a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, then cook until the onion is completely tender and golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes, adding more water as needed if the onion sticks or starts to burn.
      3. Stir in the tomato paste, brown sugar, vinegar, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture (including the cooled bacon) to a food processor and pulse until thick and jammy, about 15 pulses. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl, taste, and season with salt. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature while you make the corn cakes. (If you’re making the jam in advance, store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 7 days.)
      4. Make the chive sour cream: In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream and 2 tablespoons of the chives; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
      5. Make the corn cakes: In a blender, combine 11⁄2 cups of the corn, the butter, and the egg yolks and blend until mostly smooth. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Form a well in the center, add the wet corn mixture, and stir until just combined.
      6. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites, remaining 1⁄2 cup corn, and remaining 2 tablespoons chives into the batter.
      7. In a large cast-iron skillet, heat 2 tablespoons the reserved bacon fat over medium-high heat. When the fat starts to shimmer, drop about 8 heaping tablespoons of the batter into the pan, 1 tablespoon at a time, leaving enough space between them to allow them to expand and for easy flipping. Cook until the edges begin to set and the bottoms are lightly browned, about 2 minutes, then flip and cook until the second side is lightly browned and the corn cake is cooked through, about 2 minutes more. Transfer the corn cakes to a wire rack set over a baking sheet.
      8. Cook the remaining batter, adding more bacon fat to the pan if needed. (Leftover bacon fat can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month). If needed, season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve the corn cakes hot or at room temperature, topped with the bacon jam and chive sour cream.

        BBQ Pork Sliders

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        BBQ Pork Sliders
        David Burtka

        Ingredients (makes 16 sliders):

        • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
        • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
        • 1/3 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
        • 3 tablespoons smoked paprika
        • 2 tablespoons granulated garlic
        • 2 tablespoons dry mustard powder
        • 1 1/2 teaspoons ancho chile powder
        • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
        • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
        • 1 (8-pound) boneless pork butt
        • 4 to 6 cups barbecue sauce store-bought or homemade (recipe follows)
        • 16 potato slider buns, lightly toasted

          Special Equipment:

          • spice grinder or mortar and pestle

            Directions:

            1. In a small dry skillet, toast the cumin and coriander over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until fragrant, 21⁄2 to 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and transfer the spices to a small plate to cool, then finely grind them in a spice grinder or using a mortar and pestle.
            2. Transfer the ground toasted spices to a medium bowl and whisk in the brown sugar, paprika, granulated garlic, dry mustard powder, ancho chile powder, salt, and black pepper.
            3. Place the pork butt in a large bowl and rub half the spice blend over it, adding more as needed to evenly coat all sides and surfaces of the pork (save any unused spice blend in a jar or resealable plastic bag for another use). Wrap the pork butt in plastic wrap so it is completely sealed, return it to the bowl, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.
            4. When ready to cook the pork, preheat the oven to 250°F.
            5. Unwrap the pork butt (discard the plastic) and place it in a roasting pan. Let it come to room temperature for 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook until you can stick a fork in the meat and easily break off a chunk, about 8 hours. Remove the pan from the oven, remove and discard any large pieces of fat from the pork, and break the pork into 4 to 6 large chunks. Return the pan to the oven and cook until a fork easily shreds the meat, 2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours more.
            6. Remove the pan from the oven and shred the pork with two forks, letting the meat fall into the fat and juices in the pan.
            7. Place the roasting pan over a burner on the stovetop and turn the heat to medium-high. Cook the pork in the residual pork fat, stirring occasionally, until the meat is lightly crispy in spots, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, then stir in as little or as much barbecue sauce as you like.
            8. Divide the meat among the buns. Serve with any remaining barbecue sauce on the side.

              Pimento Cheese Dip

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              David Danielson of Churchill Downs

              Ingredients:

              • 4oz cream cheese
              • ¼ cup mayonnaise
              • 3 oz smoked gouda, shredded
              • 2 tsp dijon mustard
              • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
              • 8 oz sharp cheddar, shredded
              • 1 4-ounce jar pimiento peppers, drained and chopped
              • ¼ tsp salt
              • ⅛ tsp freshly-ground black pepper
              • 1 serrano pepper, finely chopped (optional)
              • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
              • 1 package pretzel sticks or crackers, for serving

                Directions:

                1. In a food processor, combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, smoked gouda, dijon and Worcestershire sauce and process on high until mixture forms a paste.
                2. Transfer to a medium bowl and add remaining ingredients.
                3. Stir well until fully combined, then refrigerate or serve at once with pretzel rods, toasted baguettes cheese or crackers.

                  Chilled Derby Day Shrimp & Pasta Salad

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                  Chilled Derby Day Shrimp & Pasta Salad
                  David Danielson of Churchill Downs

                  Ingredients:

                  • 1 ½ C Cherry Tomatoes; Sliced in Half
                  • 2 C Asparagus
                  • 1½ Boxes of Cavatappi
                  • 1 Bag of Pre-cooked 21/25 Shrimp; Thawed
                  • 1-2 each Squash & Zucchini (depending on size)
                  • 2-3 Lemons; Juiced
                  • 1 ½ C Olive Oil
                  • 1 C Chopped Parsley

                    Directions:

                    1. Cook pasta as per directions.
                    2. Season squash & zucchini with salt, pepper and olive oil; roast in 350 degree F oven for 10-12 minutes or until tender; once finished slice in quartered chunks.
                    3. Roast asparagus the same way as the squash and zucchini.
                    4. Once the roasted vegetables and pasta are done, combine the vegetables, pasta & shrimp all together.
                    5. Drizzle olive oil, lemon & salt/pepper to taste; garnish with parsley.
                    6. Chill for at least an hour.

                      Chicken Wings Grilled & Glazed

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                      Chicken Wings Grilled & Glazed
                      David Danielson of Churchill Downs

                      Ingredients:

                      • ¾ C Smoked Paprika
                      • 1 C Salt
                      • ¼ C Blk. Pepper
                      • ¼ C Brown Sugar
                      • ½ C Onion Powder
                      • ¼ C Garlic Powder
                      • 2 ½ C Canola Oil
                      • 8 lb. Whole Bone-In Chicken Wings
                      • Parsley; Chopped – for Garnish

                            Directions:

                            1. Combine all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl to create seasoning.
                            2. Coat wings with oil; once coated season wings generously.
                            3. Place on hot grill for 6-8 minutes, flipping wings every 3-4 minutes.
                            4. Take off grill and place in a 400 degree F oven until golden brown & crispy.
                            5. Serve on platter; garnish with chopped parsley.

                              Slow Cooker Short Ribs

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                              Slow Cooker Short Ribs with Henry Bain Sauce
                              David Danielson of Churchill Downs

                              Ingredients:

                              For the Short Ribs:

                              • 6/7 lbs. Boneless Beef Short Ribs
                              • 4 Tbsp Olive Oil
                              • 1 ½ Lg Onion, Quartered & Sliced
                              • 1 ½ lg Carrot, Peeled & Diced
                              • 5 Ribs Celery (Sliced)
                              • 2 C Dry Red Wine
                              • 2 C Chicken Broth
                              • 2 Bay Leaf
                              • 2 Sprig Rosemary
                              • Salt & Pepper
                              • Slow Cooker/Crock Pot

                                    For the Cheese Grits:

                                    • 2 C Whole Milk
                                    • 1 C Chicken Broth
                                    • 1 C Water
                                    • 1 tsp Salt
                                    • 1 C Uncooked, Old-Fashioned Grits
                                    • 2 C Sharp Cheddar
                                    • 1 C Parm, Grated
                                    • Chives for Garnish
                                    • Salt & Pepper to Taste

                                          For the Henry Baines Sauce:

                                          • 1 (17-oz) Jar Major Grey’s Chutney
                                          • 4 ½ oz Store-Bought Pickled Walnuts (Optional)
                                          • 1 (14 oz) Bottle Ketchup
                                          • 1 (10 oz) Bottle Steak Sauce
                                          • 1(10 oz) Bottle Worcestershire Sauce
                                          • 1(12 oz) Bottle Tomato Based Chili Sauce
                                          • 1 Dash Hot Pepper Sauce, or to Taste

                                                Directions:

                                                Short Ribs

                                                1. In large skillet, heat the oil over med/high heat. Season ribs with salt & pepper.
                                                2. Sear the ribs in hot oil, turning to brown all sides.
                                                3. Transfer ribs to slow cooker/crock pot.
                                                4. Add the onion, carrot & celery to the same pan that you seared the short ribs in and cook, stirring frequently until onions are wilted and slightly brown.
                                                5. Transfer the vegetables to the slow cooker.
                                                6. Using the same pan as the veggies, add the red wine/chicken broth and bring to a boil.
                                                7. Boil for about 9 minutes or until reduced by ½.
                                                8. Pour red wine liquid over the ribs into the slow cooker, add bay leaf & rosemary.
                                                9. Cover and cook on LOW heat for 8-9 hours or until tender.

                                                      Cheese Grits

                                                      1. Combine milk, broth and water in a large saucepan; bring to boil.
                                                      2. Add salt; whisk in Grits and reduce heat to low.
                                                      3. Cook, stirring frequently until creamy for 15-20 min.
                                                      4. Once finished, stir in cheese until melted; garnish with chives.

                                                            Henry Baines Sauce

                                                            1. Mix the chutney, pickled walnuts, if using, ketchup, steak sauce, Worcestershire sauce, chili sauce and hot pepper sauce in a large bowl.
                                                            2. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use or for up to 2 weeks.
                                                            3. Serve at room temperature.

                                                              Meatball, Cucumber, & Mint Skewers

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                                                              Meatball, Cucumber & Mint Skewers
                                                              David Danielson of Churchill Downs

                                                              Ingredients:

                                                              • 2 lbs. Ground Lamb
                                                              • 1 Yellow Onion, Finely Chopped
                                                              • 2 Garlic Cloves, Finely Chopped
                                                              • Zest of 2 Lemons
                                                              • ½ C Parsley, Finely Chopped
                                                              • 3 tsp Cumin
                                                              • 2 tsp Dried Oregano
                                                              • ½ tsp Salt & Pepper
                                                              • ¼ tsp Cayenne
                                                              • 1 English Cucumber, ¼ inch Slices
                                                              • Chopped Mint for Garnish
                                                              • Greek Yogurt
                                                              • Smoked Paprika for Garnish
                                                              • 1/2 cup gribiche sauce
                                                              • Skewers, Soaked in Water for at least 15 min

                                                                    Directions:

                                                                    1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
                                                                    2. Add lamb, onion, garlic, lemon zest, parsley, cumin, oregano, cayenne, s&p into a bowl. Mix together and roll into 2 T sized balls with your hands, placing them on a parchment lined baking tray.
                                                                    3. Transfer to the oven and bake for 15-20 min or until meatballs are crisp and cooked through on the inside.
                                                                    4. Meanwhile, chop up the mint and slice the cucumbers and reserve.
                                                                    5. Place a dollop of the Greek yogurt onto the serving plate.
                                                                    6. Once meatballs are finished cooking and somewhat cool, start skewering them with the cucumbers, garnish with mint and smoked paprika.

                                                                      Grilled Figs with Blue Cheese Mousse & Toasted Walnuts

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                                                                      Grilled Figs with Blue Cheese Mousse & Toasted Walnuts
                                                                      David Danielson of Churchill Downs

                                                                      Ingredients:

                                                                      For the Figs & Cheese:

                                                                      • 6-8 Fresh Figs; Sliced in Half and Grilled
                                                                      • 2 C Candied Walnuts
                                                                      • 3 Heads Radicchio; Grilled
                                                                      • 2 Heads Frisee; Chopped
                                                                      • 3 C Crumbled Bleu Cheese (Reserve 1 1/2 c)
                                                                      • 2 ¼ C Heavy Cream

                                                                            For the Riesling Dressing:

                                                                            • ½ C Riesling or Other Dry White Wine
                                                                            • 1 ¾ C White Wine Vin
                                                                            • 2 tsp Dijon Mustard
                                                                            • 1 Shallot
                                                                            • ¾ C Olive Oil
                                                                            • Salt & Pepper to Taste
                                                                            • Chives for Garnish

                                                                                  Directions:

                                                                                  1. Take 1½ C bleu cheese and 1 C of heavy cream and place on stove, low heat until melted.
                                                                                  2. Mix remaining cream in mixer or by hand until stiffly whipped.
                                                                                  3. Cut radicchio in half, season with light salt & pepper, oil and grill until you can see char marks; place in fridge and chop once cooled.
                                                                                  4. Follow the same steps with the figs, reserve to the side.
                                                                                  5. Once the bleu cheese mixture & heavy cream have chilled, whip together with reserved cream; place mixture in large bowl or piping bag and place in the refrigerator.
                                                                                  6. For the dressing, place wine, vinegar, dijon & shallot in a blender; blend until combined; slowly add olive oil, salt & pepper – reserve.
                                                                                  7. Mix radicchio and frisee in bowl with a bit of dressing, place on plate and continue to garnish with figs, walnuts, bleu cheese crumbles & Mousse.
                                                                                  8. Finish with dressing on top; garnish with chives.

                                                                                    Bourbon Chocolate Caramel & Mousse

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                                                                                    Bourbon Chocolate Caramel & Mousse
                                                                                    David Danielson of Churchill Downs

                                                                                    Ingredients:

                                                                                    • 5 ¼ oz Bittersweet Chocolate; Coarsely Chopped
                                                                                    • 14 oz Cold Heavy Cream
                                                                                    • 2 Tbsp Vanilla Paste
                                                                                    • 2 Egg Whites
                                                                                    • 1 ½ oz Sugar
                                                                                    • Sweetened Whipped Cream, for Garnish (optional)
                                                                                    • Shaved Bittersweet Chocolate, for Garnish (optional)
                                                                                    • Fresh Berries, for Garnish (optional)

                                                                                          Directions:

                                                                                          1. Place chocolate in a large bowl, set over a bain marie pot or in a double boiler at a low simmer. Stir chocolate until melted. Turn off heat and let stand.
                                                                                          2. Beat the cream over ice (or in a mixer) until it forms soft peaks. Set aside and hold at room temp.
                                                                                          3. With a mixer, whip egg whites into soft peaks, gradually adding sugar and continuing to whip until firm.
                                                                                          4. Remove chocolate from the bain marie and using a whisk, fold in the egg whites. When the whites are incorporated, fold in the whipped cream.
                                                                                          5. Cover the mousse and refrigerate for about 1 hour or until it’s set.
                                                                                          6. Using a piping bag, pipe mousse into mason jars. Add shaved chocolate, berries and whipped cream as desired.

                                                                                            Mini Derby Pies

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                                                                                            Mini Derby Pies
                                                                                            David Danielson of Churchill Downs

                                                                                            Ingredients:

                                                                                            • 2 eggs
                                                                                            • ¼ cup granulated sugar
                                                                                            • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
                                                                                            • 2 tbsp bourbon
                                                                                            • 2 tsp flour
                                                                                            • 1 tsp vanilla
                                                                                            • ¼ tsp salt
                                                                                            • 12 premade 4” tart shells
                                                                                            • 1 cup chopped pecans
                                                                                            • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

                                                                                              Directions:

                                                                                              1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
                                                                                              2. In a small bowl, whisk eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, bourbon, flour,vanilla, and salt.
                                                                                              3. Place tart shells on a baking sheet.
                                                                                              4. Mix pecans and chocolate chips, then distribute evenly in tart shells.
                                                                                              5. Pour egg mixture into each tart shell, dividing evenly (about 2 tablespoons per tart). Tart shells should be about ¾ full.
                                                                                              6. Transfer baking sheet to oven and bake for 18 minutes, rotating halfway through cooking time, until centers are no longer jiggly and tops are slightly browned. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

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