Derby Day Delights

Story Jan Swoope | Photographs Luisa Porter

As the sun rose high on the 137th Run for the Roses May 7, Churchill Downs wasn’t the only place abuzz. Down in the Deep South, Starkville, Miss., was celebrating the famed equine extravaganza in its own way.

Broad-brimmed hats and crisp seersucker suits were the order of the day at the inaugural Kentucky Derby Party hosted by Junior Auxiliary of Starkville. The festive event, held on the grounds of Janet and Larry Mullins’ lakeside home, invited the public to don the attire and indulge in the atmosphere, all while raising funds to support service projects that benefit the children of Oktibbeha County.

Party patrons, with mint tea coolers, lemonade or frosty bourbon slushes, mingled pool-side, where a soft-rock trio played, or relaxed at tables topped by trophy cup-centerpieces filled with roses, the official flower of America’s greatest horse race. In the distance, JA member Natalie Langston’s thoroughbred, Drover, was decked out in a number cloth and blanket of red roses, walking at the lake’s edge with his “jockey” and adding to the Derby mood.

Under white tents twined in silvery elaeagnus, an elegant buffet awaited guests. Co-chaired by Susan Ford and Grace Strahan, the food committee hit the trifecta in designing a menu worthy of the occasion.

“We worked really hard to choose things that could be served at room temperature, could be picked up easily and made ahead of time, and, of course, fit the theme,” said Ford.

Flush with talented cooks, the chapter prepared most of the dishes.

“We left only the time-sensitive items to the professionals,” she explained. “I take the same approach with most of my own parties. If my local bakery makes a wonderful dessert, why reinvent the wheel? This cuts down on stress and helps me focus on the things I enjoy. So, we got down all our cookbooks and started testing.”

The final selections included pork tenderloin with Henry Bain sauce, shrimp and cheese grits, julienned vegetables, cucumber sandwiches with goat cheese, and bacon tomato cups. For dessert — deliciously decadent mini Derby pies and lemon bars, plus Woodford Reserve chocolate bourbon balls donated by Thyme in Starkville.

Henry Bain sauce, served with tenderloin prepared by Cappe’s Steakhouse in Starkville (who also made the shrimp and grits) is named for a head waiter at the legendary Pendennis Club in Louisville, Ky., in the early 20th century.

“He created this sauce to go over steaks and the wild game the men brought into the club,” Ford explained. “Now it’s served at a lot of Derby parties. We found it’s good over beef, chicken and pork, too. I even caught my husband putting it on a burrito,” she smiled.

Bacon tomato cups made with Mississippi State University’s Edam and villagret cheeses were a savory hit, and “guiltless” julienned vegetables served in shot glasses made a colorful, appetizing focal point.

AND THEY’RE OFF
As post time neared, guests migrated toward multiple TV screens, placing “bets” on horses tied to specific JA projects and urging on the field of 3-year-old thoroughbreds pummeling the track. When Animal Kingdom, his chestnut coat gleaming, stormed across the finish line first, cheers went up from everyone caught up in the excitement.

“We thought it was all a huge success,” enthused Meredith Martin, who co-chaired festivities with Jamie Perry. “And we’re already planning next year’s event!”

Perry agreed, and offered a word of advice: “We really think this will only get bigger … so, start looking now for your hat,” she laughed.


LEMON BARS

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Powdered sugar

• Combine 2 cups flour and 1/2 cup powdered sugar. Cut butter into the flour mixture with pastry blender until crumbly. Firmly press mixture into a lightly greased 13-by-9-inch pan.
• Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned.
• Whisk eggs in a large bowl; whisk in 2 cups of sugar and lemon juice. Combine remaining 1/4 cup flour and baking powder; whisk into the egg mixture. Pour batter over crust.
• Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until set. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into 24 bars, or smaller if you can. Sprinkle evenly with additional powdered sugar.

(Source: Southern Living)


MINT COOLER                                    

8 cups boiling water
7 small mint tea bags
1 small plain tea bag
2 tubs/packets Crystal Light lemonade
8 cups cold water
5-7 individual packets Splenda

• Add tea bags to boiling water and steep for 10 minutes.
•Add lemonade mix to 8 cups of cold water. Remove tea bags from tea mixture and squeeze. Add lemonade and Splenda to tea. Yields 1 gallon.
(Note: Tea will keep for several weeks refrigerated.)

(Source: “Great Performances,”  Tupelo Symphony)


BOURBON SLUSH                                    

1 cup sugar
6 cups hot tea
1 12-ounce can frozen lemonade concentrate
1 6-ounce can frozen orange juice concentrate
2 cups bourbon

• Dissolve sugar in the hot tea in a heat-proof bowl. Stir in lemonade concentrate and orange juice concentrate until blended. Let stand until cool.
• Stir in bourbon. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon container and freeze until slushy. Let stand at room temperature until partially thawed and spoon into glasses. Serve immediately.

(Source: “Table of Contents,” Junior League of Birmingham)


HENRY BAIN SAUCE

1 9-ounce bottle of chutney, finely chopped/food processed
1 14-ounce bottle of ketchup
1 12-ounce bottle chili sauce
1 10-ounce bottle A-1 steak sauce
1 10-ounce bottle of Worcestershire sauce
Hot sauce to taste, around 1/4 cup

• Blend all ingredients together well.
(Note: This can be made up to a week early and kept covered in the refrigerator.)

(Source: myrecipes.com)


CUCUMBER SANDWICHES WITH HERBED GOAT CHEESE

For the spread:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
10 1/2 ounces mild goat cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic (two cloves)
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
5 to 6 tablespoons half-and-half
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the sandwiches:
2 loaves seven-grain wheat or white bread (thin)
1 large cucumber, not peeled, thinly sliced

• For the spread, place the cream cheese, goat cheese, garlic, thyme, parsley, 5 tablespoons of milk or half-and-half, salt and pepper in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until well mixed. Add an additional tablespoon of milk if the spread is very thick.
• To make the sandwiches, spread each slice of bread with goat cheese spread. Slice cucumber in thin rounds and arrange on half of the bread slices. Top with remaining bread. Press sandwich slightly; cut each with a 1 1/2-inch biscuit cutter or juice glass. Each whole sandwich should yield two or three rounds.
(Note: Spread can be made up to two weeks before and stored covered in refrigerator. Make sandwiches early on the day you plan to serve; keep covered with damp paper towels and plastic wrap in the refrigerator before serving.)

(Source: Barefoot Contessa)


BACON TOMATO CUPS

1 10-ounce can diced tomatoes and green chilies, drained
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil
8 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 10-ounce can refrigerated flaky, layered biscuits

• Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In mixing bowl, stir together tomatoes, mayonnaise, cheese, basil, bacon and onion.
• Separate each biscuit into three layers. Press each layer into a lightly greased miniature muffin tin and fill with tomato mixture. Bake 10-12 minutes.

(Source: “Square Table:  A Collection of Recipes from Oxford, Mississippi”)