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Kentucky Derby party: Here's the food, dessert and mint julep recipes you need

This Saturday brings the 145th Kentucky Derby, a storied horse race that awards nearly $1.8 million to the winner and has been called "the most exciting two minutes in sports."

It also makes for a pretty fun party.

What's not to love? Set out a menu of barbecue favorites, have a cold Mint Julep on hand and a nutty chocolate Derby Pie for dessert. Also, hats.

The beauty of throwing a Derby party is that the peak is fairly early, when the horses run at the stated post time of 6:50 p.m. at Churchill Downs.

Have guests arrive about an hour before (and maybe place some bets?), load a plate and then yell your head off for a horse with a wacky name like Cutting Humor or Maximum Security.

And two minutes later, it's over. You can still make a movie or a show after. Or stick around and whine about not being able to watch hockey anymore.

In Louisville, scores of celebrities will watch the race in ridiculous hats. But if you can't make it to the Derby in person, there's an official at-home menu and set of recipes this year — a first from Churchill Downs.

PREVIOUSLY: A fool-proof mint julep recipe for watching the Kentucky Derby.

Since 2013, chef David Danielson has been the executive chef at Churchill Downs racetrack, which offers a menu stacked with multiple courses and, of course, plenty of bourbon.

This year, Danielson will put out 22,000 chicken breasts, 4,075 pounds of braised pork, 5,640 pounds of turkey, 7,600 pounds of potatoes, 8,200 pounds of pasta and 8,000 heads of locally grown lettuce.

The official at-home menu and a cheat sheet on the horses can be found at

Among the eight recipes from Churchill Downs is one for Slow Cooker Short Ribs With Henry Bain Sauce (a famous Kentucky condiment for meats first found at Louisville's Pendennis Club). The tender short ribs are served over cheese grits.

We also have a recipe for Derby Pie, though we are not calling it that because the Kentucky staple was created by the Melrose Inn, which trademarked its recipe and the name "Derby Pie" in 1950 and they have been known to sue over it. So we are calling it Derby City Chocolate Pecan Pie, a nutty chocolate pie that is reminiscent of a Snickerdoodle. Some recipes call for bourbon in the pie, but we like to make bourbon whipped cream instead.

And we have a foolproof Mint Julep recipe, sure to bring around any bourbon skeptic. But be careful, this strong drink is dangerously delicious.

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Slow Cooker Short Ribs with Henry Bain Sauce

6 to 7 pounds boneless beef short ribs

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, quartered and sliced

1 large carrot, diced

5 ribs celery, sliced

2 cups dry red wine

2 cups chicken broth

2 bay leaves

2 sprigs rosemary

Salt and pepper, to taste

In large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Season ribs with salt and pepper.

Sear the ribs in hot oil, turning to brown all sides.

Transfer ribs to slow cooker.

Add the onion, carrot and celery to the same pan that you seared the short ribs in and cook, stirring frequently until onions are wilted and slightly brown.

Transfer the vegetables to the slow cooker.

Using the same pan as the veggies, add the red wine/chicken broth and bring to a boil

Boil for about 9 minutes or until reduced by half.

Pour red wine liquid over the ribs into the slow cooker, add bay leaf and rosemary.

Cover and cook on LOW heat for 8 to 9 hours or until tender.

Source: Churchill Downs


Cheese Grits

2 cups whole milk

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup water

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup uncooked, old-fashioned grits

2 cups sharp cheddar, grated

1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Chives for garnish

Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine milk, broth and water in a large saucepan; bring to boil.

Add salt; whisk in grits and reduce heat to low.

Cook, stirring frequently until creamy for 15 to 20 minutes.

Once finished, stir in cheese until melted; garnish with chives.

Source: Churchill Downs


Henry Baines Sauce

17-ounce jar Major Grey's Chutney

4 1/2 ounces storebought pickled walnuts (pptional)

1 (14-ounce) bottle ketchup

1 (10-ounce) bottle steak sauce

1 (10-ounce) bottle Worcestershire sauce

1 (12-ounce) bottle tomato-based chili sauce

1 dash hot pepper sauce, or to taste

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

Serve at room temperature.

Source: Churchill Downs


Fool-Proof Mint Julep For A Crowd

1/2 gallon minted syrup (recipe below)

1 (1.75-liter) bottle of good bourbon, such as Maker's Mark

Crushed ice

Fresh mint leaves, for garnish

Combine syrup and bottle of bourbon and stir. To serve, divide among glasses filled with lots of crushed ice and garnish with fresh mint.

By the glass: Pour 2 ounces of bourbon and equal parts mint syrup into a glass filled with crushed ice, and garnish with fresh mint leaves.

Source: Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tampa Bay Times

Minted Simple Syrup

3 cups sugar

8 cups water

Large handful of fresh mint leaves

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Let cook for a couple minutes, then let cool, strain leaves and reserve syrup in the refrigerator or freeze until ready to use. Or, add all ingredients to a large glass bowl and bring to a boil in the microwave.

Source: Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tampa Bay Times


Derby City Chocolate Pecan Pie

1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust

For the filling:

1 cup light corn syrup

2/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup butter, melted

3 eggs

1 tablespoon bourbon (optional, if you prefer, add bourbon to whipped cream)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup pecan halves (can substitute black walnuts)

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

For the garnish:

1 1/3 cups whipping cream

1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place crust into 9-inch pie pan. Crimp or flute edge; set aside.

Combine corn syrup, sugar, butter, eggs, bourbon and salt in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed. Stir in pecans and chocolate chips.

Pour into prepared pie crust. Cover pie loosely with aluminum foil. Bake 30 minutes. Remove aluminum foil; continue baking 10 to 15 minutes, or until filling is set. (If pie browns too quickly, re-cover with aluminum foil.)

Cool; refrigerate at least 4 hours or until serving time.

Just before serving, beat whipping cream in small bowl at high speed, scraping bowl often, until stiff peaks form.

Garnish pie with whipped cream.

Source: McClatchy-Tribune Services


Kentucky Derby

Coverage of the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby begins at 2:30 p.m. Saturday on NBC (WFLA-Ch. 8), with post time at 6:50 p.m.