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Celebrate the Sport of Kings
With Delicious Triple Crown Recipes
By Kirk Leins
Saturday, May 6th, marks the 132nd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. For fans of the sport of kings, this kicks off the annual trio of races known as the Triple Crown. Winning all three races in the same year is the pinnacle for any jockey or race horse owner. The crowning achievement for a race-day partygoer would be showing up with a prize-winning dish or libation. But before we talk recipes, let's talk about the three races.
Each race is run in a completely different location; and likewise, they each have their own sense of tradition. The Kentucky Derby is held in Louisville and is very much a "southern" event. The 2nd race in the Triple Crown is known as the Preakness. It will be held on Saturday, May 20th, at the Pimlico race track in Baltimore, Maryland–a city known for its amazing shellfish. The Belmont Stakes concludes the "trifecta" on Saturday, June 10th, in Elmont, New York–a tiny Long Island town with an "anything goes" attitude.
If it's a Derby event you're planning, it's important to know that the party is more about the beverage than the food. Any traditional southern dish or anything barbecued will do just fine. But when it comes to cocktails, serving anything other than a Mint Julep would be heresy. Here's a great version of the julep that's sure to earn you the "garland of roses."
For the minted simple syrup:
In a pot, bring equal parts bottled water and sugar to a boil. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat, add 1 packed cup of fresh mint (stems included), and allow it to sit. When mixture cools to room temperature, transfer to a sealed plastic container and refrigerate. Allow syrup to sit for at least 24 hours, but longer is better. When ready for use, strain out the mint.
For the drink:
Pack a short bar glass with crushed ice. Add one part minted syrup to two parts bourbon until the glass is filled. Stir and allow the drink to sit for a couple minutes, ensuring the ice melts slightly. Before serving, garnish with a short straw, a mint sprig, and about 1/2 tsp of powdered sugar.
A dish seen at every Derby party is a dessert known as Derby Pie. Here is an easy version of this indulgent Southern delight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well. Add bourbon and vanilla, and stir to combine. Add flour and salt, and mix well. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips, and pour into a pie shell, already molded in a pie tin. Bake on bottom rack for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. If outer crust starts to get dark, line the perimeter with tin foil. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
On to Pimlico...
We're now in Baltimore! If there's one thing that Maryland residents know, it's crab cakes. Busting out of the gate with a plate of these is sure to win you first place honors.
Maryland Crab Cakes
In a bowl, combine all ingredients except for cracker meal and oil. Mix well. Using your hands, form into patties of desired size but do not over pack. Dip each side of the patties in cracker meal and place on a plate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. In a skillet, heat oil until it just starts to smoke. Fry the patties in batches until they are golden brown on each side. Serve with lemon wedges, Tabasco® sauce, or tartar sauce.
If it's a Preakness drink you're after, look no further than a Black-Eyed Susan, the traditional drink served at Pimlico.
Pour liquors into a shaker with crushed ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled martini glass. You could also serve this drink in a short bar glass, on the rocks.
Last stop – the Belmont...
As stated before, the Belmont Stakes is an "anything goes" type of event. One reason is it's the last stop on the way to the Triple Crown. It's not unheard of for a horse to win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, but have a lackluster showing at the Belmont. Actually, it's happened a whopping 16 times. It's a "pins and needles" sort of a race.
Concerning party food, you really can't go wrong, especially with a barbecue. June is upon us and that means it's time to clean off the grill. Whether you're hosting or attending a Belmont Stakes barbecue, one dish that's a sure bet is baked beans. Here is a recipe that utilizes canned baked beans and turns them into something magical. Make plenty because these will go fast!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, fry sausage until it is well done, breaking it into small pieces. Drain off fat. Add catsup, brown sugar, Worcestershire and vinegar. Bring to a boil, and add the beans. Pour mixture into a casserole dish or Dutch oven and bake uncovered for 45 minutes.
For a Belmont drink, you have to go with the White Carnation. This is the original, traditional drink of the Belmont Stakes. It has since changed to the Belmont Breeze; but for tradition's sake, we're going "old school."
Fill a tall bar glass with crushed ice. Pour in the liquors and the orange juice. Fill with soda water and finish with a splash of cream. Stir well and garnish with an orange slice.
There you have it, traditional drinks as well as great recipes to get you through the Triple Crown. But remember, no one says these dishes and libations can't be served all summer and even all year long. The drinks are perfectly fitting as a summer cocktail. The baked beans can travel to any event throughout the year. The crab cakes, along with a simple salad, are a great dinner on a warm night. And the Derby Pie is an awesome dessert for your holiday table. Good luck to all!
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