Friday, May 6, 2011

Derby Day Feast

I feel the need to honor Derby Day for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I was born in Kentucky. Second, my birthday is May 4th and almost every year we eat dinner at my parents that first Saturday of May to celebrate, which is also Derby Day. The most exciting 2 minutes of the year. It is my kind of sport (considering I don't like sports!), quick and exciting! And of course any sport that has a specific cocktail tied to it has got to be good.  The drink I speak of is the delicious and refreshing Mint Julep. There is even a specific cup it should be enjoyed out of although not necessary. There are also some yummy food items that always come to mind when we think about the Derby and here are my versions:
New School Burgoo: Burgoo is like Kentucky's version of Gumbo. Typically it is made with whatever meat is available and whatever vegetables you have on hand. It is sometimes made into a gathering where people get together and bring different ingredients to throw into the pot and hang out while it cooks for hours. Back in the day they would use game meats including opossum and squirrel. Since the grocery store didn't have either of these in stock I opted for pork and chicken. Burgoo usually uses smoked meats but I added smoked paprika instead because frankly, I don't have the time to smoke the meats. Also, it typically cooks for hours on end but again, I don't have the time so I made this one a quick version, using the same traditional ingredients in a new school way.
Chocolate Pecan Bourbon Tart: Derby Pie was created in 1950 by the family that owned The Melrose Inn in Prospect, Kentucky. I am assuming it was created as a special dessert for the event. In any case they used walnuts but I always think of pecans so here is my version of Derby Pie (which is trademarked by the way) so I am calling mine Chocolate Pecan Bourbon Tart so as to avoid any legal issues.  Oh, and I added bourbon because, well I like liquor.
Mint Julep: This drink originated in the South and I am not sure exactly why it is the official drink of the Derby but it is delicious and refreshing. I chose to use Ancient Age Kentucky Bourbon because it reminds my of my grandfather Pop Pop. It was his bourbon of choice. Like champagne it can only be called bourbon if it is made in the county of Bourbon, Kentucky.  Bourbons are usually made of corn, barrel aged in oak, and aged for a minimum of 2 years.
I have never attended the Derby but one year I WILL go for my birthday…

New School Burgoo  Serves 6-8  
2-4 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into bite sized chunks
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 big Vidalia onion, diced, about 3 cups
2 medium carrots, diced, about 1 cup
1 green bell pepper, diced, about 1 cup
5 cloves of garlic, minced
12 ounces red skin potatoes, diced, about 1 1/2 cups
1 1/2 cupe tomatoes, diced
3 ears of corn, cut kernels off the cobs, about 1 1/2 cups
1 cup frozen or fresh lima beans
6 cups broth, any will do
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Freshly grated nutmeg, about 1/4 teaspoon
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 cups okra, sliced thin on the diagonal
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pot set over medium high heat. Brown the meat on all sides, working in batches, season each batch with salt and pepper, then remove and set aside. This should take about 6-8 minutes per batch, add more oil if necessary between batches.  After the last batch of meat has been removed from the pan add the onions,carrots and bell peppers.  Cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook a few minutes more.  Add the meat back to the pan as well as the potatoes, tomatoes, corn, lima beans, broth, bay leaves, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and paprika.  Bring to a boil then turn heat down to medium-medium low and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the meat is cooked through and the potatoes are tender.  During the last 5 minutes of cooking add the okra and peas. Taste and season with more salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh thyme and serve with corn bread. 
If you would like it thicker you can add 1/2 cup pureed cooked lima beans, if you would like it spicy, add some cayenne or hot sauce.

Mint Julep    Serves 1  
Simple Syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
6 large mint leaves, plus a sprig for garnish
1-2 ounces bourbon
about 1 cup crushed ice (it must be crushed)

In a small sauce pan combine sugar and water over medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.  Store any unused syrup in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

In a Boston shaker combine mint, bourbon, ice and about 1 tablespoon of simple syrup. Shake hard. Pour into a julep cup and garnish with mint sprig. Enjoy, responsibly.

Bittersweet Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Tart    Serves 8  
1 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4, 1 stick of unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons-1/4 cup ice water
flour for rolling
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 egg
8 ounces whole pecans, toasted

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the butter chunks and pulse about 15 times or until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. With the food processor running add just enough ice water to pull the dough together.  The best way to test this is to squeeze a small amount between your fingers and if it sticks together it is good.  It will still seem dry.  Lay out a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper and turn the dough out onto it. Form into a disk shape, wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out pie crust and press into a 9 inch tart pan cutting away any excess dough.  Dock bottom and sides of the dough with a fork and bake until it just starts to turn golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.  Turn oven down to 375.

In a medium sauce pan heat heavy cream to a bare simmer.  Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Allow to sit for a few minutes. Stir until all of the chocolate has melted. Allow to cool to room temperature. Once it has cooled, thoroughly whisk in the egg.  Pour into cooled tart shell.  Starting at the outside edge place the toasted pecans in concentric circles onto of the chocolate filling (if you don't have the patience for this, roughly chop the pecans and sprinkle evenly over the top). Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes.  The center will be slightly jiggly.  Allow to cool before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature.

To toast pecans: place nuts in a dry saute pan and toast over medium heat until they start to brown and become fragrant, tossing frequently. Do not, I repeat do not walk away from them they will burn!

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