On the first Saturday in May, Derby season is celebrated in Kentucky and throughout the region. As we hope for another Triple Crown winner, people begin the festivities weeks before the Derby, party hard during the Derby and continue the party well after the Derby. To keep us energized for all that fun, Food & Dining invited three of the hottest young chefs in the Louisville area to cook with our Easy Entertaining gurus, Tim and Lori Laird. Together, they have put together a range of dishes that will please local and out-of-town guests with traditional Kentucky flavors teased out in some clever and tasty new ways.
Alexander Dulaney offers hearty dishes from the cuisines of provincial France and Spain at La Chasse, which opened just last fall. So when he was asked for a Derby dish that reflected Kentucky culinary traditions, he was initially bemused. “Then I thought,” he said, “What could be more French than crepes? And what is more Kentucky than a Hot Brown? So I put those Kentucky flavor ideas — turkey, tomatoes, bacon and cheese sauce — together with a crepe. It turned out really well.”
After opening last spring, LouVino quickly became a gathering spot for groups of young professionals drawn to the wine bar’s interesting wine lists, the clever combinations of tasting flights and the delicious small-plates menu concocted by chef Tavis Rockwell. The Derby food idea he presents here combines two familiar Derby-time dishes: cheese grits and red-eye gravy, not with shrimp, however, but with pork loin roasted in a flavor-packed coating. Rockwell said, “I have always loved Kentucky grits and red-eye gravy, but I love it more with my favorite pork.”
McClain Brown moved up to executive chef duties from his chef de cuisine position at Jack Fry’s last year when longtime chef Shawn Ward left to start Ward 426. Those were big shoes to fill at an iconic Louisville fine-dining spot, but the transition has been seamless. When asked to devise some Derby dishes that would evoke both Kentucky Derby food traditions and his own approach to cooking, Brown said that at first he was a bit perplexed. “I’ve never hosted or attended a Derby party, because I am always cooking at the restaurant,” he said. But as he thought about the issue of Kentucky flavors, his memory drifted back to his Aunt Phoebe in Spencer County, whom he visited when he was a kid. “She always shoved country ham down our throats,” he said. “What she always made was biscuits and ham, so I thought of biscuits. I replaced her buttermilk ingredient with crème fraîche, which really made them rise high. Also burgoo came to me, and I thought of replacing the vinegar in a barbeque sauce with pickled okra” (okra is regarded by many as an essential ingredient in burgoo). The result is a burgoo glaze that can be used with any barbecued meat, and can also add a little complementary zing to a Benedictine sandwich made with his asparagus variation on the Kentucky classic.
Once the three chefs cooked their dishes with Tim and Lori Laird, Laird dubbed them the “Downtown Triple Crown!” Laird’s own new Derby food favorite, appropriately named Manhattan Salmon, is perfect for brunches and parties. “This recipe was originally created by Dave Danielson, the Executive Chef at Churchill Downs,” Laird explained. “His favorite cocktail is the Manhattan, so Chef Dave decided to take this cocktail inspiration and turn it into a salmon dish to feed the guests on Millionaires’ Row during the Kentucky Derby. A traditional Manhattan includes Bourbon, sweet vermouth, bitters and a cherry garnish. Matching these flavors, Chef Dave marinates the salmon in Bourbon and adds sugar with chopped cherries. He then adds this to a traditional salt cure.” Taking that recipe as a starting point, Laird developed a home version, which will feed 8 to 10 guests, versus Danielson’s recipe that feeds thousands.
To drink, the Lairds like to serve the Seelbach Cocktail. This cocktail, of course, was named after the famous Louisville hotel. Created in 1917, it is still a big seller today at the Seelbach Bar, a festive classic cocktail that combines Bourbon, champagne, orange liqueur and both Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters. “This cocktail is a nice addition to any brunch or party.” Laird said. “Move over mimosas, we’ve added Bourbon to our champagne.”
- La Chasse
There are several components to this dish — Mornay sauce, compote, crepes and turkey filling — but all can be made ahead. Even the crepes themselves can be filled beforehand, with the Mornay sauce and compote added and the crepes reheated just before serving.
Hot Brown crepes (Serves 8 as an appetizer)
For the Mornay sauce:
4 tablespoons butter
¼ onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
4 ounces American cream cheese, cut into cubes
4-6 ounces triple cream cheese, such as St. Andre,
double cream Brie or St. Angel, cut into cubes
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
In a sauté pan, melt butter over medium low heat. When sizzling, add the onions and cook over medium heat until translucent, 5 minutes or so. Add the flour to
the pan and mix thoroughly to make a roux. Add the milk, bring to a boil while stirring constantly, then lower to a simmer as it thickens. Add cheese slowly
while constantly stirring, never letting mixture come to a boil, just melting the cheese. Stir in nutmeg. Set aside. If made ahead, warm over simmering water until pourable. Whisk in more milk if sauce is too thick.
For the cherry tomato & bell pepper compote:
1 tablespoon good quality olive oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 pound baby bell peppers
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
3-4 large basil leaves, cut into chiffonade (roll leaves
together into a tight cylinder and slice thinly)
Heat a saucepan to smoking hot, then add olive oil. When it gets shimmery, first add the cherry tomatoes and sauté, tossing and stirring, until thoroughly blistered. Remove to a bowl. Add a little more oil, and when hot, add the whole baby bell peppers and blister them well, too, tossing and stirring until the skins get black blisters. Remove to a bowl, and when cool enough to handle, cut off the pepper tops, scoop out as much of the seeds as you can and chop peppers coarsely. Return to bowl with tomatoes. Add sherry vinegar, paprika, basil and salt to taste. Set aside.
For the crepes:
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
2⁄3 cup light beer, preferable room temperature
1 cup (plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon sea salt
5 tablespoons melted butter
Mix the eggs, milk, butter, beer, flour and salt in a blender and blend until
smooth. Scrape down the sides of blender, add the melted butter. (The batter should have the consistency of heavy cream.) Let batter rest in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, for at least 2 hours or as much as overnight.
To make crepes, lightly spray with cooking oil a shallow skillet with sloping
sides, then add about 1/4 cup of batter at a time, tilting pan to spread batter evenly. Cook until dry on top and flip. Cook 30 seconds more and the crepe is done. Crepes can be made ahead, stacking them neatly.
To serve: (Final ingredients)
1 pound sliced turkey breast
8 pieces cooked bacon, crumbled
Roll slices of turkey in each crepe. Place crepes on plate, and top with warm Mornay sauce. Spoon compote over the sauce, and sprinkle with crumbled bacon.
Pork loin with cheese grits and red-eye gravy (Serves 8)
For the pork loin:
1 pork loin, about 2 pounds
10 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
5 shallots, peeled and minced
2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup espresso powder
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan, heat oil until shimmery, then add garlic and shallots and cook on medium heat until tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Drain off oil, reserving vegetables and oil separately.
Blend the garlic and shallots in a blender or food processor, adding back just enough oil to make a smooth paste. Coat the pork loin with the garlic paste. Spoon the espresso powder as evenly as possible all over the pork, then massage it into the garlic and shallot paste, making a brown coating on the exterior of the pork.
Place on a roasting pan and cook for 35 minutes or until the internal temperature is 140 degrees. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.
For the cheese grits:
1 quart milk
1 cup Weisenberger grits
1 cup either grated Parmesan or shredded white Cheddar
Warm milk in a heavy saucepan and when steaming, add the grits and stir with a stiff whisk until mixture begins to bubble. Lower heat and cook, stirring often, until grits are thick and tender. Mix in cheese and add salt and pepper to taste.
For the red-eye gravy:
1 stick butter
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
1 quart beef broth (canned, boxed, made from
concentrated beef base or cooked fresh
— whatever is handiest)
2 cups chopped mushrooms — your favorite type
½ cup flour
½ a pot of coffee — leftover from breakfast is fine
1 pint heavy cream
Fresh herbs (chives, parsley, oregano, thyme
or some combination that you prefer) chopped
to your desired size.
Melt butter in a saucepot, and when sizzling, add shallots and cook until translucent, 5 minutes or so. Add mushrooms and cook until just beginning to brown on the edges. Add the flour and stir to combine and cook for a minute or so. Add the coffee and beef stock, cook until slightly reduced and starting to thicken. Add heavy cream and fresh herbs, season with salt and pepper to taste and heat through, but do not boil.
Mound grits in center of plate. Add sliced pork roast around the grits, and drape both with the red-eye gravy.
McClain Brown • Jack Fry’s
Kentucky Cheddar cheese biscuits with country ham, asparagus Benedictine and burgoo glaze (Makes 24 appetizers)
For the Kentucky Cheddar cheese biscuits:
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter
1 ½ cup crème fraîche
¼ pound Kentucky white Cheddar, grated
2 egg yolks
½ cup whole milk
Cup heavy cream and kosher salt for glazing
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Cut in the chilled butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, with pieces ranging from the size of BBs to small peas. In a separate bowl whisk together all wet ingredients and cheese until thoroughly combined. Slowly stir the wet mixture into the dry mixture just until it turns into dough. Remove from the bowl and place on a well-floured work surface. Knead briefly until it begins to come together into a ball. You should still see chunks of butter in the dough; this ensures flaky biscuits. Place in a clean mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
Once the dough has rested, place on a well-floured surface and roll out to about 1 inch thick. Fold over and repeat two times, rolling and folding. After the final roll, cut biscuits out. For square biscuits, use a dough scraper; for round biscuits, use a drinking glass. Dip edges of each in flour frequently to prevent sticking. Place biscuits about 2 inches apart on a baking sheet, and paint the tops with heavy cream and sprinkle with a little kosher salt. Bake for about 20 minutes, turning baking sheet front to back and switching sheets from upper to lower racks halfway through.
For the grilled asparagus Benedictine:
2 cucumbers, peeled,
de-seeded and diced
1 pound asparagus,
grilled or charred
½ pound cream cheese
2 lemons, juiced
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Combine cucumber and asparagus in a food processor and puree until smooth. Squeeze out excess moisture with a clean towel. Place into a mixing bowl and fold in cream cheese, lemon juice, cayenne, parsley and salt. Serve chilled as sandwich filling or as a dip.
For the burgoo glaze:
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup brown sugar
½ onion, peeled and diced
1 red bell pepper,
seeded and diced
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
¼ cup tomato paste
½ cup pickled okra, diced
½ cup Bourbon
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
In a saucepan, melt together butter and brown sugar and when sizzling, add the onion and bell pepper and cook over medium low heat, stirring until browned and caramelized, up to 30 minutes or so. Add tomatoes, tomato paste and pickled okra and allow the mixture to stew on medium low heat for several minutes until it is all broken down. Add Bourbon and reduce quantity of liquid by half. Finish with Worces-tershire and season to taste. Sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon. Puree in food processor until smooth. (Tip: If you run out of country ham, the glaze and Benedictine make for a good sandwich on their own. The glaze also works great as a barbecue sauce on meats.)
To serve: (Final ingredients)
1 pound (or so) thinly shaved country ham
Radicchio or red cabbage leaves
If using a whole ham, shave slices very thinly. Or, use pre-cut biscuit slices (available in most groceries). Gently separate the biscuits in half. Spread Benedictine on the bottom and add several pieces of shaved country ham. Spread a dollop of burgoo glaze on top of the ham. Top with thinly sliced radicchio or red cabbage, then the top half of biscuit to finish. Can be assembled ahead of time and warmed in an oven right before serving.
Tim and Lori Laird
Manhattan salmon (Serves 8-10)
1 2-pound salmon fillet, skin on
½ cup kosher salt
½ cup dried cherries
3 tablespoons brown sugar
Zest of one orange
¼ cup Bourbon
4 dashes bitters
Remove any pin bones from the salmon with a pair of needle-nose pliers or tweezers. Rinse the salmon under cold water and pat dry. Place salmon, skin side down, on several large sheets of plastic wrap.
In a food processor or blender, combine salt, cherries, sugar and orange zest. Pulse until well blended and the cherries are finely chopped. Add the Bourbon and bitters and combine until smooth. Spread the mixture evenly over the fleshy side of the fish, pressing it into the flesh. Wrap the salmon tightly in the plastic wrap and place skin side down in a large baking dish. Place a flat dish on top of the salmon and weight the dish down with several heavy cans. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 48 hours.
Unwrap the salmon and rinse off the salt/sugar cure under running water. Pat dry, remove the skin and slice diagonally into paper-thin slices. Serve on crackers, bagels, salads or as a side.
The Seelbach Cocktail
In a mixing glass with ice, add:
1 ounce Old Forester Bourbon
½ ounce Cointreau
7 dashes Angostura bitters
7 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Stir until well chilled, strain into a champagne flute. Top with 4-5 ounces Korbel California Champagne. Garnish with long orange twist and cherry. F&D