Celebrate like you’re at Churchill Downs with a charming Southern menu (with an Italian spin!)
The charm of Louisville, Kentucky is simply undeniable during the annual Derby! Women donning giant hats, juleps in hand, and the most exciting (albeit brief!) few minutes of everyone's eyes glued to the racetrack. It takes you back in time, and I make a point to go as often as I can - it's just too much fun!
This year, I'm unfortunately not able to attend - but that isn't stopping me from celebrating! I've created a menu to watch from home with my friends - and yes, I might just be wearing my derby hat in the living room. Tune in on Saturday, May 4 at 2:30pm EST on NBC! (can you tell I'm excited?)
I love a mint julep - it's so delightfully simple and sweet, with that pop of flavor from the muddled mint. Of course, I can't help but put my Italian spin on it! I've swapped mint with basil in my recipe, which is in the same family as mint, and some lemon to kick up that punchy, refreshing flavor. On a warm day, you couldn't ask for anything better.
My Hot Brown Crostini are a great make-ahead dish - slice up bread, cut turkey, and blend up the pesto the day before. Then, simply assemble with some gravy and dijon for a cheesy, melty appetizer. A classic hot brown is undeniably delicious, but the tang of my sun-dried tomato pesto helps balance out all that decadent richness. Your guests won't be able to stop at just one... I know I can't!
Up next, benedictine. It's a classic spread made of cucumber and cream cheese - either eaten on a sandwich, or as a dip. My Gorgonzola Cucumber dip is a great riff on it, with a flavor profile that'll remind you of Ranch dressing with fresh dill, but even more flavorful thanks to creamy gorgonzola and fresh cucumbers. You can make this a day ahead too - just keep it covered in the fridge, then serve with all of your favorite chips, vegetables, and other dippers!
My France Meets Italy Sandwich is my take on country ham and biscuits - it's another incredibly easy snack to feed a crowd. You can find prosciutto cotto at any Italian deli - it has a similar flavor to ham, but I find it to be much more delicate. All you need is a baguette, Parmesan cheese, and if you're ever going to splurge on some European butter... do it for this sandwich!