Run for the Roses {Derby Day Dinner Recipes}

Yesterday I shared our table and decor for our Derby Day Dinner and today I’m back with the menu and recipes!

Mint Juleps

I’ll be honest, I have not been a fan of the Mint Julep until I made these! This was Southern comfort and air conditioning in a cup!

For 1 Mint Julep

  • 1 oz mint simple syrup
  • 8-10 spearmint leaves plus more for garnish
  • 2 cups crushed ice
  • 2 oz bourbon

Place simple syrup in a silver julep cup. Place a couple of mint leaves in one hand and clap the other hand over them a few times to release their oils. Rub the inside of the cup with the leaves and drop them inside. After you’ve added 8-10 leaves, lightly bruise them with a wooden muddler or spoon.

Fill cup halfway with ice, add bourbon, and stir until cup is frosted. Add more ice, gently stir, and top with a large bouquet of mint.

Mint Simple Syrup

Method 1: In a small sauce pan, bring to a boil: 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar and a handful of mint leaves. Stir until sugar dissolves. Cool and transfer to a bottle. (This will result in a very minty, green tinted syrup.)

Method 2: In a small sauce pan, bring to a boil: 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves. Cool and transfer to a bottle. Add a handful of mint leaves to the bottle.


  • I mixed Honey’s cocktail per the ratio above. For mine, I did 1.5 oz simple syrup and just under 2 oz bourbon.
  • Spearmint makes for a sweeter, milder mint taste than peppermint, if you can find it.
  • I already had simple syrup made and in the fridge from our spring party. Rather than starting from scratch, I used method 2 above. I let the mint leaves sit in the syrup in the fridge for about a day. It was SO good!
  • Part of the allure of a julep is the white layer of frost that forms on the outside of the cup. When preparing juleps, touch only the rim or the base of the glass to avoid leaving fingerprints!
  • If you don’t have julep cups, use highball glasses.

Kentucky Hot Brown

We stayed at the Brown Hotel, birthplace of the Kentucky Hot Brown, while in Louisville over Spring Break. Of course, we had to try the famous dish and, as expected, it received rave reviews all around. It really was delicious!

In the 1920’s, The Brown Hotel drew over 1,200 guests each evening for its dinner dance. By the wee hours of the morning, guests would grow weary of dancing and make their way to the restaurant for a bite to eat. Sensing their desire for something more glamorous than traditional ham and eggs, Chef Fred Schmidt set out to create something new to tempt his guests’ palates. His unique dish? An open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon and a delicate Mornay sauce. The Hot Brown was born!

You can find the exact recipe from the Brown Hotel HERE on their website:

Kentucky Hot Brown Casserole

The official recipe makes two, and requires 4 small oven proof skillets. I didn’t have that so I decided to convert the individual recipe to a casserole. It had the same amazing taste but was so much easier to serve a family!

  • 1 Stick Butter
  • 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
  • 16 oz. Heavy Cream
  • 16 oz. Whole Milk
  • 1 Cup of Pecorino Romano Cheese, Plus 2 Tablespoon for Garnish
  • 2 Pinch of Ground Nutmeg
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1-1.5 lb. Sliced Roasted Turkey Breast, Slice Thick
  • 8-10 Slices of Texas Toast (Crust Trimmed)
  • 8-10 Slices of Crispy Bacon
  • 4 Roma Tomatoes, Sliced in Half
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Paprika
  • Parsley

In a two‑quart saucepan, melt butter and slowly whisk in flour until combined and forms a thick paste (roux). Continue to cook roux for two minutes over medium‑low heat, stirring frequently. Whisk heavy cream and whole milk into the roux and cook over medium heat until the cream begins to simmer, about 2‑3 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and slowly whisk in Pecorino Romano cheese until the Mornay sauce is smooth. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.

Cut the crusts from the bread. Leave 4 slices square and cut the other 4 slices across the diagonal.

In the bottom of a buttered casserole dish, lay in the bread using the square pieces. You may need to cut a few of these into smaller rectangles to fully cover the bottom. Use the triangle pieces to wedge between the square pieces, standing them up on their sides. I arranged the bread this way to keep the the casserole dish visually similar to the individual dish we enjoyed at the Brown.

Cover with turkey. I tried to fold the turkey to fit on top of the bread for easier serving.

Next, pour the Mornay sauce to completely cover the dish. (I had some left over) Sprinkle with additional Pecorino Romano cheese.

In a second dish cut the roma tomatoes in half, drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper.

Bake both on 350 until the cheese begins to brown and bubble. Then, turn the oven on broil to finish it off for a few minutes.

Remove from broiler, cross pieces of crispy bacon on top, sprinkle with paprika and parsley, and serve immediately with the tomatoes on the side.

Kentucky Derby Pie

Fashioned after George Kern’s Derby Pie recipe, the recipe’s combination of chocolate, bourbon, and pecans has earned it a spot as one of the South’s most beloved desserts.

  • 1/2 (14.1-oz.) pkg. refrigerated piecrusts
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz.) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons (1 oz.) bourbon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • Whipped cream and chocolate shavings
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Fit piecrust into a 9-inch metal pie plate; crimp edges. Sprinkle pecans and chocolate chips evenly over piecrust.
  2. Whisk together corn syrup, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high; boil, whisking occasionally, until sugars are dissolved, about 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk together eggs, butter, flour, bourbon, vanilla, and salt in a heatproof bowl. Slowly pour 1/3 cup of the hot corn syrup mixture into egg mixture, whisking constantly until fully incorporated. Whisk in remaining hot corn syrup mixture until smooth. Pour filling over pecan mixture in piecrust.
  4. Bake in preheated oven until pie edges are set and begin to puff up, but pie center is still slightly jiggly, 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely to room temperature, about 2 hours. Slice and garnish with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

The whole meal far surpassed my expectations! I can’t wait to do it again!

More Kentucky Things

Kentucky Road Trip
Lexington: Keeneland & Buffalo Trace Distillery
Lexington: Keeneland Spring Meet Race Day
Lexington > Louisville: Mary Todd Lincoln House, Louisville Slugger Factory Tour
Mammoth Cave National Park
Lexington: The Campbell House Hotel
Louisville: The Brown Hotel
Kentucky Derby At Home Dinner Celebration
Kentucky Derby Dinner Recipes

Kentucky Derby Dinner Celebration

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