We at Verlasso felt so energized after our time at Churchill Downs for the Derby Festival, that we wanted to share with you some of the party tips we learned from the wonderful people we met while there last week! It goes without saying that you can plan a perfect Derby party, hats and all, with just a few simple tips and recipes. The Derby takes place at Churchill Downs on Central Ave in Louisville, KY. It’s a racetrack with ongoing races nearly year round, but is most famous for the Kentucky Derby which was first run in 1875. The traditions run deep during this festival that has been taking place for nearly 150 years. And the food and drinks that are served are no exception!
Once you are all dressed up - ladies in their beautiful spring hats and men in coat and tie - you will want to have a cocktail in hand. Derby tradition means it will be a Mint Julep. The classic Mint Julep is a simple drink of crushed or muddled mint leaves, sugar, bourbon and club soda. Take a look at our Verlasso version below. For the food, tradition says to serve Kentucky Hot Browns - an open faced sandwich with turkey, tomatoes, bacon, cheese and mornay sauce. Classics also include country ham and biscuits, chocolate bourbon pie and much more! Check out one of our favorite Verlasso salmon recipes, salmon potato gratin, for a slightly less traditional version of derby food at its best!
Verlasso Salmon Potato Gratin
A creamy potato dish would be a welcome addition to any meal. The addition of Verlasso salmon makes this dish come to life. Serve it as part of your Kentucky Derby buffet or as a side dish with roasted meats.
2 pounds of Yukon Gold Potatoes, cleaned and unpeeled
1 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
2 cups cooked Verlasso Salmon, flaked
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
Salt and Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons Italian Parsley, leaves only, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Butter a 12 inch oval baking dish or a 9x13 inch rectangular glass dish.
Cut the potatoes crosswise, into 1/4 inch slices.
Place 1/2 of the potatoes layered on the bottom of the dish in concentric circles. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the cheese. Sprinkle with all of the salmon and thyme. Layer the remaining potatoes on the top. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper. Then the remaining cheese.
In a medium bowl, combine the cornstarch, milk, dijon mustard, and cayenne pepper. Pour the mixture evenly over the potatoes. Cut the butter into pieces and dot over the top. Bake until the potatoes are tender and the top is golden. About 1 hour. Serve sprinkled with the parsley on the top.
Verlasso Mint Juleps
The amount of sugar that you use in this depends upon your taste. One teaspoon per 1/4 cup of bourbon is a starting point.
(Makes 1 Mint Julep)
1 organic lemon rinsed, then with the zest cut off into 2 inch strips
1 teaspoons sugar, or to taste, plus 4 teaspoons of sugar poured onto a saucer for the rim of the glass
6 large fresh mint leaves, rinsed and patted dry
1 1/2 cups crushed ice
1/4 cup Kentucky bourbon
3 Tablespoons club soda
Rub the rim of the glass with the strip of lemon. Roll the dampened rim of the glass into the sugar to just coat the top of the glass.
Add 1 teaspoon of sugar and 4 mint leaves to the glass. With the handle of a wooden spoon, crush the mint leaves lightly into the sugar.
Add the Bourbon and ice then the club soda to taste.
Garnish with the remaining mint and lemon peel. Allow to sit for a few minutes until the glass is frosty. Serve with a paper straw adding more sugar if necessary.