A header image of Damaris Phillips.

This month, Damaris serves up delicious dishes to go, so you can take the party menu along to wherever you do Derby– or the many outdoor events surrounding it.

By Damaris Phillips | Photos by Kylene White

When the weather cooperates, the most intoxicating day in Louisville is the first Saturday in May. The collective excitement of the entire city means that more than likely there is a way to celebrate that feels fun to you.  

Maybe it’s at the track, maybe it’s at a friends’ annual Derby cookout, maybe it’s at one of the festival parades or races, or maybe you celebrate at one of the Wyandotte neighborhood block parties. No matter how you choose to celebrate, a Derby-inspired menu is what everybody is craving and there are plenty of take-along versions that can be both simple and delicious.  

To get you prepped, packed and ready to entertain, here’s what I’ll be whipping up: Pimento Cheese Tarts, Mint Julep Cucumber Salad, Bourbon Pecan Pie Brownies, and Minty Sweet Tea. These easy, flavorful recipes combine local traditions and convenient items to keep the effort minimal and the kitchen stress-free.

An image of Damaris's Pimento Cheese Tarts.

PIMENTO CHEESE TARTS

Ingredients:

  • 1 17.3 ounce pack frozen puff pastry (two sheets)
  • 1 1/2 cups pimento cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 3 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 tablespoons everything seasoning

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Thaw the puff pastry and divide each sheet into six even pieces.
  3. Place them on two cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. To the center of each piece, add 2 tablespoons of pimento cheese. Whisk the egg with a teaspoon of water. Brush the egg wash along the perimeter of each piece of puff pastry, about half an inch wide. Sprinkle the egg washed area with the shredded cheese and everything seasoning. Bake until the pastry has puffed, the bottom has browned and the cheese is golden and bubbly, about 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool slightly. Can be served warm or at room temperature.

An image of Damaris's Bourbon Pecan Pie Brownies.

BOURBON PECAN PIE BROWNIES

Ingredients
For the Brownies:

  • 1 box brownie mix
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 ounce bourbon
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (If your mix doesn’t already contain them)

For the Pecan Pie topping:

  • 1 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
  • 1 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons bourbon
  • 2 cups chopped toasted pecans

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9×13-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
  2. Make the brownies according to the back of the box. Mine called for 1/2 cup oil, 1 egg and 1/4 cup water. Your mix will call for some variation of this. Add the bourbon and the chocolate chips. Stir until combined and pour into the prepared pan. Bake until the top is crackly but the center is still a little under done, about 25-30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile make the pecan pie topping. In a large bowl, add the brown sugar, corn syrup and melted butter. Stir to combine. Add the egg and bourbon and stir again until the mixture is homogeneous.
  4. Remove the brownies from the oven. Evenly sprinkle the pecan over the top and gently pour on the corn syrup mixture. Bake again until the center of the pecan pie mixture is just set, another 35-40 minutes. Cool completely and then remove from the pan with the help of the parchment paper on the bottom. Peel off the parchment, slice and enjoy.
  5. These are very rich, so cut into tiny squares. It makes a lot!

An image of Damaris's Mint Julep Cucumber Salad.

MINT JULEP CUCUMBER SALAD

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons bourbon
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 English cucumbers thinly sliced, peeled if you like
  • 1 medium sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 3 sprigs mint, leaves chopped

Method:

  1. Combine the vinegar, sugar, honey, bourbon and 1 teaspoon salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Set aside to cool.
  2. Combine the cucumbers and onion in a large bowl. Pour the vinegar mixture over the top and let it marinate in the refrigerator until icy cold, 3 to 4 hours. When ready to serve, add the mint and toss to combine.

An image of Damaris's Minty Sweet Tea.

MINTY SWEET TEA

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar 
  • 8 cups water, divided 
  • 8 peppermint tea bags 
  • 8 black tea bags 
  • 8 sprigs mint to garnish 
  • Ice to serve

Method:

  1. To a heavy-bottom sauce pan, add the sugar and 4 cups of water. Stir and bring to a simmer to dissolve all the sugar. Remove from the heat and add the peppermint and black tea bags. Steep for 5-7 minutes.  
  2. Remove the tea bags. Add the remaining water and cool completely in the refrigerator.  
  3. Fill a 16-ounce cup with ice, add a sprig of mint to the side and fill with tea.

Enjoy!

Want more delicious recipes? Check out Damaris’s Vegetarian Stroganoff in her Meat-Free Southern Cuisine column.