LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- People will keep their Derby gatherings small but it can still be memorable.

WDRB's Keith Kaiser gets some entertaining ideas from some pros.

Tim Laird, America's CEO (Chief Entertaining Officer) and David Danielson, Churchill Downs Executive Chef collaborated on a new book, The Bourbon Country Cookbook.

Inside you'll find some classic dishes and some creative twists.

Here are recipes from the book you can try at home.

The Original Oaks Lily 

1 ounce Finlandia vodka

1 ounce lemonade

3 ounces cranberry juice

Splash of triple sec

Squeeze of 1 lime wedge

3 blackberries, for garnish

Combine the vodka, lemonade, cranberry juice, triple sec, and a squeeze of lime in a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Stir the mixture, garnish with the blackberries, and serve.

Note:  This drink debuted at the 132nd Oaks Day in 2006 and was created by Tim Laird for Churchill Downs as the first signature drink of this prestigious race, run on the Friday before Derby Day. This drink now rivals the Mint Julep. The color of the drink emulates the Stargazer Lily, which is the flower in the prized blanket awarded to the winning horse of the Oaks Race known as the “Lilies for the Fillies.”

Reprinted with permission from That’s Entertaining! with Tim Laird, America’s CEO - Chief Entertaining Officer, Butler Books, 2010.

Our Signature Mint Julep

Makes: 1 cocktail

Our julep uses a mint simple syrup, which is quicker than muddling and makes the drink easy to make for several people at once. We use Woodford Reserve bourbon, the official bourbon of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby. You can adjust the sweetness by adding more or less simple syrup. 

1 ounce Mint Simple Syrup (below)

2 ounces Woodford Reserve bourbon

1 mint sprig, for garnish 

Fill a tall glass or julep cup with crushed ice. Add the syrup and then the bourbon. Top with more crushed ice, add a sipping straw, garnish with the mint, and serve.

Mint Simple Syrup

1 part sugar 

1 part water 

1 part packed fresh mint leaves 

In a small saucepan, over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat, add the mint leaves, and let the mixture steep for 20 minutes. Strain before using, pressing on the mint leaves to extract as much syrup as possible. 

Benedictine Spread

Makes: 2½ cups

1 English cucumber, unpeeled

¼ yellow onion

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons sour cream

¼ teaspoon chopped fresh dill

  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 drops green food coloring

Kosher salt, to taste 

In a food processor or on a box grater, grate the cucumber and onion. Transfer the cucumber and onion to a strainer and drain well by pressing the mixture with the back of a large spoon. Remove as much of the liquid as you can, since too much liquid will make the spread watery. 

Transfer the cucumber and onion to the bowl of a food processor. (If you don’t have one, use a small bowl and a fork.) Add the cream cheese. Process the mixture until it’s smooth. Add the sour cream, dill, and pepper and process until combined. Add the food coloring and mix until well incorporated. Taste and add salt as needed. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

  

Bacon and Pecan Pimento Cheese 

Makes: 3 cups

12 ounces grated sharp yellow cheddar (3 cups)

12 ounces grated extra sharp white cheddar (3 cups)

1 cup mayonnaise, such as Duke’s

1 (4-ounce) jar diced pimentos, drained 

¼ cup toasted pecan pieces (see Note)

½ cup cooked and diced bacon (about 8 strips) 

½ tablespoon Dijon mustard 

Pinch cayenne pepper 

Pinch celery seed 

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 

In a large bowl, combine the yellow cheddar, white cheddar, mayonnaise, pimentos, pecans, bacon, mustard, cayenne pepper, and celery seed. For a smoother mixture, use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes. When the mixture is completely combined, taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.  

Note: To toast pecans at home, preheat the oven to 325°F. Place the pecans on a baking sheet and bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until the nuts begin to brown and become fragrant.

Hickory Smoked Mac and Cheese

Makes: 6 servings

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, for greasing

16 ounces elbow macaroni

1/3 cup unsalted butter

¾ cup grated yellow onion

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour 4 cups whole milk

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

10 ounces grated sharp cheddar, divided (2½ cups)

10 ounces grated Monterey Jack, divided (2½ cups) 

Preheat a smoker to 225°F. Grease a 10-inch cast iron skillet, individual ramekins, or an 11 × 7-inch baking pan with the butter and set aside. 

Cook the macaroni to al dente according to package directions. Drain it and set aside. 

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Whisk in the flour until combined. Slowly whisk in the milk until all the ingredients are incorporated. Add the salt and pepper. 

Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and cook until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Stir in half of the cheddar and half the Jack until the cheeses are melted. Add the macaroni, stirring to combine.

Pour the mixture into the prepared skillet. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheddar and Jack cheeses. Place the skillet in the smoker and cook for 1 hour, until the mac and cheese is brown and bubbling. Serve warm.

Note: If you don’t have a smoker, you can turn your grill into one by making aluminum foil pouches with wood chips. You’ll need 16 ounces of wood chips and two (12 × 12-inch) pieces of foil. Put 8 ounces of wood chips in one piece of the foil and seal. Repeat with the remaining chips and foil. Poke holes in the pouches and place them directly over the heat. Place the skillet over indirect heat, next to the pouches, and smoke as directed above. Alternatively, bake the mac and cheese in the oven at 350°F for 30 minutes.

  

Sweet Potato and Dandelion Salad with Bourbon Sorghum Dressing

Makes: 6 servings

4 jumbo sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

3 tablespoons canola oil 

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 

1 cup dandelion greens, stemmed and cut into ½-inch strips (1 bunch)

Bourbon Sorghum Dressing (recipe follows), room temperature

¼ cup salted roasted peanuts

Preheat the oven to 400°F. 

On a baking sheet, spread the sweet potatoes evenly, drizzle them with the canola oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the potatoes become tender and are browning around the edges. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool to room temperature.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the potatoes and dandelion greens. Add the desired amount of Bourbon Sorghum Dressing and toss to coat evenly. Transfer to a serving platter, top with the peanuts, and serve. 

Bourbon Sorghum Dressing 

Makes: 2½ cups

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup apple cider vinegar 

½ cup sorghum, room temperature

¼ cup bourbon 

1 tablespoon grated yellow onion

¾ teaspoon kosher salt 

½ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon hot sauce 

In a blender, combine the oil, vinegar, sorghum, bourbon, onion, salt, paprika, and hot sauce. Blend on low until all the ingredients are combined. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. 

Reprinted with permission from The Bourbon Country Cookbook by David Danielson and Tim Laird, Agate Surrey, 2018.

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