Makes about 12 to 16 strips.
Crisp, sweet and salty, this three-ingredient appetizer will be the hit of the party. You can make this about 3 hours ahead and store at room temperature until ready to serve. From Beth Dooley.
• 1/2 c. packed light brown sugar or maple sugar
• 1/2 tsp. chili powder, optional
• 12 to 16 slices (about 1 lb.) of thick-cut bacon
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 1 or 2 rimmed baking sheets with aluminum foil and set a rack over the baking sheets. In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and chile powder.
Arrange the bacon strips on the rack, making sure they do not touch. Bake until the bacon begins to crisp, about 10 minutes. Turn the bacon slices over and continue baking until the second side is crisp, another 8 to 10 minutes. Remove and sprinkle with the brown sugar mixture, return to the oven, and continue baking until the bacon is very crisp, dark, and stiff, about 5 or 7 more minutes, watching carefully so it doesn't burn. Remove the pan and allow the bacon to cool on the rack until it is crisp and stiff.
Classic Deviled Eggs
These are always a hit. You can make them a day ahead and store in a covered container in the refrigerator. Leftovers are delicious chopped and tossed with diced celery for egg salad. From Beth Dooley.
• 6 large eggs
• 1 tsp. coarse Dijon mustard
• 2 dashes hot-pepper sauce, such as Tabasco, or to taste
• Generous pinch freshly ground black pepper
• 3 tbsp. mayonnaise
• Chopped chives for garnish
Place the eggs into saucepan, cover with cold water, put the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, then immediately turn off the heat. Cover the pan and allow the eggs to sit for 10 to 12 minutes. Drain the eggs and rinse under cold water. Peel the eggs.
Cut the eggs in half lengthwise and carefully scoop out the yolks. Place the yolks in a bowl and mash with a fork, then mash in the mustard, hot pepper sauce, salt, pepper and mayonnaise.
Distribute the egg-yolk mixture into each of the hollowed-out egg white halves and garnish with the chopped chives.
Kentucky Benedictine Spread
We used this dip as a spread for open-faced baguette sandwich topped with sliced cucumbers, but it's equally tasty served as a dip with crackers or carrot sticks. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week. From Beth Dooley.
• 4 oz. cream cheese
• 1/4 c. minced green onions
• 1/4 c. cucumber, peeled, diced, and chopped, plus sliced cucumbers for topping
• 1 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
• 1 baguette, thinly sliced
Put cream cheese, green onion, chopped cucumber, dill and salt and pepper into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse into a soft spread, scraping down the sides several times. Turn into a bowl, cover and refrigerate if not using right away. Spread on a thinly sliced baguette and top with sliced cucumber.
Makes 3 cups.
Sweet and spicy glazed pecans are as delicious with a cocktail as they are chopped and tossed onto a salad or sprinkled over ice cream. Store in an airtight container for up to a month. From Beth Dooley.
• 1 tsp. coarse salt
• 1/2 tsp. coarse black pepper
• 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
• 1 tsp. cinnamon
• 1 tbsp. light brown sugar or maple sugar
• 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, divided
• 3 c. pecan halves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and brown sugar.
On a baking sheet, toss together the pecans with 1 tablespoon of the butter to lightly coat. Spread the nuts out over the baking sheet. Bake until the nuts begin to smell nutty when toasted, about 10 minutes.
Pour the hot pecans into a large bowl and toss with the remaining butter and then with the spice mixture. Turn the nuts back onto the pan and spread them out. Return the pan to the oven and continue to roast, shaking the pan and stirring the nuts until browned and crisp. Remove, cool in the pan, then store in an airtight container.
Makes 1 drink.
Note: Everyone has their own idea of the perfect mint julep, so why not let guests make their own? Have these ingredients at the ready. Offer nonalcoholic alternatives such as bubbly spring water or ginger ale. To make simple syrup, combine equal parts of sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved and then cool. Firmly slap the mint sprig on the back of your hand before garnishing the glass; this releases the oil to make the mint more aromatic. From Beth Dooley.
• 8 mint leaves
• 2 sugar cubes or 2 tsp. simple syrup (see Note)
• 2 oz. (or 2 tbsp.) bourbon
• Mint sprigs for garnish (see Note)
• Angostura bitters, optional
In a small bowl or Julep cup, lightly muddle the mint leaves with the sugar or simple syrup. Add the bourbon. Pour over a small glass of crushed ice or ice cubes. Garnish with a mint sprig and bitters, if using.
Note: You can make this ahead and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for two weeks. It's a wonderful spread for crackers and equally good tossed with noodles for mac and cheese. From Beth Dooley.
• 1 c. shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
• 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 1 (4-oz.) jar diced pimento, drained
• 1/4 c. mayonnaise
• Generous shot of hot sauce, to taste
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• Red pepper flakes, for garnish
Put cheese, cream cheese, garlic, pimento, mayonnaise, hot sauce and salt and pepper into medium bowl and work them together until they are combined. Using wet hands, shape into a ball and serve or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Garnish with red pepper flakes before serving.
Kentucky Derby Cookie Bars
Makes 12 to 18 bars.
Note: These replicate the flavors of the traditional Kentucky Derby pie but are far easier to make and way easier to eat. From Beth Dooley.
• 1 c. flour
• 1 tsp. salt
• 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
• 1/4 c. sugar
• 1/3 c. packed brown sugar
• 3 tbsp. flour
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 3/4 c. dark maple syrup or corn syrup
• 2 eggs
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• 1/2 c. coarsely chopped pecans
• 1/2 c. chocolate chips
To prepare the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cut together the flour, salt, butter and sugar until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Turn into an ungreased 8-inch baking pan and pat to distribute the dough evenly. Bake until the edges are light golden brown, about 18 to 22 minutes. Remove and set aside.
To prepare the filling: In a separate bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, flour, and salt. Add the maple syrup, eggs and vanilla extract and mix well. Stir in the pecans and chocolate chips. Spread evenly over the crust and return to the oven. Bake until the filling is set, about 30 to 35 minutes. A knife inserted into the center should come out clean. Cool completely before cutting into bars.