Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Derby Festival!

I grew up outside of Louisville, Kentucky, and late April/early May is a very special time of year there, with two weeks worth of festivities that culminates on the first Saturday of every May - The Kentucky Derby. To most, it is a one and a quarter mile horse race that last around two minutes, the first step of three to the "Triple Crown", but to those in Kentuckiana it is a celebration drenched in tradition... and bourbon.

FYI, it is often referred to as the "Run for the Roses" due to a blanket of 554 roses awarded to each winner. I've actually watched the intricate process of the blanket being made.....I'll stick with cookin'.

I was too young to go to The Derby before I headed off to culinary school and beyond, and I haven't yet managed to make it back yet to endure the infamous Infield; maybe I'll make into Millionaire's Row when I do finally return :). Still, though, there is a surge of warmth that rises within me when the Derby Festival nears, and while I have journeyed across this great country, I have yet to find an equivalent. Maybe I'm wrong - I have spent a lot of my time in kitchens and don't get out as much as I'd like to. So, if you have something in your Hometown, USA or have been to a small festival highlighting a local theme, I'd love to hear about it! I'm always looking for that regional touch and would love to feature a dish or concept about it at our restaurant as a special!! Please feel free to post them as a comment here, or email them to me, Cheffrey.
Let me start the theme off with this: nothing says The Derby more than the Mint Juilep (other than a horse, of course), so I decided to to combine it with one of my favorite bourbon cocktails that includes bourbon whiskey, pure maple syrup and fresh lemon juice. This is already a solid cocktail by itself, but when we use maple syrup instead of the simple syrup that is in the traditional mint juilep, the muddled mint swings the flavor of the maple over from fall into spring. Cocktails, like food, are all about balance, and I think that the Maple Mint Juilep has achieved perfection!

Before I get into the food portion of this blog I'd like to take a moment to remind you Seattleites that this Thursday, April 30 is the 16th year of Dining Out for Life for which we will again be a participating restaurant. Thirty percent of our proceeds for the night will go to the Lifelong AIDS Alliance which is committed to preventing the spread of HIV, and to providing practical support services and advocating for those whose lives are affected by HIV and AIDS. We still have a few tables available and would love to have you help us raise money for this great organization!! If you are unable to attend, please visit their website to make any kind of donation that you can.

Now onto this week's special: I did consider going with a Louisville-inspired dish, but since most of them are relived during Christmas time (i.e. Derby Pie, Bourbon Balls, etc.) I felt that they would serve me better during the holiday season. Instead, I chose a to push the limits of my culinary means to give some of the best of me, to you.

I Started out with whole chickens: methodically separating the succulent skin from the meat into one perfect sheet, then I removed the breasts, the wings (to experiment with for a future special, as promised in an older post below) de-boned the legs and thighs, for which I made a classic mousseline forcemeat by grinding and pureeing the leg meat with eggs, cream, a touch of chipotle powder and garam masala - a blend of spices found in Indian, Bangladeshi, and Pakistani cuisines. I then spread this mixture over the thinly pounded breasts, rolled them up tight, THEN wrapped them in the reserved skin, left to be pan roasted in the oven until crispy. I balanced the meat compilation with grilled pineapple, mustard greens and finished it all with a drizzle of saffron-infused honey.

To be completely honest, this dish kicks my ass... so come on in and try it. I don't mind that it kicks my ass and you shouldn't either; think of it as one of those festival games where you throw a baseball at a target that drops the clown into a tank of water; but no matter how many times you dunk me, I'll keep getting up, smiling, waiting for the next one;).

With Love,