The mint julep is a symbol of the South, but it was right here in Cambridge that I learned to love them. The agent of my indoctrination was my friend Hilary, a.k.a. Hilarious. From Mississippi, Hilarious is gorgeous, gracious, genteel, and gregarious. Before she moved to New York, she knew every Southerner in Boston and was always at the eye of the Southern social storm.
The year we met, she invited me to her annual Kentucky Derby party and put me right into the hot seat - behind the bar. This was a thirsty, opinionated crowd, and I got a crash course in mixing mint juleps. We ate, too, though menu memories are fuzzy to say the least. Burgoo, a soup-stew hybrid, and Hot Brown sandwiches are both Kentucky culinary classics.
HOT BROWN SANDWICHES
4 slices firm white sandwich bread, toasted
3/4 pound sliced turkey
1 large tomato, cut into 8 slices
2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/4 cups milk
Salt and black pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons dry sherry
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
8 slices bacon
Adjust the oven rack to the center position and heat oven to 475 degrees. On a baking pan, lay out the toast. Top each slice with turkey and 2 tomato slices, and set aside.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the butter until melted and the foaming stops. Add the shallot, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring frequently, until shallot is soft and fragrant, about 45 seconds. Make a roux by sprinkling flour over the butter and cooking, stirring constantly, until light golden, about 1 1/2 minutes. Whisking constantly, gradually add the milk. Add 3/4 teaspoon of salt, black pepper to taste, and cayenne pepper, and simmer, whisking frequently, until the mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes. Off heat, add the sherry, Worcestershire, and 3/4 cup of grated cheddar a handful at a time, whisking constantly to incorporate. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning as necessary with salt, pepper, cayenne, sherry, or Worcestershire, and set aside.
In a medium skillet set over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Drain, then top each sandwich with 2 slices. Top the bacon with sauce, spreading sauce evenly over each sandwich, then sprinkle sauce with the remaining cheddar. Bake until the sandwiches are heated through and the sauce is brown and bubbly, about 15 minutes. Serve at once.
2 pounds chicken thighs
1 1/2 pounds center-cut lamb leg steak or boneless lamb shoulder
1 1/2 pounds beef shank
Salt and black pepper
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
6 slices bacon, roughly chopped
2 onions, roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
5 tablespoons flour
1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice
2/3 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or more to taste
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 medium red-skinned potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 pound okra, thickly sliced
3 medium carrots, thickly sliced
3 cups fresh corn, cut from 3 large ears
1 pound frozen lima beans
6 tablespoons chopped parsley
Sprinkle chicken, lamb, and beef liberally with salt and black pepper. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken about 10 minutes, turning once after 5 minutes, and transfer to a large bowl. Add the lamb and beef to the pot and brown about 12 minutes, turning after 6. Transfer the lamb and beef to the bowl with the chicken, pour off all the fat from the pot, and return it to the burner. Add 2 1/2 quarts of water to the pot and return all of the meat to the pot, bringing the liquid to a boil and skimming off any foam. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover the pot, and simmer 1 hour. Remove the chicken from pot to one bowl and the lamb and beef to another bowl; when cool enough to handle, cut meat into small pieces and set aside, discarding skin and bones. Transfer the broth to another large bowl and set aside, skimming fat as it separates. Wipe out the Dutch oven and return it to the burner.
Over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp, about 6 minutes. Remove the bacon and drain. Add the onions to the bacon fat and cook, stirring constantly, until the onions soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper and cook about 45 seconds. Make a roux by adding the flour and cooking, stirring constantly, until light golden, about 1 1/2 minutes. Continuing to stir, gradually add the reserved broth, then bring the sauce to a boil and skim. Add the tomatoes, ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, potatoes, bacon, and lamb and beef (but not the chicken), return to boiling, then reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. Add the okra and carrots, stir to mix, and simmer until the okra is tender, about 20 minutes longer. Then add the corn, lima beans, 2 teaspoons of salt, black pepper to taste, and chicken, and simmer until the beans and chicken are heated through, about 10 minutes.
Just before serving, adjust seasonings with salt, black pepper, or vinegar, if necessary, stir in most of the parsley, and garnish each portion with remaining parsley.
Send comments or suggestions to Adam Ried at email@example.com.