Chef Kenneth Hardiman will take it as a compliment if you get your seersucker dirty while eating the official Kentucky Derby 148 menu.
He’s not out to ruin any of the fancy outfits the derby is known to attract, but he wants you to think his menu featuring seared chicken with fennel cream, short ribs with Vidalia onion demi-glace and pimento cheese creamed spinach is so delicious, it’s worth a trip to the dry cleaners.
“If it’s really good I don’t know if I can do anything about that,” he jokes.
Hardiman, who previously oversaw food operations at Fiserv Forum arena in Milwaukee, came to Churchill Downs Racetrack in February. While creating his first official menu for the iconic race, he wanted to showcase Louisville flavors and source local ingredients for dishes like the Kentucky bibb salad, which relies almost entirely on produce and nuts sourced from within the state.
The menu will be part of The Chef’s Table dining options at Millionaires Row and Skye Terrace. In other parts of Churchill downs, people can find signature fare like Derby pie and burgoo. Of course, mint juleps are served as well.
“I didn’t want to go crazy or alienate by taking away something that was special,” he said. “I want to build upon it. How do I take a dish like Benedictine and make it a bit more elevated?”
Hardiman is serving Benedictine spread, which is believed to have been invented in Louisville near the beginning of the 20th century by Jennie Carter Benedict, on a charcuterie board. You can find his recipe for that and all the official menu dishes on the Kentucky Derby website.
Pimento Cheese Creamed Spinach
- 1 cup diced peppers, drained
- ½ cup cream cheese (cubed)
- 2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 packages of frozen spinach (10-ounces each), thawed, drained and squeezed dry
- ½ cup yellow onion, small diced
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup sour cream
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ¼ cup Dijon mustard
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 2 1/2-quart baking dish with melted butter.
Place melted butter in a pot over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until somewhat soft, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Lower the temperature of the pot. Add cream cheese and stir until melted.
Remove from heat and add spinach, heavy cream, sour cream, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and pimentos. Stir well.
Mix in the egg and then all but 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese.
Mix in the salt, pepper, and cayenne.
Transfer mixture to buttered baking dish.
In a bowl, combine the melted butter, Panko crumbs and 1/2 cup cheddar cheese. Sprinkle over saucepan.
Bake for 45 minutes. Let stand for 5-10 minutes and serve and enjoy.