Get “race ready” with Kentucky Benedictine Bites!

May 2, 2018

It’s the final countdown to the Derby, and I can’t wait to share my twists on a few classic Kentucky Derby recipes to get your party off to the right start.  My good friend Kristin Chambless of ColorByK and I dressed up in our “Derby Best” (my breezy blue lattice dress is from my Southern favorite, Draper James!), and put on a sweet little Derby party in good ‘ole Charleston to kick off the races. I’ll be sharing more recipes leading up to the big day; but in the meantime, put on your best Derby attire and pour those Mint Juleps – here is a classic, easy cocktail bite that you can’t throw a Derby party without – “Benedictine” – the famous cocktail spread brought to life in the 1800s by Louisville hostess extraordinaire, “Miss Jennie” Carter Benedict.  The great part about this recipe?  You can serve is as a spread, on a tea or cocktail sandwich, or even as a dip…cheers to the Derby, y’all!

I wanted to put a twist on this classic recipe to update it a bit, so I played with presentation instead of taking any tradition out of this ‘tried and true’ Southern favorite. I used dark Pumpernickel cut into sweet flower shapes to create little open-faced Benedictine bites with a fun cucumber garnish (they look fancy, but they are so easy, I promise!). These little bites are simple and perfect for making ahead so you can focus on your guests, and of course, the race! You’ll have plenty of time to make a “run for the roses” and craft the perfect party centerpiece too…


Makes 1 cup | Recipe adapted from The Southerner’s Cookbook (from the Editors of Garden & Gun)

  • 1 English cucumber (slice off a 2 inch piece and save for garnish)
  • 1/2 small Vidalia onion
  • 1 (8 oz) container whipped cream cheese
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • skin of cucumber grated on a fine zester (substitute for traditional green food coloring)
  • 1 package pumpernickel bread (this brand is great for cutting out shapes!)
  1. Wash and dry the cucumber. Grate the skin of the cucumber on a fine zester – set aside (I use this to color the mixture green, instead of the usual green food coloring – I went to organic cooking school, I can’t help it with the food coloring omission!)
  2. Grate the whole cucumber on a cheese grater set over a bowl. Press the cucumber pulp in a fine mesh sieve to extract about 3 tablespoons of cucumber juice. Discard the solids. In a separate bowl, repeat the grating and juicing process with the onion to yield at least 1 tablespoon of juice.
  3. Combine the cream cheese, cucumber juice, onion juice, salt, and cayenne in a mixing bowl with a rubber spatula until thoroughly combined (press the mixture against the side of the bowl to properly incorporate all components).  Add the zested skin until the mixture turns a pleasing pale green color.
  4. Transfer to a piping bag (or large freezer bag with corner tip cut off) and set aside in refrigerator (cut 1/4 inch of tip off when you are ready to pipe).
  5. Next, use a cookie cutter to cut out your bread into desired shapes (you can use any bread, and any shape you wish).  Line on platter and pipe Benedictine mixture onto the center of each shape.
  6. Garnish with a slice of cucumber and serve.

It’s a strange combo, I admit, but it’s a treat that has been around as long as the Derby…definitely worth a try and it wouldn’t be a proper Derby party without it!  Now go grab a bite and place that winning bet!


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