For the humans watching at home, the Derby is a marathon, not a sprint (not for the horses. For the horses, it’s over almost as soon as it starts). You need to have sustenance throughout the long day of standing around wearing a big hat and frittering away money on games of chance, so don’t be foolish: plan ahead and make some tasty treats for yourself. One of the snacks I’m sharing with you today is a Southern delicacy, and the other is a Louisville original. Pimento cheese and Benedictine are both great snack spreads that are good on crackers/white bread and are just two or three bites max. You’re going to be very, very busy, as I said, daydrinking and gambling, so you don’t want your hands to be occupied with something as silly as foodstuffs. Hands are for juleps.
Let’s start with pimento cheese. I got this recipe from a friend in Oxford, Mississippi, and it’s the best one I’ve had, other than the stuff from JamesFoodCenter. You need a food processor for this one—I have no idea how I’d do it without one. The other thing is that I’m going to require you to make your own mayonnaise for this recipe. If you’re not going to make mayonnaise, as my friend stated, you may as well not bother at all. You need it for both these recipes, and it takes right at five minutes to make. You can do it.
First things first: here’s what you need for the pimento cheese and mayonnaise.
1 cup vegetable oil, divided
½ teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon onion powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
5 cups shredded cheddar cheese
4 ounces of drained, jarred pimentos
½ cup to a cup of the mayonnaise you just made
¼ teaspoon of onion powder
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Pinch of sugar
You’re going to want to do the mayonnaise first. Put the egg, a quarter cup of oil, mustard, onion powder, cayenne, salt, and lemon into the bowl of your food processor and blend for about a minute.
Add the remaining quarter cup of oil really, really slowly. I’m talking at a drip. If you hustle, you’re going to have mayonnaise that separates. My food processor is 30 years old, and the little pusher tube has a teeny hole in it, so I drip the oil through there, and that works very well. Otherwise, you should just move slowly.
Okay! Now you have mayonnaise, about a cup of it. Get that out of the food processor, please.
Do you feel accomplished? You should. This is much tastier than the stuff from the grocery. Fun fact: mayonnaise is actually the only food that I hate in the whole world, like will-not-eat-that-junk hate it. I will allow it to be in things at imperceptible levels and if it is homemade, but it’s not something I’m excited about. Long story short, this is pretty good, for something that is loathsome.
Now you’re in the home stretch (oh, hahahahaha. God, I’m so funny.)
Put the cheddar and pimento in the bowl of the food process.
Pulse it for a second or two to break up the pimentos.
Add the onion powder, cayenne, Worcestershire sauce, and sugar, plus about a half cup of the mayonnaise. Pulse this a few times until you get a very smooth mixture. Everything should be a uniform color and the pimentos should be completely broken up. Add more mayonnaise if it’s dry, but I have yet to need to do so in the many time I’ve made it. Serve on a cracker or on white bread points, but make sure you save some for a grilled cheese (this is stupidly good).
The other thing you should make is Benedictine spread. Benedictine was created by the legendary nineteenth-century caterer Jenny Benedict, and it’s a hometown favorite. I’ve never had it anywhere other than Louisville, but it’s very mild. This is what she looks like!
Here’s what you need to acquire before you begin
12 ounces cream cheese (Neufchatel works too; I actually prefer it)
1 small-ish onion
1 teaspoon of salt
A dash or two of hot sauce
2ish tablespoons of mayonnaise
Green food coloring, if you’re a traditionalist/monster
Break up the cream cheese with a fork.
Peel your cucumber, then grate it with your box grater onto a paper towel. Gather up the cucumber into kind of a pouch. Take that paper towel over to the sink, and squeeze out the excess moisture (these suckers are like, 80% water, so really squeeze). Add that to the cream cheese and mix well.
Now, grate your onion, also into a paper towel. Do the same thing with this—make a little pouch. This time, squeeze out the paper towel into the bowl. You’re just putting onion juice into it. Mix it up.
Now, add the salt, hot sauce, and mayonnaise (this makes it a little creamier), and mix until everything is very well incorporated. Add the green food coloring if you absolutely must (some people are so, so into this, but I think it’s extra-gross). Serve on white bread points and garnish with a slice of cucumber and a little pepper, or just eat it on a cracker.