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Derby-Inspired Delights, on a Budget

The Kentucky Derby is all about tradition - and that certainly includes the food.

So what better challenge for "The Early Show on Saturday Morning" to give our "Chef on a Shoestring" than to whip up some traditional dishes served at Churchill Downs on Derby day?

And who better to tackle it than Doc Willoughby, executive editor of both Cook's Illustrated and America's Test Kitchen?!

Doc's menu: Mint Juleps (naturally!), Kentucky Burgoo -- a stew that's been a staple at Derby parties dating back to the 1930s -- Cheesy Grits and, for dessert, Lemon Chess Pie -- great offerings for any Derby party!

As our "shoestring" chef, he had to try to make it all on our slim budget of only $40. And he was automatically entered in our "How Low Can You Go?" competition. The shoestringer whose ingredients total is lowest will be invited back to whip up our year-end holiday feast.

"Early Show" recipes galore!


Mint Julep: One of Kentucky's claims to fame, the mint julep is an alcoholic drink made with fresh mint (sometimes muddled with sugar), bourbon and plenty of crushed ice. It's traditionally served in an iced silver or pewter mug at the running of the famous Kentucky Derby. However, it's a refreshing favorite on any hot day. (Source:

Muddle: To mash or crush ingredients with a spoon or a muddler (a rod with a flattened end). Usually identified with the preparation of mixed drinks, such as when mint leaves and sugar are muddled together for a mint julep. . (Source:

Grits: Though it's now commonly used to mean "hominy grits," the term "grits" actually refers to any coarsely ground grain such as corn, oats or rice. Most grits come in a choice of grinds - coarse, medium and fine. Grits can be cooked with water or milk - usually by boiling or baking - and eaten as hot cereal or served as a side dish. . (Source:

Kentucky Burgoo: Also called Burgoo , this thick stew is full of meats (usually pork, veal, beef, lamb and poultry) and vegetables (including potatoes, onions, cabbage, carrots, sweet green peppers, corn, okra, lima beans and celery). Early renditions were more often made with small game such as rabbit and squirrel. Burgoo is popular for large gatherings in America's southern states. Originally, the word "burgoo" was used to describe an oatmeal porridge served to English sailors as early as 1750. . (Source:

Dutch Oven: A large pot or kettle, usually made of cast iron, with a tight-fitting lid so steam cannot readily escape. It's used for moist-cooking methods, such as braising and stewing. Dutch ovens are said to be of Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, dating back to the 1700s. . (Source:

Chess Pie: This is one of the South's favorite pies, with a simple filling of eggs, sugar, butter and a small amount of flour. Chess pie can be varied by adding flavorings such as lemon juice or vanilla, or substituting brown sugar for granulated sugar. . (Source:

For Doc's recipes, go to Page 2.


Mint Julep

6 fresh mint leaves + 1 mint sprig
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
3 ounces Bourbon of your choice
Crushed ice

Muddle mint leaves with superfine sugar and just a splash of water in a mint julep cup. Fill cup with crushed ice. Pour in bourbon, mix, and garnish with the fresh mint sprig.

Cheesy Baked Grits
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the dish
1 onion, minced
1 teaspoon salt
4-1/2 cups water
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon Tabasco
1½ cups old-fashioned grits
8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups) (Smoked cheddar or Gouda works nicely here in place of the extra-sharp cheddar)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with butter; set aside. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the water, cream, and Tabasco. Bring to a boil.

Pour the grits into the boiling liquid in a very slow stream while whisking constantly in a circular motion to prevent clumping. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring often and vigorously (make sure to scrape the corners of the pot), until the grits are thick and creamy, 10 to 15 minutes.

Off the heat, whisk in 1 cup of the cheddar, the eggs, and pepper. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup cheddar over the top. Bake until the top is browned and the grits are hot, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Variation: Cheesy Baked Grits with Sausage and Bell Pepper

Cook 1 pound crumbled breakfast sausage and 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped medium, in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over ¬medium-high heat until the sausage is no longer raw and the pepper has softened, about 6 minutes. Drain on paper towels, then stir into the grits with the cheddar in step 3.

Test Kitchen Tip: The Gritty Truth

After scouring the aisles at our local grocery stores, we concluded that grits are available in two forms: quick-cooking, which cook in 5 minutes, and old-fashioned, which cook in 10 to 15 minutes. Initially, we were excited about the possibility of cooking grits for only 5 minutes. In a side-by-side tasting, however, most tasters thought the instant grits were too creamy and tasted over-processed. The old-fashioned grits were creamy, but at the same time they retained a slightly coarse texture that tasters liked. They're called grits for a reason.

Kentucky Burgoo

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)
6 lamb shoulder blade chops (6 to 8 ounces each), about ½ inch thick (If you can't find lamb shoulder chops, substitute 1½ pounds of lamb stew meat or beef chuck stew meat)
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch chunks
1-1/2 cups frozen corn
1-1/2 cups frozen baby lima beans
1/4 cup juice from 2 lemons

BROWN MEATS Pat chicken and lamb dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown chicken, about 5 minutes per side; transfer to plate. Pour off fat from pan and reserve. (You should have about 3 tablespoons fat; if you have less, supplement with vegetable oil.) Add 1 tablespoon reserved fat to Dutch oven and heat until just smoking. Brown half of chops, about 5 minutes per side; transfer to plate. Repeat with additional 1 tablespoon fat and remaining chops.

COOK AROMATICS Add remaining fat and onions to now-empty pot and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and flour and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in broth, tomatoes, and Worcestershire, scraping up any browned bits with wooden spoon. Return chicken and lamb to pot and bring to boil.

SIMMER MEATS Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until chicken is tender, about 30 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate. When cool enough to handle, pull chicken into bite-sized pieces and reserve in refrigerator; discard bones and skin. Continue to simmer stew until lamb is tender, about 40 minutes longer. Transfer lamb to plate. When cool enough to handle, pull lamb into bite-sized pieces and reserve in refrigerator; discard bones.

ADD VEGETABLES Add potatoes to pot and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Add corn, lima beans, reserved chicken, and reserved lamb and simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Season with salt. Skim fat, if necessary. Serve.

For Doc's Lemon Chess Pie recipe, go to Page 3.

Lemon Chess Pie

Use your favorite pie dough or go to for our Single-Crust Pie Dough recipe. Regular yellow cornmeal (not stone ground) works best here. Make the filling before baking the shell so the cornmeal has time to soften. Adding the filling when the pie shell is still warm reduces the pie's cooking time slightly.

5 large eggs
1-3/4 cups plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest and
3 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 (9-inch) pie shell (see note), chilled

MAKE FILLING Whisk eggs in large bowl until smooth. Slowly whisk in 1¾ cups sugar, lemon zest and juice, cornmeal, and salt until -combined. Whisk in butter.

BAKE CRUST Poke pie shell all over with fork. Refrigerate 40 minutes, then freeze 20 minutes. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Bake shell until small bubbles appear and surface begins to look dry, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

BAKE PIE Whisk filling briefly to recombine. Scrape filling into prepared pie shell and bake until surface is light brown and center jiggles slightly when shaken, 35 to 40 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining teaspoon sugar. Cool -completely on wire rack, about 4 hours. Serve. (Pie can be refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap, for 2 days.)

Step-by-Step: Docking the Crust
Old recipes for pie crusts used less fat than buttery modern versions. Those crusts were tougher-and probably not as tasty-but they had one clear advantage: a custardy chess pie filling wouldn't have made them sodden, so they didn't require pre-baking. Today, the usual way to avoid sodden crust is to blind bake, a term that means baking an empty pie shell filled with pie weights until it's set. We found a quicker, easier way to par-bake that still keeps our crust crisp.

1. Dock: Use a fork to poke holes all over the pie shell. The holes will allow steam to escape when the pie crust is baking, in turn helping the shell hold its shape.
2. Chill: Refrigerate the crust for 40 minutes, then freeze it for 20 so the gluten in the flour can relax, and the fat in the crust can firm up and hold its shape in the oven.
3. Bake Parbake the shell at high heat. Remove it from the oven once it starts to bubble (after about 8 minutes); the shell will look dry, and the holes will fill.

So, how did Doc fare in our "How Low Can You Go?" competiton?

Mint Juleps
mint $1.29
superfine sugar $1.29
bourbon $3.00
total 5.58

Cheesy Grits
onion $.47
heavy cream $2.49
Tabasco sauce $.99
grits $1.99
cheese $3.69
total $9.63

Kentucky Burgoo
chicken thighs $3.98
beef $5.24
onions $.94
garlic $.39
chicken broth $1.99
diced tomatoes $.67
Worcestershire sauce $.99
potatoes $1.49
corn $1.99
lima beans $2.49
lemons $1.32
total $21.49

Lemon Chess Pie
cornmeal $1.19
pie shell $1.99
total $3.18

Grand total: 39.88

Our Leaders Board:

1. Amanda Freitag $37.17
The Harrison

2. Kelly Liken $37.20
Restaurant Kelly Liken

3. Sebastiaan Zijp $37.31
Bar Blanc Bistro

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