Your Derby party table won’t be complete without a few specific things… and this one checks several boxes… country ham, meatballs and bourbon! (And don’t miss the “Wendy Discount” on ham down below.)
Like country ham, the Kentucky Derby is such an old southern tradition. There’s nothing like being there at Churchill Downs… dodging big brimmed hats while wearing one and enjoying all the delicious foods and of course, a traditional mint julep. But since trekking to the beautiful land of bluegrass isn’t always possible, plan a fun gathering of your own with some old favorites at home. County ham doesn’t always have to be tucked inside a biscuit. And what’s a party without meatballs? We think you’ll really like these… especially since you can make them ahead and freeze (uncooked or cooked) if need be, to head out of the gate really fast at party time, swimming in the best simple gravy, gussied up with Kentucky bourbon, of course!
Of course being at the Derby, one must consume them… and I just HAD to have one of those commemorative Derby glasses (a real pain in the ass to then tote around and not break for hours!) As a matter of fact, none of us really cared for them, and most got poured on the ground… yuk! I’d love to know how many folks are in the closet about these things and don’t like them either, but tolerate as if they do. If they’re “all that,” why is it we don’t see them on cocktail menus any other time of the year in other places?
I’m not a bourbon drinking gal, BUT, I do love the subtle sweet and rich flavor it can add to recipes. So when my client asked me to create a Derby recipe with his country ham, of course it had to have some bourbon! Now y’all know I’m gonna use NC made goodies when I can… and will do that in the future with one of the tasty ones made here, but used a more widely available one for this recipe since folks buy this tasty country ham from all over! You can get some too, with the “Wendy Discount!” Just hop over to Rays Country Ham store… read about the company’s history here in NC…(don’t miss the interesting video on home page too) and when you order (free shipping), just put WENDY in the coupon area for a 20% full order discount! GO HERE, PUT ITEMS IN CART AND YOU SHOULD SEE THE “WENDY DISCOUNT” APPLIED AUTOMATICALLY. If you have any problems contact Ray via the Ray’s web page!
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Run For The Roses Country Ham Meatballs in Maple Bourbon Gravy
- 8 ounces Rays Country Ham
- 1 lb. ground sweet Italian Sausage
- 2 cups herbed bread crumbs (I used Pepperidge Farm Classic)
- 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tall can evaporated milk *Add about half can to moisten. Use more as needed for a moist mixture.
- garnish: scallion, chives, parsley or fresh herbs
- 3 cups low sodium/salt free chicken broth
- ¼ cup good maple syrup
- ¼ cup good bourbon
- 2 heaping tablespoons spicy brown mustard
- 1 pkg. brown gravy mix
- 1 pkg. roasted chicken gravy mix
- lots of freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
- Chop up the ham a bit and put into food processor. Grind to a rough but not pureed texture.
- Combine with remaining ingredients (except garnish).
- Roll into ping-pong ball size meatballs and place 1-inch apart on the parchment paper. Bake about 25-30 minutes until lightly browned. Serve in gravy.
Maple Bourbon Gravy:
- In a small Dutch oven or similar heavy pot, whisk all ingredients together and bring to a boil. Once fully boiling, lower heat and continue on a low rolling boil, watching closely and whisking often until the gravy has reduced and thickened, about 6-8 minutes.
- When ready to serve, heat gravy and warm meatballs on low in gravy.
- Serve in small chafing pan to keep warm. Garnish with something “green” like slivers of scallion, chives, parsley or other fresh herbs.