Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Benedictine Spread - A Derby Classic


In Monday's post, I told you all about my semi-obsession with the Kentucky Derby despite my less-than-appealing experiences with the event, and my extreme excitement over hosting my very first Derby party.

{Fun Fact: I have a thing for The South in general. Did you know that I pretty much only read Southern novels? It's true. I'm a sucker for a drawl and an antebellum mansion.}

Maybe I like the idea of Derby so much because it lends itself to a theme... and boy, do I love a themed party.

The only thing I love more is a recipe with a long standing history, like this Benedictine spread.


In doing my research for my Southern inspired party menu, I came across this intriguing recipe. I immediately added it to my list of "musts", after seeing it mentioned over and over again in association with race day.

But I just had to know why this simple cucumber spread was such a Derby staple.

According to The University of Google {hehe!}, Benedictine spread was created and made famous by a lady named Miss Jennie {JI-nee, if you're gonna say it all Southern-like} Benedict. {Hence "Benedictine". Duh.} She became well known in her neck of the woods for her scrumptious catering business, run out of her 256-square-foot kitchen built in her back yard. Her burgeoning success lead her to later open a tearoom in Louisville, which was a pretty hoppin' spot at the time.

Now, this was 1893. And it amazed me to think that a lady was able to gain such credibility and achieve such success... enough to become the first woman to hold a membership on the Louisville Board of Trade. {Go Jennie!} She was also a proud graduate of Fannie Farmer's Boston Cooking School {move over, Le Cordon Bleu}, a cookbook author, and a humanitarian for several causes.*

I love this lady and I just "met" her.

I can almost picture Miss Jennie in her kitchen whipping up Benedictine tea sandwiches, which happen to be a perfect pairing with Mint Juleps. {I'm sure the cream cheese & cucumber help soothe the burn caused by all that bourbon.}


This spread can be used for tea sandwiches or served with pumpernickel toasts. It can also be thinned out with extra some sour cream or mayo to form a dipping consistency for crudites, chips, or crackers.


No matter how you serve it up, you'll be treating your guests to a little taste of history... and with any luck, it'll be one that Miss Jennie herself would've approved of.

Benedictine Spread
Barely adapted from Chow

1 large English cucumber, peeled*, halved, and seeded and grated*
1/4 medium white onion, grated
8 oz. {1 package} cream cheese {I used the 1/3 less fat kind}
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon Green Jalapeno Tabasco sauce*
1/4 to 1/2  teaspoon kosher salt

1. Place grated cucumber and onion in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Press down to drain of excess water. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and let sit for 15 minutes or overnight in the refrigerator, pressing every so often to drain. {Alternatively, you can place the grated mixture in the center of a clean kitchen towel and twist to wring out as much water as possible.} Discard liquid.

2. In the bowl of a mixer, combine drained cucumber, onion, cream cheese, sour cream and Tabasco. Beat until well combined.

3. Taste and add salt to your liking. {Start with less & work your way up.}

4. Put in a bowl and refrigerate until chilled.

5. Serve with pumpernickel toasts, veggies, or crackers.

*Notes:

- Benedictine usually calls for peeled cucumber, but I forgot to peel mine before grating. With English cucumbers, peeling is optional since they typically come wrapped, without a waxy coating, and have a thinner skin.

- I grate my veggies & cheeses using my food processor grating disk, but you can do it by hand using a box grater as well. {But who would want to?}

- Using Green Jalapeno Tabasco Sauce will help achieve that green tint that Benedictine is known for. I prefer this to using food coloring, but if you want to use a drop of green food coloring, go for it.

- Source Info:
http://blogcritics.org/tastes/article/jennie-benedict-and-the-blue-ribbon/
http://www.littlecolonel.com/Places/Louisville/Benedicts.htm

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