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 ours… 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!
RUN FOR THE ROSES COUNTRY HAM MEATBALLS WITH MAPLE BOURBON GRAVY
Makes 2 to 2 ½ dozen meatballs
8 ounces Rays Country Ham slices
1 lb. ground sweet Italian sausage
2 cups herbed bread crumbs (we used Pepperidge Farm Classic)
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
2 large eggs
1 large can evaporated milk*
garnish: scallion, chives, parsley or fresh herbs
*Add about half can to moisten. Use more as needed for a moist mixture.
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.
To Freeze: Place in a single layer on tray lined with parchment or waxed paper. Once fully frozen, put them into a covered container or zippered bag. Freeze no longer than 3 months.
3 cups low sodium/salt free chicken broth
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup good Kentucky bourbon (we used Jim Beam apple)
2 heaping tablespoons spicy brown mustard
1 package brown gravy mix
1 package roasted chicken gravy mix
lots of freshly ground black pepper
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.
Serving options: Offer with slider rolls for real good little meatball n’gravy sandwiches! Or serve over warm creamy grits as an entrée at your gathering.