The coronavirus pandemic may have ruined the Kentucky Derby’s normal plans of happening in early May, now the Derby’s back– simply four months later than it was initially set up. The renowned horse race is switching the opening of summer season for the close, happening on September 5, throughout Labor Day weekend.
Derby celebrations will not look the same as they typically do, so to make sure that racing fans still take pleasure in the experience, the Derby tapped Queer Eye star Antoni Porowski for pointers on tossing a splashy (and safe) yard bash. He blended concepts from his debut cookbook, Antoni in the Cooking Area, with in-season produce and Derby-inspired drinks for a menu that hits all the best summery notes.
Although Porowski might appear like a dark horse pairing (ha, get it?) for such an American tradition– he’s actually Canadian— his childhood invested partly in West Virginia and love for all things Americana provides him a remarkably personal connection to the Derby. Continue reading for Antoni’s imaginative celebration dishes, plus a look at what he’s been up to in quarantine (mainly, perfecting rushed eggs and checking out new hairdo).
Rachael Ray In Season: What interested you in partnering with the Kentucky Derby?
Antoni Porowski: I really just learnt that the Kentucky Derby was a thing when I had to do with 12 years of ages. I moved from Montreal to West Virginia, which shares a border with the fantastic state of Kentucky, and that’s where I initially discovered it. I keep in mind there was a clubhouse near where I lived and all of the moms would go enjoy on these huge screens. They wore these colorful, insane hats and had a lot of hors d’oeuvres and mixed drinks and juleps. It was the first time I learned about an extremely American tradition. I’ve always been obsessed with Americana– anything that is soaked in American culture– and specifically as a Canadian kid, I just thought it was actually cool.
When they asked me to come up with some dishes and cocktails in addition to the event, it postured a difficulty due to the fact that the Derby isn’t what it was (like actually anything else with Covid). So I was figuring out how to have fun, how to commemorate, however to do so under the suggested guidelines. We came up with dishes that you can make for yourself, or you and your dog, or you and your substantial other, or if it’s outdoor social distancing, the recipes work simply. It’s been a fun thing.
So let’s hear a few of these dishes.
I thought the mixed drinks were an excellent opportunity to include the Derby’s history. I check out this one person with an extraordinary name. I do not know why, I just believe it’s the coolest name in the entire world. It’s James Winkfield [Derby-winning African American jockey], so I call this the Jimmy Wink cocktail. There aren’t lots of things that are more Kentucky than straight-up bourbon, so it’s a mixed drink with bourbon and some dry apple cider. A little bit of orange peel for garnish includes that great bitterness and complements the sweet taste of the bourbon. I likewise utilized a simple syrup— I did one with equivalent parts water and sugar, however then I put in some ground rosemary and clementines, which go truly well together.
You need to most likely have a non-alcoholic mixed drink, too. This is named after Rosie Napravnik, who, I think, is the most successful female jockey to ever compete in the Derby. It’s just badass when usually male-dominated sports have these strong female figures, so I wished to honor her with a drink. Because her name is Rosie, I did a strawberry cardamom rose lemonade spritz, and the garnish on that is strawberries that are basically dipped in crushed sweet and sour sweet. So it’s this nice little crunchy outside texture over the strawberries. You should make these fresh because you truly want that crunch on the exterior of the strawberry. It’s also an enjoyable treat– I like the concept of having the healthy, delicious, gorgeous strawberry with a straight-up candy finishing.
What about food?
I talk about peaches all the time due to the fact that I’m consumed– they’re actually my favorite fruit– so I need to include my Grilled Peach and Tomato Salad with crispy almonds. When a peach is perfectly ripe, you should just enjoy it as is with absolutely nothing else on it. If it’s still a little company, when you grill it it’s going to hold really well. Include some acidic, appetizing tomatoes and crispy almonds, which you can warm up in a sauté pan so they’re good and crispy, and fresh basil. It’s an incredible salad and even when the Derby’s over, if you have leftovers, you can grill up some salmon or chicken and have a total meal. It’s my favorite thing of summer and I make it each and every single week.
Also, alright, you need something that’s type of decadent and tacky– who does not enjoy a cheese dip? Unless you’re lactose intolerant, but if you’re lactose intolerant you most likely still enjoy cheese, like me. It’s Herbed Lobster and Saffron Dip Start with Boursin, which is a ready-made cheese with a lot of herbs in it. You take that with pieces of lobster or crab, which you can obtain from a can– or if you’re going bang for your buck, just utilize the cheese alone with a little bit of saffron. A number of threads go a truly long method. You can serve that with some great crusty bread or any grainy crackers that you desire or whatever fresh veggies you have. That’s a huge crowd pleaser.
Finally, Watermelon Halloumi Bites Watermelon remains in season, and I always search for various ways to use it. My preferred method– that has nothing to do with this dish– is in fact taking watermelon cubes and rubbing fresh ginger on them. It’s really delicious and just so simple to make. I always find myself eating half a watermelon when I do that. Anyway, back to the recipe!
Because watermelon is so sweet and light and water-filled, I like marinating it in olive and oil and simply a lot, a lot, a great deal of fresh broken pepper. If you think you’re done cracking pepper into it, simply continue going. They wind up being these truly peppery, juicy, olive oil-coated bites of watermelon. Heat halloumi up on a pan or a grill pan or your barbecue if you’re outdoors. Mint gives a nice little fresh kick at the end. You have your cheese, fresh watermelon, and mint– the perfect little trio. You can serve them as little bites, or, if you wish to feed a larger group of individuals, you can toss them all into a big salad and add balsamic or whatever greens you have laying around.
That sounds tasty– I love halloumi, so I certainly want to make that.
I do too! I get so delighted when I see it at the grocery store. It’s certainly in my leading 3 summertime cheeses.
I seem like you do not see it in the U.S. that much.
It’s certainly not as popular. I do seem like it’s having a bit of a minute, or at least it was last year, so it’s ending up being a bit more popular, but same thing with feta cheese. I was raised in Montreal and we have a really strong Lebanese, Middle Eastern, and Greek community, and we constantly have like three various sort of feta at the shop, from sheep to cow to goat, sharper to milder. Now I just wish to eat a whole block of cheese!
Speaking of eating entire blocks of cheese, quarantine has actually clearly been a demanding time. Exists anything in specific that’s been getting you through?
Partnering with Kentucky Derby has actually been really fun. I like any opportunity where I get to be innovative with something that’s a little beyond my wheelhouse– not being an American and determining how to come up with recipes that are enjoyable but still simple.
However personally, in the early mornings, I have actually simply been obsessed with making scrambled eggs. It’s all I can speak about– simply determining how to make the perfect soft scramble. I’ve really been enjoying the routine. Awakening in the morning, exercising and getting those endorphins up– since some days are more depressing than others, which is something I believe we can all connect to– and after that simply being in the kitchen area.
I’m an optimist and I constantly search for the brilliant side of things, and the irony is that I had actually been traveling so much and didn’t get to prepare like I utilized to. With quarantine and being stuck at house– I should not even call it stuck at home, I should state I get to be in the house– it’s just been actually nice to cook all the time, just make things for myself. Now being back in New York, I’m supporting small businesses that I wasn’t able to delight in while I remained in Texas for three-and-a-half months.
I search for delight in just the easiest little things, like taking the pet on a walk or lighting a candle light. With everything I do now, I appear to be a little less manic and a little more focused. I get to pay more attention to the little things. I utilized to be on my phone having a work call while addressing an email and making a list of things to do. Now I discover myself taking something at a time, and I have the ability to be more engaged and focused. I get a lot more pride out of everything I do now.
The pace is a lot slower.
Completely. Prior to I was everything about the express train. Fun little bit, speaking of speed– I was taking a look at the Derby leaderboard for the names of the horses, trying to determine who I’m going to vote for, and there are 2 that I’m obsessed with. One is called New York Traffic, and the other one is Art Collector. I love horses, and I want to see what Art Collector appears like. I’m just imagining this horse with a monocle or something. Another one is called Honor A.P. Like, these are really proud horse moms and dads who call their horses.
How do they create those bizarre names?
I do not know. My pet’s name is Neon so she certainly wouldn’t fit in.
Is she going to have a Derby-themed costume?
Great question! So here’s the important things. Do I dress her up as a horse, or do I dress her up as a jockey?
I think both– horse for half the day, then jockey for half the day.
I believe that’s a great concept. I want to find a cool neon jockey attire. And my dream is to find a saddle that’s not heavy and does not injure her, despite the fact that she’s really strong as a pit-beagle mix. I just enjoy the concept of her wearing a saddle, and putting one of my G.I. Joe or Star Wars figurines on her to ride around. So it’s going to be an enjoyable day!
I actually spoke with Bobby[Berk] a couple of months earlier, and he stated if he had to change roles with any of the QE guys, it would be with you, and that you ‘d take style. Do you agree with that?
That’s in fact very real. In university, all my electives were in art history. I was so consumed with post-war art, and a lot of American and French deco, so I’ve always liked furnishings a lot. I believe Bobby is a master at putting pieces together cohesively and producing a living space. I’m awful at that. I would just love the chance to go shop for furnishings and tchotchkes. In season five, we had this incredibly incredible young activist called Abby. She was everything about sustainability, so practically all the pieces in her house were either refurbished or vintage. That was the most amazing reveal for me, since it was all these remarkable vintage pieces from the 60 s, 70 s, and 80 s. I would make every single hero, whether they like it or not, have a classic house.
I loved that episode due to the fact that of its focus on repurposing!
They were such fantastic pieces! I like things that are old and have a story. I get to daydream– where did these pieces originate from? Who used to being in them? Where did they live?
Well, I’m pleased to know that you agree with Bobby.
Totally. Anyone else– Karamo … I already sob enough as is. He appears to make the heroes weep and it would simply be a cry sesh for me. For style, I wear jeans and a white tee shirt so there isn’t much going on there. And Jonathan, like … I can barely shave my beard every two months. I’m going to leave that up to him.
You did just recently buzz your hair, though, right? What was the thinking behind that?
I did. The honest response is dullness. Also, I’ve just been thinking about it for so long and it’s kind of like, if not now, when? As a kid, I switched between a completely buzzed head or a perfect ‘mushroom’ cut. I just got a visual of Jim Carrey’s hair in Dumb and Dumber when there’s literally a bowl on his head. That best bowl cut, that was basically me. So I simply go for either actually long hair or actually short, absolutely nothing in between. Now I have to determine whether I want to keep the brief hair or whether I’m just going to grow it out once again. We’ll see!
Find Antoni’s Kentucky Derby dishes in Antoni in the Kitchen Area or at the Derby site.