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Throw a Kentucky Derby Party with Our Recipes and Style Inspiration

How to throw a Kentucky Derby party with recipes and style inspiration from Nordstrom.

One day each year, folks dress in their spring finery and head to the racetrack. Or, for about two minutes, some with otherwise no interest in equine affairs turn to their televisions. Mint juleps are poured. Bets are placed. Rapt eyes focus on Louisville, Kentucky, where for over a century 20 of the most beautiful and athletic horses in the world compete in the first of three races that form the Triple Crown.

“The Run for the Roses”—or the Kentucky Derby—is one of our enduring national pastimes. Although originally modeled after the English Epsom Derby, it has become distinctly American. Southern style, food and customs pervade the event and the many events surrounding the main one. But just as the race’s founders took liberties with the equestrian traditions of Europe, many households and barrooms throw alternative versions of the party on the lawn at Churchill Downs.

How to throw a Kentucky Derby party with recipes and style inspiration from Nordstrom.

Since the sporting life is as good a reason as any to rally around delicious food and drink, we invited some of our favorite Nordstrom people over for a Kentucky Derby party. Our menu included snack variations on traditional Southern foods, some strong cocktails and plenty of horsing around in front of the camera in candy-colored clothes. Since the main event usually takes just minutes, there’s ample time to catch up with each other and enjoy a pleasant, lazy afternoon that can easily drift from a casual cocktail hour into a light dinner.

How to throw a Kentucky Derby party with recipes and style inspiration from Nordstrom.

The Kentucky Derby is Saturday, May 7. Undercard races begin at noon ET and the main event is at 4pm ET.


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Food & Drink

Roast Leg of Lamb Recipe with Garlic and Rosemary, Candied Carrots and Herbed Potatoes | What’s Cooking

Boneless roast lef of lamb recipe with garlic and rosemary from Nordstrom. Photo by Jeff Powell.

This cherished recipe for a garlic- and rosemary-studded boneless leg of lamb and accompanying sides is published in our Nordstrom Friends and Family Cookbook. In its pages, contributing chef Michael Thoms shares his food and family memories associated with this classic (and delicious!) Easter dinner.

Boneless roast lef of lamb recipe with garlic and rosemary from Nordstrom. Photo by Jeff Powell.

“One of my fondest childhood memories is of my grandmother’s cooking. She made cooking incredibly fun; we all got to help in the planning, preparation and serving of the meal. I think this is one of the reasons I became a chef. Her philosophy of food and cooking—let the ingredients speak for themselves—was something I have carried into my professional life. She always bought only the freshest seasonal ingredients and prepared them simply. This recipe of hers, a family treasure, reflects that style. Once a year the butcher would get fresh spring lamb, and she would be the first in line to pick out a leg.” —Chef Michael Thoms


Food & Drink

Flaky Homemade Rosemary Buttermilk Biscuits | What’s Cooking

Homemade flaky biscuit recipe with butter and rosemary from Nordstrom. Photo by Jeff Powell.

I have a love/hate relationship with biscuits. When I come across biscuits that are buttery, tender and flaky (as these are), yes please. But, as I’ve experienced one too many times, the somewhat fickle nature of biscuits (and not taking care to make them with a few rules of thumb in mind) means I’ve bitten into something more like dry, tasteless hardtack. I’d rather just eat flour directly out of the bag, so I usually avoid taking my chances altogether.

Enter the above batch of winning biscuits. In this recipe, our chefs reach for butter over shortening for added flavor along with two leavening agents to maximize lift with the buttermilk. They then add fresh, minced rosemary, which infuses the dough and really takes these quick breads to a special place. For best results, keep your butter and buttermilk cold until the last minute, and don’t overwork the dough (just mix enough until shaggy, a bit tacky and you can bring it together). Lastly, dip your biscuit cutter in a little flour before cutting each biscuit and cut by pressing directly down into the dough rather than twisting, which can seal the edges and prevent layers and rise in the oven.

Make these any time you want a rich, flaky biscuit—we especially recommend serving them alongside a warm, comforting bowl of our Chicken Pot Pie Soup.




Food & Drink

Herbed Mushroom Risotto Recipe with Roasted Salmon and Rosemary Beurre Blanc | What’s Cooking

herbed-mushroom-risotto-recipe-with-easy-baked-salmon-and-beurre-blancHerbed mushroom risotto recipe with easy baked salmon and beurre blanc from Nordstrom. Photo by Jeff Powell.

You can do this! Perfect to make for Valentine’s Day, a date night, a special dinner for a special friend, or halved and made for a party of one, this dish is bound to impress. While there may be a good number of steps, the good news is you can make the majority of this recipe in advance. Ideal for perpetuating the illusion of kitchen wizardry when you throw everything together the day of in a matter of minutes.

Years ago, when I made risotto for the first time, I was so intimidated. I have no idea why. Just brace yourself with a little patience to do a lot of stirring, and there will be no reason to get all in a dither about rice. Risotto is a basic that’s going to become a quick-to-make staple with limitless options once you’ve made it and understand the simple steps. But in the interest of not being chained to the stove for 30 minutes while you’re trying to entertain, our recipe for make-ahead risotto by par cooking it is ideal.

In this version, as served at selected Nordstrom restaurants, our risotto gets a flavorful dose of fresh herbs. Surrounding it, a luscious, velvety Rosemary Beurre Blanc enhanced with roasted garlic (try our easiest roasted garlic recipe, which I make all the time and keep in the freezer). On top, an earthy mix of mushrooms roasted with fresh herbs sits askew underneath an easy baked Atlantic salmon fillet. To gild the lily, everything is crowned by a vibrant garnish of celery curls, chive batons and parsley.

Make-ahead par-cooked risotto recipe with baked salmon, buerre blanc and herbed mushrooms from Nordstrom. Photo by Jeff Powell.


Food & Drink

Kale Salad Recipe with Apple, Farro and Lemon-Herb Vinaigrette | What’s Cooking

Kale salad recipe with apples, farro, blue cheese and lemon-herb vinaigrette dressing from Nordstrom. Photo by Jeff Powell.
Don’t make this salad because it’s full of benefit-rich kale, whole grains and toasted nuts … make it because it tastes amazing. If you or anyone you know balks at eating kale or farro, consider this a gateway dish. At Nordstrom Bistro and Bar Verde—where our Kale, Apple and Farro Salad is served—we use Lacinato kale, which is more tender and sweeter than other varieties when raw. Farro—a kind of whole-grain hulled wheat similar to brown rice in texture—gets simmered in a quick broth for added flavor.

Toasted pistachios, almonds, sweet apple and a little red onion add contrasting, crunchy textures, while a flavor-packed emulsion of four fresh herbs, lemon juice and Dijon mustard clings to every ingredient. Topped with a creamy Danish blue cheese, this healthy salad is a perfect example of eating well without sacrificing the joy of actually eating good food.



Food & Drink

Crimini Mushroom Flatbread Pizza Recipe with Grilled Green Onions and Tuscan Herbs | What’s Cooking


Take your relationship with pizza to the next level and try this herby, cheesy, thin-crust flatbread. In this version—popular at our Nordstrom Bistro and Bazille locations—roasted garlic oil gets topped with four different cheeses, which blanket smoky grilled green onions and roasted mushrooms tossed in parsley, rosemary and thyme. It’s fun enough to make together as a meal with the family, and sophisticated enough to hold its own as an hors d’oeuvre at a cocktail party.

I’ve been looking for a delicious homemade pizza dough recipe, and this one fits the bill. Something else I love, our recipe calls for par-baking the rolled-out dough. This step firms it up enough to make transferring the assembled flatbread onto a pizza stone a lot less hazardous to the stability of your in-the-kitchen mental health. Or maybe I’m the only one who has shimmied a limp homemade pizza dough and all its beautifully arranged toppings off my peel and right onto the open oven door. Grilling the green onions may seem like an unnecessary addition, but it really does give them (and the flatbread pizza) a great flavor that makes getting out a grill pan worth it.




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Food & Drink

Prime Rib French Dip Sandwich Recipe with Au Jus | What’s Cooking

Prime rip french dip sandwich with au ju recip from Nordstrom.

Our recipe for Prime Rib with Rosemary and Garlic is one of the most popular recipes we’ve shared. In case you find yourself with leftovers, try making one of our delicious Prime Rib French Dip Sandwiches (as served at our Nordstrom Grills).

We spread an herb-and-garlic butter on a sliced baguette before finishing with a generous portion of juicy prime rib and melting sharp cheddar cheese. Served alongside, our au jus recipe browns trimmings from prepping the rib roast with some fresh herbs and our Simple Roasted Garlic for depth of flavor. It’s all scrumptious, satisfying and probably one of the best ways to use up any leftovers of that perfectly cooked prime rib you had at your holiday table.


Food & Drink

Nordstrom Tomato Basil Soup Recipe with Parmesan-Garlic Crostini | What’s Cooking

Nordstrom Tomato Basil Soup Recipe. Photo by Jeff Powell.

Nordstrom Tomato Basil Soup: it’s our most asked-for recipe and our most-ordered dish. Of course, you’re always welcome to stop in at one of our restaurants for a warm bowl, but this soup is super easy to make at home. It takes under an hour, mostly unattended.

What’s our secret? High-quality ingredients (like Italian-style San Marzano tomatoes), a handful of carrots for sweetness, some heavy cream for a velvety texture and both dried and fresh basil for added complexity. Place one of our Parmesan-Garlic Crostini on the side (both recipes included after the jump), and you’ve got a homey-but-elegant lunch or first course. For an alternative garnish, try our recipe for Focaccia Bread with Olive Oil and Rosemary.

Tomatoes and basil for soup recipe.


Food & Drink

Niçoise Salad Recipe with Baked Herb-Crusted Salmon and Tuscan Roast Potatoes | What’s Cooking

Baked salmon salad recipe with herbs and roast potatoes from Nordstrom. Photo by Jeff Powell.

This salad! Unlike a classic Niçoise, our version swaps out bland-by-comparison canned tuna for succulent salmon fillets baked under a blanket of Dijon mustard and fresh herbs. Instead of basic boiled potatoes, our chefs coat baby Yukon Golds in garlicky olive oil and more minced herbs, then roast them until golden brown (a recipe to keep on hand as a side dish in other menus). To finish, crisp-tender haricot verts, ripe grape tomatoes, Kalamata olives and mixed baby greens all get dressed in a richly flavored Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette with quarters of perfectly hard-boiled egg crowning the plate.

Yes, there’s a good number of components here, but they all add up to one big, bold and delicious main-course salad. You won’t need (or want) anything else.

Baked salmon salad recipe with herbs and roast potatoes from Nordstrom. Photo by Jeff Powell.


Food & Drink

Chicken Paillard Pasta Recipe with Garlic Tomato and White Wine-Butter Sauces | What’s Cooking

Sauteed chicken dinner recipe covered with an easy Italian tomato and flavorful white wine-butter sauce atop angel hair pasta. Nordstrom Recipe, photo by Jeff Powell.

Two delicious sauces form an unlikely duo in this dish that straddles the border between Italy and France. On the Italian side, a classic combo of tomatoes, basil and lots of garlic is simmered briefly to create a rustically chunky sauce that couldn’t be easier. It’s my new go-to for a quick pasta sauce that doesn’t cook out the fresh flavors of good-quality tomatoes. Representing France, shallots and thyme bathe in a super reduction of dry white wine. After straining, butter (enough to make Julia Child proud) gets whisked in to form an emulsified beurre blanc sauce that’s amped up with rosemary and our Roasted Garlic.

Chicken paillard—a ye-olde chef-y term for meat that is pounded thin—is tender and cooks in no time. To finish, the breasts get smothered in the tomato sauce with oyster mushrooms and spinach, and it’s all served on top of warm angel-hair pasta with the velvety white wine–butter sauce spooned at the side. Flavor-layered, completely satisfying and easy enough for a weeknight, there is nothing about this dish that disappoints.

Easy Italian tomato sauce with garlic, tomatoes and basil. Photo by Jeff Powell.

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