Once again, it’s Kentucky Derby time. Around here, locals like to tell Derby guests that Louisvillians love Benedictine. They are lying. Benedictine is boring, and often unpleasantly and artificially green. Yet somehow, it sits as a fixture of virtually every Derby buffet.
In her Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, Fannie Farmer, who trained eponymous Benedictine inventor Jennie C. Benedict, offered several “cream cheese salads” that seem more interesting. Her student, Benedict, who brought the cucumber-flavored cream cheese spread to the world, on the other hand never bothered to put a recipe for it in several revisions of her famous Blue Ribbon Cook Book. Some assume the omission was an effort to keep the recipe secret. Gourmandistanis believe she thought the dish too simple and dull to describe. However, desperate for Derby-themed content (having already blogged our way through beef tenderloin and trademark-infringing dessert), we decided to try to liven the old girl up a bit.
After going to the grocery for an out-of-season cucumber (another reason we feel Benedictine should not be featured at Derby), we started with the spread itself. Most recipes call for cream cheese, cucumber, a little onion and, horrifyingly, green food coloring. We opted for fresh green garlic and green onion from our local market, with a bit of spring spinach for color. (Thanks to Charles Patteson’s Kentucky Cooking for the spinach tip!)
Louisvillians have made bacon Benedictine sandwiches for years (the need to add salt and fat = another indication that Benedictine is a dull dish). We sprinkled some crumbled crisp bacon over some of ours, and it definitely helped. But we still thought we could do better. We branched out with smoked salmon and dill, scallion and chervil, blanched asparagus spears, radish and microgreens, cucumber slices and chives and more variations. Every iteration improved Benedictine tea sandwiches a bit. But, while certainly prettier than the original, they were still pretty dull.
Are we traitors to our Louisville-area upbringing for bashing Benedictine? Probably, but that’s a small sin compared to our continuing disdain for attending the Derby. Truth is, people, going to the track isn’t that much fun these days (if it ever was). Also, that hat really doesn’t look good on you.
- 1 large cucumber, peeled and seeded
- 2 green onions, white and green parts, roughly chopped
- 1 green garlic, white part, roughly chopped
- 2 8-oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature
- 2-3 TB mayonnaise
- 4-6 large spinach leaves, stems removed, roughly chopped
Grate cucumber with a box grater. Place in a sieve over a bowl and let drain. Squeeze out excess moisture.
Place green onions and green garlic in a food processor. Process until finely chopped. Add cucumber and spinach. Process again. Add cream cheese, mayonnaise and salt. Process until smooth.
Refrigerate, covered, until needed.
Love your comment about the trade mark infringement. I got my post of that dessert pulled by the WordPress people. Kind of strikes me as silly. As if everyone in the world doesn’t already know about derby pie. As if they don’t already have their own recipe version…
Oh dear. The Kern’s folks are deadly serious. Too bad their pie isn’t very good. (That’s my opinion. Opinion is an absolute defense to a libel case. I know because I’m a lawyer. :))
I have never tried the “real” thing. I can’t imagine that it could be any better than what I make at home. It seems like a knock off recipe would be flattery. Especially since the pies aren’t readily available in some far away place like… Nebraska?
Thanks for sharing.
I love Benedictine! Seriously. But then I love cucumber sandwiches. And I love your reference to the trademark infringing dessert. 🙂 The way to nicely and honestly give a hat opinion was overheard by Marty at a wedding we attended. “You know, not everyone can wear a hat like that”.
Tell Marty I will definitely keep that comment in mind, Julie!
Finally. Someone else who doesn’t like mint juleps! Interesting about Benedictine! I’ve never heard of it!
Disgusting. Of course, easy for me to say since I loathe bourbon. But if one liked the stuff, adding mint and sugar water to it would surely ruin it.
I don’t even like the the smell of brown booze. I actually tasted scotch in Scotland! Blech.
Ah, drinking mint juleps once a year is tradition! especially with fresh mint from our friend’s garden and the syrup he makes with it. And then we drink bourbon with branch water until next Derby! 🙂
Ah, Julie. You’re a real Kentuckian!
But you seem like a bit of a foodie…are you saying you wouldn’t be tempted by that cheese hat?! Great photos by the way!
Thanks so much! Maybe someday I’ll find the perfect hat. And, then, perhaps I’ll go to the Derby again. But not until they lift the ban on “cameras with detachable lenses.” Bad enough when they banned coolers full of good food (the only thing that made going bearable). But this one is a step too far…
Your spread looks great, but, hopefully without being offensive ( fat chance) I have to say that Louisville Benedictine looks like a recipe from the back of a Philadelphia packet:)
C’est vrai, Roger!
Wow those look so pretty, creamy and yummy!
Thanks, Raymund. It’s not Kentucky’s finest hour. But it’s a tradition (hopefully improved).
Well, this just goes to show you how little I know. I’d never heard of Benedictine sandwich spread. I kept trying to make sense of your first paragraph, and the universal loathing for Benedictine, traditionally associated with the Kentucky Derby. “Isn’t the traditional Derby drink a Mint Julep?” I thought. I’d certainly be unhappy if I had to watch horse racing while swilling Benedictine liqueur. Must be one of those horrifying regional traditions. Then I find out that it is one of those horrifying regional traditions, just not the one I was envisioning. I’d gladly come to one of your Derby soirées, especially if I were handed a Mint Julep and stood in reach of your delightful canapes. “They’re lying.” Ha! Oh, and the Derby Pie trademark seems absurd on the face of it. That’s like trying to copyright “Boston Bakes Beans.” Very good post. Ken
There’s a good reason nobody’s heard of it. It’s not very good. Glad we entertained though! Actually, I’d just as soon drink Benedictine as a Mint Julep. Both equally gross. But, if you ever decide to come to the Derby, we’ll be delighted to cook for you!
Gorgeous photos! I like your ingredient list… I love cucumbers so I may just have to give this a try once we have cucumbers in abundance from the garden! 🙂 Hope you are doing well.
Thanks so much, Andrea. It is a tradition and, goodness knows, would be much better with a home grown cucumber. We’re doing well, as I hope you all are too!
I got pinged for my post on Dann Byck and the trademark-infringing dessert. Had a nice chat with the president of the company (whose grandparents invented the thing), who called me personally to express that his feelings were hurt. Good southern gentleman. I like the Julep, BTW.
Do I dare say it? Oh, how can I resist? I told you so! Glad that he was a gentleman, though. We must uphold the Kentucky tradition. Even as we are threatening lawsuits.
You did!! But I didn’t believe. They must have a legal intern sitting around all day googling The-Confection-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named.
At first I thought you were referring to the liquor!
It sounds a little bland, but your canapés look beautiful! Did you try adding ramps to amp it up? (and forgive the little rhyme!)
Oh, Daisy, if only we still had ramps. That would be perfect. And might further help the otherwise dull dish.
I’ll stick to Jack Daniels, but I love your canapés 😉
Louisville’s Brown-Forman Corporation thanks you for that!
Ok…just found your guest post over at “katieatthekitchendoor” and I’m so glad!
Thank you so much. And, welcome!
I haven’t heard of Benedictine either. Or hadn’t, before this post. Bleurgh. How much leeway do you have on the ingredients? And why do they make you blend the cucumber with the spread? One of the best things about cucumber is its crunch! Still. Beautiful canapes. And, as they say, in the UK, good effort.
Ha! I think “good effort” is sort of the British equivalent of the Southern “bless her heart.” And yes some people do keep cucumber chunks. Either way, still insipid.
You certainly did make something you don’t like look pretty. 🙂
🙂 Thanks, Karen.
Mint Juleps & fanciful finger rounds, delicious! I think the Mlebourne cup would be our equivalent here in Austrlaia. either way, both look equally great and very luncheon worthy too!
Apologies for my most dreadful spelling there, auto correct or not!
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While tweaking the recipe, why not try adding a fresh herb like dill, parsley, mint or basil? Ground coriander might be nice, too.
Anything would help. 😉
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