The Kentucky Derby, the most talked about horse race of the year, is this Saturday. I like to use it as an excuse to gather friends for a little party. The race starts at 6 p.m. on the East coast and 3 p.m. on the West coast. The ideal time to throw a party is before the race; have guests come at 4 p.m. (East coast) or 1 p.m. (West coast) and serve a spread of upscale Southern-inspired appetizers. Blackened shrimp with roasted garlic aioli will have your guests licking their fingers and hungry for more. Deviled eggs go glam with the addition of tangy goat cheese and chunky chutney.

Crunchy fried green tomatoes add an element of necessary fried goodness to the menu. Mini grilled cheese and ham sandwiches are a crowd-pleasing classic. If you're hosting a Kentucky Derby shindig, I highly recommend you check out these recipes after the break.

Blackened Shrimp With Roasted Garlic Aioli

Blackened Shrimp With Roasted Garlic Aioli

Blackened Shrimp With Roasted Garlic Aioli Recipe

Ingredients

1 head garlic
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or chipotle chile powder
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined, with tails left on

Directions

  1. Set a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400°. Slice off the top of the garlic head. Brush the cut side with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Wrap in foil and bake until tender, 40 minutes. Let cool.
  2. Squeeze the garlic cloves from their skins into a food processor. Add the mayonnaise and vinegar; puree. Transfer the aioli to a bowl and refrigerate.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the paprika, onion powder, oregano, cayenne and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the melted butter. Transfer to a bowl and add the shrimp to coat.
  4. Brush a grill pan with the remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil and preheat over high heat. Add the shrimp and cook, turning once, until the spices are blackened, 2 to 4 minutes. Serve with the aioli dip.

Serves 8.

Goat Cheese Stuffed Eggs

Goat Cheese Stuffed Eggs

Goat Cheese Stuffed Deviled Egg Recipe

Ingredients

6 large eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
3 tablespoons goat cheese
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chutney
2 tablespoons finely chopped pecans
2 tablespoons finely chopped celery
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped parsley leaves, optional
Additional goat cheese and pecans, optional

Directions

  1. Halve eggs lengthwise. Remove yolks and place in a small bowl.
  2. Mash yolks with fork and stir in goat cheese, mayonnaise, chutney, pecans and celery. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Fill egg whites evenly with yolk mixture. Garnish with parsley, goat cheese and pecans, if desired.

Serves 12.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes Recipe

Ingredients

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
4 large green tomatoes (like beefsteak, big boy, or celebrity), sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Remoulade
1 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons scallions, thinly sliced (about 1 scallion)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon dried mustard (like Coleman’s)
1 teaspoon hot sauce (like Tabasco), or to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. In a medium shallow bowl, mix cornmeal, flour, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Fill a small shallow bowl with buttermilk. Place the bowls next to each other and next to the stove.
  2. Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat. The oil should be hot but not smoking.
  3. Dip the tomatoes in the buttermilk and then dredge in the cornmeal mixture. Fry the tomatoes, in batches if necessary, until the crust is golden brown and crunchy, about 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels. Transfer the tomatoes to a serving plate and dollop some with remoulade or pass the remoulade alongside.

Serves 4-6.

Remoulade

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Transfer to a serving bowl. Extra remoulade can be saved in the refrigerator in an air tight container for up to one week.

Grilled Ham-and-Cheese Sandwiches

Grilled Ham-and-Cheese Sandwiches

Grilled Ham-and-Cheese Sandwich Recipe

Ingredients

4 slices bread, buttered
4 slices ham
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese

Directions

  1. Butter 4 slices of bread; place 2 slices, buttered side down, on a work surface. Top each with 2 slices ham and 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese.
  2. Top with 2 slices bread, buttered side up. Cook in a skillet over medium until sandwiches are lightly toasted on both sides and cheese melts, 5 minutes.

Serves 2.