Thursday, April 30, 2009

Arch Tucker and the Kentucky Derby

My late husband, Arch Tucker, was a lover of horse racing. On Derby Day, Arch was up early, ready to spend the day glued to the television for every bit of coverage he could find. He’d turn on theTV in the kitchen first, put on his pot of coffee (if you are wondering where his wife was at this point. On Derby Day the kitchen was his!) then he would start getting organized.

Mint Juleps were one of Arch’s favorites He would make the simple syrup with the mint leaves and put it in the refrigerator for later. He set up the bar with everything he needed, including fresh mint from my garden.
Brunch was next on his list…..Egg Foo Yong! What that had to do with the Kentucky Derby I will never know…but then a lot of things about my Colonel (not Kentucky’s) confused me! He had this strange tradition, Egg Foo Yong. It started years ago before he retired from the Air Force, and I was not about to question it, I just stayed out of the kitchen!
His recipe is simple….

Arch Tucker’s EGG FOO YONG

1/2 c. Chinese cabbage
1/4 c. chopped onion
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. beef bouillon
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. bean sprouts, drained & rinsed
1/4 c. chopped green pepper
1 tbsp. cooking oil
1 tsp. sugar
1 c. cold water
3 eggs
1/2 cup diced fully cooked ham
1/8 tsp. pepper
Cooking oil for frying

In a 10 inch skillet cook finely chopped cabbage, onion and green pepper in 1 tablespoon hot cooking oil for 2 minutes; remove from heat and cool.
In a small saucepan combine cornstarch, beef bouillon and sugar. Stir in water and soy sauce. Cook and stir 1-2 minutes. Keep sauce warm.
In a mixing bowl, beat together eggs, salt and pepper, add diced ham. Stir in the cooled cooked vegetables and the bean sprouts.
In the same skillet heat about 2 tablespoons cooking oil. Using 1/4 cup of the mixture for each patty, fry patties in hot oil about 1 minute per side or until golden. (Spread the mixture to cover egg as egg spreads slightly while cooking.) Keep warm. Repeat until all the mixture is used, stirring mixture in bowl each time before frying. Add more oil as needed. Serve with warm sauce. Makes 2 servings.

I suppose I should mention he was not drinking a Mint Julep with his Chinese brunch….that was for later. With his Egg Foo Yong he drank a Bloody Mary and Coffee. What a guy!
After brunch, he moved to the La-z-boy and got comfortable. Thank goodness some man invented the remote control! Arch tried to catch every bit of coverage coming from Churchill Downs. That meant Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC, all of the ESPN stations and the weather channel! He would watch races all day long. The main event normally starts around 5:00pm, but there are races, both live and recorded, for hours preceding the actual Derby. God, he loved it!
Arch did know not to start on the bourbon until the cocktail hour, but an occasional beer was consumed during the earlier races. Lunch was not necessary, the egg stuff kept him going until dinner time.

Arch's Mint Julep
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
Sprigs of fresh mint
Crushed ice
Kentucky BourbonWhisky

Make a simple syrup by boiling sugar and water together for five minutes. Cool and place in a covered container with six or eight sprigs of fresh mint, then refrigerate overnight. Make one julep at a time by filling a julep cup with crushed ice, adding one tablespoon mint syrup and two ounces of Kentucky BourbonWhisky. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

Ahhh, dinner….right after the race it was time for Fried Chicken! Arch loved his fried chicken, and I do mean HIS. Once again, this was a Do Not Enter time in the Tucker Kitchen.
Do you know what “just a couple of tablespoons of flour” can do to a stove top and dark blue counter tops? When Arch fried chicken, my countertops were “baby blue”! And very greasy!

I miss Arch everyday, but there are certain days that it is really obvious he is gone. Right up there with our anniversary, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Thanksgiving. is Derby Day. So, on Saturday, I’ll make a Mint Julep and I'll toast Arch and the 2009 Derby winner while sitting in front of the TV in the La-z-boy. Hold the Egg Foo Yong.

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