Need dinner menu ideas for a "Kentucky" dinner


Joined Aug 24, 2009
So this is going to be funny (and long winded)...

I need to plan a dinner for a retired couple visiting from Kentucky. I'm in Seattle (-ish). I'm from Kentucky. I don't know them. They aren't really from Kentucky. They're from Seattle really. See the funny?

I have followed this site since about '08 or '09 I think, but never really posted. Boar-de-Laze is a personal hero of mine, as well as Teddy Roosevelt Jr., Charlotte Corday, John Paul Vann, and Don DeLillo. But back on topic, now I have an issue I can't search here for an answer or google my way out of, and I can't think of another place more perfect to ask.

The step-kids and I are visiting my parents for the weekend (Gig Harbor, WA, an hour from our home in Snoqualmie, WA). My wife stayed home to do some work and study for some work related things. She told me unexpectedly an hour ago, that for Sunday dinner we need to host a couple visiting from Kentucky. The wife of the couple was my step-kids (8, 13) nanny and much beloved by them for many years. Her and her husband retired and moved to KY about when my wife and I got together four years ago, and I never met the Nanny and her husband. They retired from life in the PNW and for some reason I don't quite know or can even remotely fathom, went to retire and live in Amish country in KY (rural western KY). So they are only "from there" for four years in retirement age. They are still probably wrestling with trying to find where to get passable sashimi in Paducah for all I know. Maybe also convince the Amish to introduce a $15/hour minimum wage, get rural KY to "feel the Bern." You can take the people out of Seattle, but...

I, OTOH, grew up around Louisville and my family is all from KY and TN originally and back a while. I love cooking, watched my b.1913 grandmother make every meal on the stove and can lay down a c. 1880 thanksgiving Southern feast from childhood memory, modern study, and serious practice; I can put the same meal on the table at Thanksgiving she said her mom did in 1920, who learned it from hers. I love cooking and don't really do "Southern" all the time, but I grew up with it and can. I even met Colonel Sanders once a long time ago (true story). Anyway...

So I was thinking of things that are very "home" I like and don't do often, and would want to share (fried chicken I can do well but it's too trite):

a) Kentucky Hot Brown en brioche w/fresh tomatoes, this time of year is perfect for this
b) sweet potatoe casserole
c) Southern green beans (bacon fat, heavy pepper, and honey. Yum.)
d) cornbread. Or turn it into real Southern cornbread dressing but that's too holiday?

I think it's a crappy menu as it's all discordant. The SP casserole everyone loves, but doesn't work at all w/ the Hot Brown I think. The green beans go with everything, except maybe a Hot Brown? So does cornbread, but that's a disaster with a starchy main like the hot Brown. Maybe I should give up on the HB and find another main dish?

I really want to do the Hot Brown as the entree as a) I never have done it at home, b) my cousin used to be the head bartender long ago at the Brown Hotel, so that's a link, c) they've probably never had it so would be amusing to all of us. I'd like to build a dinner around that entree. I can whip up a croque monsieur easily so staging separate Hot Brown plates for 6 is no harder. I will roast a turkey breast ahead for the meat. But I'm not wedded to it if someone can sell me a better entree that works with other sides.

So I guess I want you all to tell me how to round out a Sunday dinner if that's the main, and stay on theme. It's been summer and I've been slacking off on cooking and this is a good opportunity to get back to my groove.

Some other traditional KY foods you all might mention and my thoughts:

Burgoo: Never heard of that until a few years ago. We did Brunswick stew a little spicy, which I guess is really the same. But not a dinner item for guests IMO. I grew up there and no one I know ever called it "burgoo," so we have no clue if this is a trendy new name or what? I make Brunswick stew at home once a month or so and we love it. Sometimes even with rabbit, we have some Russian friends who raise their own rabbits as well as keep bees, quails and their eggs, etc. Awesome to have friends like that!

Grits: Love 'em. Not a dinner thing, though.

Derby Pie: Love it. But I hate pastry making and don't have much of a sweet tooth and want to invest the time.

Fried Fish and Hushpuppies: Jeez I love 'em and miss the KingFish restaurant, but I don't want to get out my deep fryer from storage; it leads to weight gain. ;)

So I said this was going to be long-winded, right? ;)
Joined Apr 3, 2008
Welcome! I am not at all familiar with food from Kentucky so I look forward to this thread to learn a few things. Everything sounds delicious. BDL was one of my faves too though I don't recognize anyone else on your list. There are some awesome cooks around the forum these days so you are in good hands.

I have an alternative opinion on your theme though. Whenever I visit a place there is always someone inevitably that wants to feed me something from where I live. I live in nyc but I'm visiting family in Greece at the moment, and there's always someone around trying to feed me a hamburger. I'm not here for burgers. I eat plenty of very good burgers in USA. In Greece I want to eat greek stuff, because I grew up here as a kid and I'm longing for the flavors of my youth. Besides, the burgers here aren't very good at all! Like they would rank 357th in the world probably and that's not good. My point is that I find the gesture nice, but rarely will you find people going to visit a place just to eat the food from where they are currently living. They're from Seattlle, they probably miss the food from Seattle. Make it about them and what they would want.


Joined Aug 24, 2009
"They're from Seattle, they probably miss the food from Seattle. Make it about them and what they would want.They're from Seattle, they probably miss the food from Seattle. Make it about them and what they would want."

Very good comment, and one in most situations I would endorse. BUT, I think you missed the point. This is in fact about them, not me. They aren't really from KY and feeding them traditional food is not the same as being foisted a hamburger as an American when abroad. They are in Seattle for a while and can do whatever they want food-wise at other times. They didn't come across the country for just this dinner. It's actually a very energetic reverse way of "welcoming" them. I think you missed the message on that or I did not paint it explicitly enough.

As to my other hero's besides BDL, check them out. You might find it interesting. Hint: they are not CT members (and they are all dead except Don DeLillo).
Joined Apr 3, 2008
Of course you're free to cook what you like. I didn't miss the point, I'm just making a different point. I'm not from NY either, but I live there now and have access to the best of what NY has to offer. I don't expect to find the best of NYC in any place other than NYC. But I'm sure you'll guests will enjoy whatever you serve them.
Joined Jun 23, 2015
Burgoo is an adaptation of Brunswick stew. It is made with beef, mutton, and squirrel. Traditionally served on derby day. Kentucky has two types of cuisine, Plantation in western KY and Appalachian in the east. You mentioned fried chicken, one of the best meals I've had in the area was fried quail, biscuits, and brown gravy. Some more thoughts: greens, field peas, beans of any sort, tomatoes ripe or fried green, cobblers (peaches are in season), potatoes, squash, and anything in season as long as it is cooked with sidemeat. Have fun.


Staff member
Joined Oct 7, 2001
I agree with your gut feeling that you should drop the Hot Brown, if you want to keep the rest of your menu. What about doing ham? Kentucky is known for its awesome country hams. At this point, pulling off a country ham might be tough (let along finding some in Seattle) but you could still do pan fried ham with Red Eye Gravy. And I see no mention of Bourbon anywhere in your post. I am a huge Bourbon fan, so any time someone mentions Kentucky my first thoughts always go to Bourbon. Heading along those lines of thinking, how about Bourbon-Mustard marinated Pork Chops done on the grill? It's not necessary "traditional" but I think fits the bill and goes well with all your sides.
Joined Feb 17, 2010
I'm your neighbor further south down the coast. When friends visit, they want local salmon, oysters and steamers. If my family was visiting from Texas, but aren't from Texas, I wouldn't feed them BBQ and chicken fried steak.
Joined Nov 5, 2007
That's what you'll feed ME! Just don't try to feed me bagels.

What? You don't like bagels? According to the Map my Walk app on my phone it is just over 500 feet from my door to the front door of The Bagel Project. They make good bagels.

Joined Apr 3, 2008
What? You don't like bagels? According to the Map my Walk app on my phone it is just over 500 feet from my door to the front door of The Bagel Project. They make good bagels.

The only place I would eat bagels outside of NYC is Montreal
Joined Aug 15, 2003
Dude asks a question about Kentucky food and the thread turns into BagelFest2017. Lol, only on ChefTalk.

My approach would be to take some classic kind of southern/Kentucky food and update it with modern twist. I know, I know, sounds trite. The idea upthread of, say, Southern Fried Quail instead of chicken is a good idea. It might even work as an appetizer. So you get the IDEA of fried chicken, and get to kind of wink at it, but serve it in a "new" way.

Chicken Fried quail
johnny cakes, bourbon-pepper honey, lemon

Mint Julep? Frog's legs? Bourbon? Spoon bread? Cornbread? Barbecue?
Joined Jan 4, 2011
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