Nom de Course: A Northern twist to Southern-style dishes for Woodbine’s Derby Day Party

April 13, 2018

In this month’s edition of Nom de Course, Chef de Cuisine Michael Mortensen discusses the menu for Woodbine’s first social event of the season, the Derby Day Party, set for Saturday, May 5 in the Trackside Tent.

TORONTO, April 13, 2018 – When we started on the idea to revive the Kentucky Derby with its complex flavours and smoke, we wanted to create the best food experience for our newest and trendiest customers, and with true excitement, offer them our ultimate experience in Southern food and hospitality.

We have created a fun and delicious Kentucky food day. There are plenty of down-home dishes with roots straight from Kentucky, cooked and served right here by some of Toronto’s best chefs, including Shrimp and Grits Biscuits and a variety of Benedictine Sandwiches such as Egg Mimosa Pyramids with fresh asparagus, Pecan Chicken Squares with radish and sweet potato aioli, and Vegetarian Triangles with beet, carrot and broccoli tapenade.

Adding a Northern twist, the menu is created with our locally raised and sourced meats and vegetables and is paired with the Northern Border Collection spirits from Corby Spirit and Wine, which will be offering samples of their Canadian whiskies at the party.

You can learn more about these delicious dishes by watching the video below.

(Photos by Joseph Cantin/Woodbine)

Some of the inspiration for this menu comes from my visit to Kentucky a couple of years ago for the Taste of the Breeders’ Cup. The restaurants I enjoyed the most were the ones where they had taken the old traditions of Kentucky cooking and added to them. I like the authentic smoky flavours of Kentucky. The smoking of meats is a great way of getting flavours out of ingredients. It’s not a complicated process, it’s something that just takes time.

I also like the dishes from down there because a lot of them feature the foods that grow there, including corn, which is one of my favourite vegetables, as well as sweet potatoes and okra. Some would argue that corn is not a vegetable, but a grain. All that I know is that I can eat it three times a day, when in season. From grilled Southwestern corn on the cob to sweet corn salsa, these little morsels of yellow or white goodness taste delicious – no matter how you prepare them!

One of the more complex dishes on the Derby Day Party menu is the Miss Mandy’s Smoke Pit Beef Roll, a hot appetizer featuring Ontario-raised prime cut beef brisket with a barbecue glaze adorned with a spicy corn and bean salsa. We’ve infused the meat with the Northern Border Collection’s Gooderman & Worts whisky, which adds hints of sweet floral and stone fruit to the palate to complement the traditional Southern smoky and spicy flavours associated with beef brisket. If you’re throwing your own Derby Day Party at home, try our Miss Mandy’s Smoke Pit Beef Roll recipe yourself below, complete with tips on smoking brisket.

Check out a preview of the full menu and join us for Woodbine’s Derby Day Party to try all of these delicious dishes on May 5. To purchase Derby Day Party tickets, visit For more information on VIP ticket packages, contact Woodbine Entertainment at


Our Miss Mandy’s Smoke Pit Beef Roll recipe, which serves 12 hungry people, requires 1 whole piece of small Ontario beef brisket, approximately 6-7 lbs.

Ingredients for the rub

1/3 cup smoked sweet Spanish paprika

1/3 cup brown sugar – or cane syrup

1/4 cup sea salt

1-3/4 tablespoon cayenne

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon toasted and ground cumin seeds

1 tablespoon chili powder

Ingredients for the basting spray juice

1/2 liter apple juice

1/8 liter bourbon or other whisky – we are using the best, Gooderman & Worts

1 spray bottle

Two days in advance…

Buy whole beef brisket. Clean and trim extra fat so there is about half an inch all around.

Rub two tablespoons of vegetable oil onto brisket – this will make the rub stick better to brisket.

Add spice rub and coat all sides of brisket, making sure all rub is used up with a solid layer.

Place brisket into a large plastic freezer bag with zip lock so juices don’t run out then place bag with meat into a bowl in the fridge. Store in the fridge for a minimum of 24 hours (36 hours is best).

Party day – time to smoke and cook!

We like to smoke and cook our brisket at 225-250°F in a meat smoker. It normally takes one hour per pound. We are using cherry wood for smoking. The wood chunks are placed into the heat chamber and when exposed to the heat it starts to smoke. Hickory, oak or cherry wood chips or chunks work well with beef brisket – don’t use mesquite as the smoke is too strong for six hours of smoking. Don’t use too much wood – four chunks should do the job.

Smoking brisket

The key to smoking brisket is to keep the temperature steady; use a meat thermometer consistently, approximately every 30 minutes, to make sure the meat is keeping temperature and continues to cook while smoking.

Mix up the basting juice into a spray bottle and spray it on the brisket. This helps the rub from falling off – just spray enough to keep the rub moist. Spray the brisket every 15-20 minutes – this will keep you busy, but is worth the attention as it will caramelize the brisket and deliver a shiny delicious look that you want when carving and serving the brisket. Do not spray the last hour, as you will need to make the brisket turn slightly crispy.

Use your thermometer to tell when the brisket is ready, when the internal temperature reads 175°F.

It will continue cooking while resting. You could bring it all the way up to 185°F, but it will make the meat very tender and hard to cut. Regardless, let the brisket rest for at least 30 minutes minimum. You can let it rest for much longer.

Wrap it in double foil and drop it into a cooler. The smaller the cooler, the better as this will keep the brisket hot for several hours.

Ready to serve

To cut the brisket, separate the point part from the flat and always cut the brisket against the grain. Place onto platter, serve with basting juice, our signature corn and bean salsa (recipe also provided below), grain mustard and fresh baked corn bread.


The recipe for our spicy corn and bean salsa serves 12 people.

Ingredients for salsa

20 oz cooked and drained black beans

5 oz red onion

10 oz fresh or thawed corn kernels

10 oz diced tomato

2 finely chopped garlic cloves

6 oz canola oil

2 oz red wine vinegar

1 oz ground cumin

1 lime – juice only

Sea salt to taste

Black pepper to taste

1/8 can chipotle in adobo

1/4 bunch chopped cilantro

1/2 bunch scallion


Soak beans for 24 hours in cold water.

Boil black beans in salted water until tender then drain.

Meanwhile, clean, chop and dice all vegetables.

Make the dressing by mixing vinegar, lime juice, canola oil, sea salt, pepper, garlic and cumin then set aside.

Once beans are cool, add the dressing to beans.

Add the remaining ingredients, toss and serve or refrigerate until ready to serve. This salad will be good for a couple of days. If you want to prepare in advance of serving, make the complete salsa, but don’t add any of the green vegetables or herb into salsa until you are ready to serve it – this will keep it looking fresh and delicious!

Nom de Course is our blog that shares a taste of Woodbine Entertainment’s food and beverage offerings with commentary from our internationally-trained chefs on their culinary experiences, menu development, cooking tips, demonstrations, recipes and more.

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