It’s time to celebrate because David Burtka is here to show just how ‘Life Is A Party.’ He EXCLUSIVELY dishes on the philosophy behind his new book, while sharing some tasty treats for your Kentucky Derby/Cinco de Mayo bash.
With the Kentucky Derby taking place on May 4, one day before Cinco de Mayo, there’s a lot of partying being packed into one weekend. Thankfully, David Burtka – the actor, Broadway star and professional chef – knows exactly what to do: turn it all into one big bash! For those who want to throw their own party but don’t know the difference between a garlic press and a swizzle stick, there’s help. David published his first book, Life Is A Party: Deliciously Doable Recipes To Make Every Day A Celebration, but as he reveals while speaking EXCLUSIVELY with HollywoodLife.com, it’s more than just a cookbook. “It’s really about not taking life for granted,” says David, “and really celebrating each day to its fullest through parties and through daily dinners. Make every day be a celebration whether big or small. Using not much money or using a lot of money. It’s really about creating special, memorable moments.”
“I think, in this day and age of what we have and what’s going on in the planet, we all need to grab our loved ones and have a dose of togetherness,” David tells HollywoodLife.com. “Because there’s nothing like sharing a meal or having a party with the ones you love. There’s something very powerful to a party, you know? To get all your friends together and people you haven’t seen in a while. And being able to catch up, and putting your cell phone away, and just having a laugh and listening to some music, and being able to unwind and get away from the day to day of what’s making you upset or making you sad. It’s very important.”
“I don’t think we’re doing enough of it in the world. I think we all need to have an obligation right now, to throw a party. It’s no joke. I think it’s time. And this is a great book for everyone to do that,” David dishes. “I give you a hundred and some recipes. 300 party tips and there are 275 pictures into the glimpse of how Neil and I like to party. I’ll just find right here.”
Well, the weekend of May 4-5 is the perfect time to get together with friends to either cheer on some thoroughbred horses or to toast General Ignacio Zaragoza leading the Mexican Army to victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla. If that seems to be too much partying, do what David plans on doing: combining both bashes into one.
“This year, I think I’m going to do a Derby de Mayo party, which is really interesting,” he tells HollywoodLife.com. “You take the best of the Derby food, and you take the best of Mexican food, and you combine them, and have a good time. So instead of using guacamole, I’m going to use a pimento cheese dip and use taco chips instead of using tortilla chips. I think I’m going to make, instead of barbecue pork sliders, I’m going to make barbecue pork tacos.”
“And hot and brown enchiladas,” adds David. “Hot and brown enchiladas instead of your regular hot and brown on toast and sliced turkey and béchamel sauce and cheese. I think I’m going to do enchiladas that are stuffed with turkey, cheese, bacon, tomato, and then a béchamel sauce on top of it. And more cheese.”
Now, you can’t have a “Cinco de Derby” party without a cocktail, right? “I’m also going to do a mint julep margarita and replace the bourbon with tequila,” says David. “And I’m going to do a Kentucky Derby pie, a Mexican Kentucky Derby pie with pecans, Mexican chocolate, and pepitas.”
“When you hear Kentucky Derby, you think mint juleps, and Woodford Reserve is a fantastic bourbon to use. But if you’re going to do a tequila, I think it’s nice to have sort of a mint julep bar where either they can make a straight mint julep with different kinds of syrups, a mint syrup or vanilla syrup,” says David. “You could have grapefruit juice out there, and you could make your own drink, but if you want to do mint julep and tequila…you can make your own concoction.”
If your inspiration runs dry when creating your own drink, just take a look at one of the horses running in this year’s Derby. “Now, Omaha Beach,” says David. “I thought of Omaha Beach, and that’s sort of the favored horse to win. Now, that’s in Normandy, France, and there’s an actual drink called the Normandy made with peach schnapps.”
“There’s also a horse called Improbable. And I would make an Improbable mule, sort of a take on a Moscow Mule. So a Moscow Mule would be Vodka and ginger beer and lime. Or you could do a take on a Moscow mule as well and use bourbon, and a little bit of peach schnapps would be delicious as well.”
If your mouth isn’t watering after reading that, then you definitely need to pick up his brand new book, Life Is A Party: Deliciously Doable Recipes To Make Every Day A Celebration. The book, available wherever tasty literature is sold, contains hundreds of recipes, and David was kind enough to share two with HollywoodLife.com: corn cakes with bacon jam and barbecue pork sliders. Couple these with a mint julep or a chilled Paloma to have the perfect “Cinco de Derby!”
Barbecue Pork Sliders
Ingredients (Makes 16 Sliders):
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1/3 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 tablespoons granulated garlic
2 tablespoons dry mustard powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ancho chile powder
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (8-pound) boneless pork butt
4 to 6 cups barbecue sauce store-bought or homemade (recipe follows)
16 potato slider buns, lightly toasted
spice grinder or mortar and pestle
- In a small dry skillet, toast the cumin and coriander over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until fragrant, 21⁄2 to 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and transfer the spices to a small plate to cool, then finely grind them in a spice grinder or using a mortar and pestle.
- Transfer the ground toasted spices to a medium bowl and whisk in the brown sugar, paprika, granulated garlic, dry mustard powder, ancho chile powder, salt, and black pepper.
- Place the pork butt in a large bowl and rub half the spice blend over it, adding more as needed to evenly coat all sides and surfaces of the pork (save any unused spice blend in a jar or resealable plastic bag for another use). Wrap the pork butt in plastic wrap so it is completely sealed, return it to the bowl, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.
- When ready to cook the pork, preheat the oven to 250°F.
- Unwrap the pork butt (discard the plastic) and place it in a roasting pan. Let it come to room temperature for 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook until you can stick a fork in the meat and easily break off a chunk, about 8 hours. Remove the pan from the oven, remove and discard any large pieces of fat from the pork, and break the pork into 4 to 6 large chunks. Return the pan to the oven and cook until a fork easily shreds the meat, 2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours more.
- Remove the pan from the oven and shred the pork with two forks, letting the meat fall into the fat and juices in the pan.
- Place the roasting pan over a burner on the stovetop and turn the heat to medium-high. Cook the pork in the residual pork fat, stirring occasionally, until the meat is lightly crispy in spots, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, then stir in as little or as much barbecue sauce as you like.
- Divide the meat among the buns. Serve with any remaining barbecue sauce on the side.
Ingredients (makes 8 cups)
2 cups ketchup
2 cups lightly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup unsulfured molasses
1 cup canned tomato sauce
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup of your favorite hot sauce
2 tablespoons liquid smoke
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together the ketchup, sugar, vinegar, molasses, tomato sauce, tomato paste, hot sauce, liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, mustard, and ancho chile powder and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, stirring often, until the sauce is thick and glossy, about 15 minutes. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 month.
Corn Cakes with Bacon Jam
Ingredients (makes 20-24 small cakes and 2 cups Jam)
For the Bacon Jam:
1 pound bacon slices, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide pieces
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
For the Chive Sour Cream
1/2 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons sliced chives
For the Corn Cakes
2 cups fresh corn kernels (from 2 to 3 large ears of corn)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
- Make the bacon jam: Place the bacon in a large cast-iron skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the fat has completely rendered and the bacon is crispy and deeply golden brown, about 25 minutes. There should only be about 2 tablespoons of rendered fat in the pan at any time; as the bacon cooks, carefully spoon the excess fat into a glass jar or bowl and set it aside. You’ll use it later for frying. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a large paper towel–lined plate to drain. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan, if necessary, and return the pan to medium heat.
- Add the onion and a splash of water to the pan. Use the back of a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, then cook until the onion is completely tender and golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes, adding more water as needed if the onion sticks or starts to burn.
- Stir in the tomato paste, brown sugar, vinegar, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture (including the cooled bacon) to a food processor and pulse until thick and jammy, about 15 pulses. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl, taste, and season with salt. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature while you make the corn cakes. (If you’re making the jam in advance, store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 7 days.)
- Make the chive sour cream: In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream and 2 tablespoons of the chives; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
- Make the corn cakes: In a blender, combine 11⁄2 cups of the corn, the butter, and the egg yolks and blend until mostly smooth. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Form a well in the center, add the wet corn mixture, and stir until just combined.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites, remaining 1⁄2 cup corn, and remaining 2 tablespoons chives into the batter.
- In a large cast-iron skillet, heat 2 tablespoons the reserved bacon fat over medium-high heat. When the fat starts to shimmer, drop about 8 heaping tablespoons of the batter into the pan, 1 tablespoon at a time, leaving enough space between them to allow them to expand and for easy flipping. Cook until the edges begin to set and the bottoms are lightly browned, about 2 minutes, then flip and cook until the second side is lightly browned and the corn cake is cooked through, about 2 minutes more. Transfer the corn cakes to a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Cook the remaining batter, adding more bacon fat to the pan if needed. (Leftover bacon fat can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month). If needed, season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve the corn cakes hot or at room temperature, topped with the bacon jam and chive sour cream.
David Burtka’s Life Is A Party: Deliciously Doable Recipes To Make Every Day A Celebration is currently available. Bon appétit!