Kentucky cuisine consists of many of the familiar Southern foods and dishes, but also boasts several unique regional dishes. From the traditional Derby fare of Louisville and fine Kentucky Bourbon to the mutton barbecue unique to Owensboro and the sustenance cooking in the Appalachian mountain region, Kentucky offers a rich and diverse array indeed.
Burgoo is a thick meat and vegetable stew which has long been standard fare at Kentucky political rallies and events. Some say the word comes from the mispronunciation of the word "barbecue" which it's often served with. Others say it's a misspelling or mispronunciation of "burgout," which is close to the French "ragout." Whatever its origin, it's one of the most popular dishes in the state. Very similar to a Brunswick Stew, it's usually made in huge quantities and can contain a variety of meats, and often includes wild game.
Several noteworthy Kentucky dishes come from Louisville. Benedictine (recipe below), a sandwich spread made with mayonnaise, cream cheese, and cucumber, and colored with green food coloring, parsley, or spinach was first created by a Louisville caterer. The Hot Brown sandwich (recipe below) was a specialty of The Brown Hotel of Louisville and dates back to the 1920s. Derby Pie™, a trademark dessert of Louisville's Kerns Bakery, is sinfully rich and delicious, filled with chocolate chips and pecans. The pie has long been a tradition enjoyed on Kentucky Derby Day, the first Saturday in May.
The stack cake is a specialty of Appalachia which many credit to James Harrod, founder of Harrodsburg, Kentucky, home of the Beaumont Inn. According to legend, the stack cake served as a replacement for a fancy (and expensive) wedding cake for the early settlers of the mountains. Neighbors would bring in cake layers to donate to the bride's family, and the family would spread the apple filling on the layers as they arrived. The number of layers was seen as a measurement of the popularity of the bride.
An excerpt from "Southern Cooking," by John Egerton:
"No Southern state except Louisiana has a more vibrant and ongoing food history than the Bluegrass state; its cookbooks, famous cooks, distinctive dishes and culinary lore combine to make a rich heritage that Kentuckians proudly claim as their own."