Thursday, May 5, 2011

Kentucky Hot Brown

A Kentucky classic from the Brown Hotel in Louisville, a Kentucky Hot Brown is an open-faced turkey sandwich, topped with a rich Mornay sauce and garnished with slices of fresh tomato and crisp bacon.

Kentucky Hot Brown

Ever had a Kentucky Hot Brown? Chances are if you've traveled to The Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky you probably have, and though I've certainly been to Louisville, I've never been to The Brown Hotel, so I hadn't! In honor of the Kentucky Derby this weekend, which frankly has been kinda lost in the shuffle of Cinco de Mayo menus and Mother's Day, I thought I'd get this posted to share what all of the hub bub is about, and so I went straight to the source to find out how.

A Kentucky Hot Brown is a sort of open-faced, hot turkey sandwich that comes with a history.  Don't you just love food with a story?

Invented at The Brown Hotel by Chef Fred Schmidt back in the 20s, it was intended for the late night dance crowd who apparently had grown tired of typical breakfast fare after a long night of dancing. Chef Schmidt decided to try serving a unique open-faced turkey sandwich that included bacon, and a delicate Mornay sauce, and the Hot Brown, was born!
The original sandwich uses thick Texas toast slices, with the crusts trimmed, and only calls for one slice per sandwich. I substituted regular sandwich bread, because that is what I had on hand, and while the online recipe doesn't mention it, a source who has eaten this dish tells me that it is apparently served with both a slice of toast on the bottom, plus two toast points that are wedged into the side. I suspect that they do those sides slices as it comes out of the broiler though, since I inserted them before and caught some burned edges. So you won't want to do that!

Since I never claim authenticity on any recipe that I make that is not from my own area, we'll just call this a Kentucky Hot Brown "My Way" since I made a few adaptations from the original.

For each Hot Brown you'll want to lightly toast two slices of bread, cut off the crusts and slice them diagonally. Place one slice in the bottom of an oven safe plate or bowl. I used my old 70s Mikasa bowls - aren't they loverly?!

Set the other toast aside to tuck in after broiling the dish. Top the bread slices with turkey.  The original sandwich uses thick slices of roasted turkey breast, but I substituted deli turkey breast since that is what I have on hand most of the time and I hadn't planned on roasting a turkey. When I made this I went ahead and tucked in the other slice of toast on the side, but I would suggest that you wait to add those when the dish comes out from under the broiler.

They use a Roma tomato at The Brown Hotel, halved, but I substituted what I had on hand, and just cut wedges off of a hot house tomato instead. Works for me!  Then I made up a Mornay sauce - a simple Bechamel sauce with cheese, often a mix of half Gruyere and half Parmesan, but it can be any cheese really.  The Brown Hotel uses only Pecorino Romano, but Romano is a bit strong for my taste, so I used a mix of mostly shredded Swiss cheese with just a bit of Parmesan. The Brown Hotel also uses heavy whipping cream in their Mornay sauce, where I used half and half.

Pour the Mornay sauce over the sandwich and add a light sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on top.

Place both plates on a baking sheet, and put them under the broiler with the oven door ajar, just long enough for the sauce to bubble up and lightly brown the top. Remove, and place the hot plate onto another plate, sprinkle with a bit of paprika for color, cross two slices of bacon on top, add chopped parsley and another pinch of Parmesan and serve immediately.

Overall, it's a tasty sandwich though even my version I found to be quite rich. Yes. I said that! Still I would make it again, though I'm pretty certain I'll be liable to add some Cajun flair to it. Stranger things have happened.

Recipe: Kentucky Hot Brown

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 15 min |Total time: About 25 min | Yield: 2 servings


For the Mornay Sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups of half and half
  • 1/2 cup of shredded Swiss cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of shredded Parmesan cheese, plus additional for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon spicy mustard
  • Salt and white pepper, to taste
For the Sandwich:
  • 10 ounces of thick sliced, roasted turkey breast, divided
  • 4 slices of bacon, cooked crisp
  • 4 thick slices of bread (like Texas toast), toasted, crust removed and sliced diagonally
  • 1/2 of a large tomato, cut into 4 wedges
  • Paprika, to garnish
  • Parsley, to garnish

Preheat the oven to broil. Toast the bread and remove the crusts.

In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour.  Cook, stirring constantly for about 4 minutes. Whisk in the half and half and simmer until mixture thickens.  Remove skillet from the heat and stir in the shredded Swiss and Parmesan cheeses, mustard, and salt and pepper, until well blended. Taste and adjust seasonings.

For each serving, lay one slice of the cut and toasted bread in the bottom of an oven safe serving dish. Set aside the remaining toast.  Add 2 thick slices of turkey breast (about 5 ounces) on top of the toast for each dish and arrange 2 wedges of tomato at the opposite edges of the dish, along the base of the turkey. Divide the Mornay Sauce evenly between the two dishes, over the top of the turkey. Garnish the top with a pinch of the Parmesan cheese. 

Place both dishes onto a baking sheet and transfer under the broiler, leaving the oven cracked. Broil just until the cheese begins to bubble and it turns light brown on top. Using pot holders, carefully remove the plates and place each of them onto another oven safe serving plate.  Add the additional toast points to the platter, if desired. Sprinkle a bit of paprika on top for color, cross two whole slices of the crispy bacon on the top of each dish, and add a sprinkle of parsley and another pinch of Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately. Makes 2

Cook's Notes: Can use a mix of half Gruyere and half Parmesan for the Swiss and Parmesan, but it can be any cheese you like really. The Brown Hotel uses only Pecorino Romano, but Romano is a bit strong for my taste, so I used a mix of mostly shredded Swiss cheese with just a bit of Parmesan. The Brown Hotel also uses heavy whipping cream in their Mornay sauce, where I used half and half. For a party, make these into finger food mini sliders by using the small rye or pumpernickel party bread slices. Heat, then add fresh slices of Roma tomatoes on top and rough chop the cooked bacon to sprinkle on top as a garnish.


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©Deep South Dish
Adapted from the original Brown Hotel's Hot Brown sandwich.
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Posted by on May 5, 2011
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  1. Mary, you're psychic! I was just going to write you an email to see if you had a recipe in the works for this sandwich! I'm definitely having this for brunch tomorrow.

  2. In Kentucky, it is ,also, our traditional Friday after Thanksgiving family dinner. Great way to use up the leftover roasted turkey. This is the perfect week to live in Kentucky. Lots of other wonderful Derby food traditions.

  3. Oh yummy and thanks for the reminder the the derby is this weekend! anne

  4. I've heard of this sandwich, but never had one. It sounds rich and delicious-love that sauce! Thanks for posting Mary!

  5. Until today, I had never heard of a Kentucky Hot Brown, but they look FABULOUS!
    I'm the author of a blog for the college I attend... and because I'm a culinary student, I always include a recipe at the end of each post. Your post and recipe will soon be linked to my blog post for this week! :)

  6. .
    LOL Frances! I thought this might be a good day to post it. Enjoy! :)

    That makes perfect sense JeanMarie! I sorta figured that leftover TG turkey would be ideal.

    I know Anne - it's kinda gotten lost in the shuffle. Favorite on my FB page seems to be Pants on Fire followed by Great Horse & Lady Jockey

    It is rich Eva, that's for sure!

    It's yummy Lynda!

    BecHef - I look forward to it!! Thanks for the linky love. :)

  7. Especially if you used the heavy cream sauce, as you suggested... Cajun Spices would really set this off.

    Just love cheese sauce under a broiler.

    Sounds delicious!


  8. Love to try this one Mary! Looks delicious, and I love watching the derby! Have a good weekend. Joyce

  9. Hi Dave! Yeah, you know me, I would totally add Cajun seasoning but was trying to stay a little closer to the basic sandwich this time.

    Joyce, don't forget the hat and the julep!!

  10. Ah yes, one of my favorite sandwiches, top 3! I've been known to smoke a turkey breast for the sole purpose of making hot browns.

  11. Hi Mary, I apologize for my absence. I had no time to comment on blogs due to an extremely intense and busy time in my life the last few months. I thought of you in the midst of the tornadoes and hope you are doing well. I've never had a hot brown, and enjoyed reading the background on this famous recipe. Thanks for sharing with your adjustments! Happy Mother's Day, Roz

  12. I live in Louisville, KY and I have to say that everyone should try this recipe at least once in your life. They are amazing. I have been to the Brown Hotel once, it is a beautiful place with lots of history (And very high prices). I love making this at home with the family.

  13. I live in Kentucky and this dish varies just as many recipes do from cook to cook; my favorite is from a small cafe in Midway that serves it at the table in a skillet...yum, yum...Love Kentucky Hot Browns!


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