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.
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.

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Posted by on May 5, 2011
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