The Kentucky Hot Brown Recipe
The Kentucky Hot Brown
A Kentucky original, the Hot Brown is nothing more than an open faced sandwich, intended to be eaten with knife and fork.
But what an open faced sandwich it is!
It is rich and decadent, yet it is made from easily obtained and inexpensive ingredients.
This dish involves the use of a Mornay sauce, a classic French sauce created by incorporating cheese into a Béchamel sauce. In the classic Hot Brown, Pecorino Romano cheese is incorporated into a Béchamel made with heavy cream, rather than milk. Don’t let this thrown you off, however. The sauce is easy to create and is far superior to any pre-packaged sauce or sauce mix you might be tempted to substitute.
The results will be well worth the effort. I promise!
Brown Hotel - Louisville, Kentucky
Kentucky Born and Bred
The Hot Brown was created in 1926 at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, as a late night snack for patrons who were hungry after an evening of dinner and dancing at the hotel.
Dancers would wander over to the hotel’s restaurant to snack on ham and eggs prior to ending their evening. The dancers started to grow tired of the standard dishes, however, and the chef, Fred K Schmidt, created the Hot Brown to satisfy their taste for something new.
The Hot Brown has become a popular dish in Kentucky and can now be found in restaurants across the United States. This dish has been seen on a number of cooking shows and there are many variations on the original dish, substituting different cheese, sauces, and meats for the original ingredients. There are even vegetarian and vegan variations on the great Hot Brown theme.
I argue that you cannot truly understand and appreciate variations until you are familiar with the original dish. The classic recipe can be found on the Brown Hotel’s site or you can follow me below, as I work my way through the Legendary Hot Brown Recipe.
Hot Brown Ingredients
Please note: this recipe makes two Hot Browns. This recipe results in two huge Hot Browns. My husband and I disagree on this point, but I believe one Hot Brown made with this recipe will feed two hungry people. He insists each Hot Brown will feed one person. I believe this is a personal choice a reasonable adult should make for his or herself.
You will need two oven-safe individual size baking dishes, such as 6 ounce oval au gratin dishes.
- 2 Ounces All Purposes Flour
- 2 Ounces butter
- 1 Quart Heavy Cream
- 1/2 Cup Pecorino Romano Cheese, PLUS 1 Tablespoon to garnish
- 14 Ounces Roast Turkey Breast, sliced (If you use deli meat, use high quality)
- 2 Slices White Bread, cut into 1 - 1 1/2 inch slices
- 4 Slices Crispy Bacon
- 2 Roma Tomatoes, cut into quarters
- Paprika, to Garnish
- Fresh parsley, chopped, to garnish
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
- Melt the butter in a two-quart saucepan; slowly whisk in the flour until completely combined into a thick paste, or roux.
- Once the roux has formed, continue to cook for two minutes over medium-low heat, stirring frequently.
- Whisk whipping cream into the roux and cook over medium heat until the cream begins to simmer; this will require approximately 2-3 minutes.
- Remove sauce from heat and slowly whisk in the Pecorino Romano cheese until the Mornay sauce is smooth.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. Resist the temptation to salt and pepper prior to adding the cheese. This cheese is salty and you can easily over salt the dish if you attempt to season prior to adding the cheese.
- For each Hot Brown, place one slice of toast in an oven safe dish and cover with 7 ounces of turkey.
- Take the quarters of Roma tomato and place two in each dish alongside the base of turkey and toast; I like to place one quarter on either side of the dish.
- Pour one half of the Mornay sauce, to completely cover the dish. It may take less than half of the sauce to cover each sandwich; don’t worry about this. The point is to cover the meat, tomato and bread completely. Any leftover sauce can be saved for another dish.
- Sprinkle the additional Pecorino Romano cheese over the top of the sauce.
- Place each dish under the broiler until the cheese begins to brown and bubble. Remove from broiler, cross two pieces of crispy bacon on top, sprinkle with paprika and parsley, and serve immediately.
Please try, then rate this recipe!
If you refer to the recipe posted on the Brown Hotel site, you will notice we have made a couple small changes. The first change we have made from the original is the recommendation to cut the tomato into quarters to place tomato on either side of the sandwich. This allows for visual balance (important to me) and I believe allows the smaller pieces of tomato to become more flavorful that those cut in half.
If you are familiar with the Hot Brown, you might have found that the tomato was sliced (as one would for a sandwich) and placed on top of the turkey rather than to the side. This is probably more common that placing the tomato to the side, but I believe it makes a marked difference in the in the hot Brown experience. It is a little messy, in my opinion and the pink of the tomato mixes in with the sauce, turkey and bread just a little too much for my taste.
The second change is the recommendation to use thick bread. The official recipe lists “Texas Toast” but I am absolutely certain that they do not mean that frozen bread pre-seasoned with herbs and so forth. We usually buy a loaf of unsliced bread (not sourdough) and slice into ½ inch slices.
These are minor adjustments that do not alter the original intent of the recipe.
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