The Kentucky Hot Brown Recipe
The Kentucky Hot Brown
The Kentucky Hot Brown is a dressed up open-faced turkey sandwich that is eaten with a knife and fork. It is rich and decadent, made from easily obtained and inexpensive ingredients and is very filling.
The classic Hot Brown is made special by the Pecorino Romano cheese that is incorporated into the Bechamel sauce which bathes the sandwich in creamy goodness.
This Kentucky classic has been a favorite in the Bluegrass State for years and is as dear to us Kentuckians as bourbon, horse races, basket ball and Derby Pie.
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 dine 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 hunger for something new.
The Hot Brown has become a popular dish outside Kentucky now, and can 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 huge Hot Browns. Each Hot Brown should feed two hungry people, or one very hungry person who can eat quite a lot and live to tell the tale!
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
- 1quart 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.
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.