The Humble Hot Brown
This is a simple knife and fork sandwich. A Hot Brown is an opened faced turkey sandwich with bacon, and Mornay sauce. Fred Schmidt created the sandwich at The Brown Hotel in Louisville Kentucky. It is sometimes called a Kentucky Hot Brown. Schmidt was the executive chef at the hotel in 1926. He created the Hot Brown for the late night dance crowd that frequented the hotel. The ham and eggs he served didn’t satisfy them. The guests needed something else to curb the libations they had consumed.
The Hot Brown was created during Prohibition. The sandwich is very carb and cheese heavy. This makes it ideal drinking food. During the Kentucky Derby, the hotel sells 1,200 of these. Ninety-five percent of their orders are for Hot Brown sandwiches. Maybe it’s all those Mint Juleps! Imagine you have been to your local watering hole. Maybe you over indulged a bit. Wouldn’t it be great to have one of these sandwiches. Do not drive, under any circumstances. You probably shouldn’t cook either. It could be hazardous to your health.
Variations have sprung up along the way. There is some debate about whether or not pimentos were on the original sandwich. I suspect that they were. In Louisville alone, there are 40 restaurants that have their own versions. There is even a Hot Brown pizza. The Brown Hotel came up with a Cold Brown. This was for summer consumption, and included chicken, hard eggs and thousand island. The Cold Brown was a flop, and never really sold.
Hot Brown Construction
I looked at a lot of recipes for this dish. Some have different cheeses, mustard and all manner of things. I decided to stick to the original. Peppered bacon is the only alteration. I thought this would add a little spice. Please used thick sliced turkey here. If you use thin deli sliced, it will change the texture of the recipe. If you really want to jack this up, roast a turkey breast. Slice it up, and use that. This is a simple dish, elevated by a mother sauce. The Mornay sauce is key. Take your time making the roux. The flour should be cooked, but not too long as you want very little color. Make sure there is at least six inches between the dish, and the broiler when finishing this. Watch it closely, as it can easily burn.
Decadent Hot Brown
This sandwich isn’t so humble any more. The Food Network has featured it. Other media have covered it as well. It’s not your grandma’s turkey sandwich. But, it’s still a simple turkey sandwich. That’s what makes it a culinary phenomenon. The Hot Brown is supposed to be simple. Nothing fancy here. Maybe you should try this after a night of Kentucky bourbon. You’ll feel better in the morning if you do.
- 1/4 Cup Unsalted Butter
- 1/4 Cup Flour
- 1 Cup Heavy Cream
- 1 Cup Milk
- 1/2 Cup Romano or Parmesan Cheese, plus 1 Tablespoon for Garnish
- 1 Pinch Ground Nutmeg
- Salt and Pepper to Taste
- 3/4 Pound Roast Turkey Breast, Sliced Thick (1/4")
- 4 Slices Texas Toast
- 4 Slices Peppered Bacon, Cooked Crispy
- 2 Tomatoes, Sliced
- Paprika for Garnish
- Parsley for Garnish
- In a medium pan, cook the bacon until crispy. Remove to paper toweling to drain and cool.
- Heat the Texas Toast according to package directions, and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, and slowly whisk in the flour. Cook the roux, stirring constantly for a couple of minutes. Whisk in the heavy cream, and milk. Continue to cook, stirring frequently until it begins to simmer, and has thickened. Remove from the heat and add the cheese. Continue to whisk until combined and smooth. Stir in the nutmeg, salt and pepper.
- Pre-heat your broiler with the rack at least six inches from heat element. Place two pieces of toast in the bottom of an oven proof dish. Cut the the other two toast slices in half, diagonally, across the corners. Place the toast slices upright along side the other toast with the corners up. Alternatively, you can just place the two toast slices along side the others. Put a generous portion of turkey on the flat toast slices. Top each of these with tomato slices. Spoon the Mornay sauce over all of this until everything is covered. Sprinkle with the additional cheese.
- Place under the broiler until the cheese starts to brown, and bubble. This should take about 3 to 4 minutes. Watch it closely as it can burn quickly.
- Remove from the oven, and place each sandwich on a plate or small dish. Put two strips of the bacon in a cross pattern over each sandwich. Garnish wiht paprika and parsley. Serve immediately.