There is more to Kentucky than bourbon, including foods you won’t find anywhere else. As we are entering prime turkey-eating season, here is the best and highest use for leftover turkey: the Hot Brown.
The Hot Brown is a very rich, open-face sandwich. It was created in 1926 at the Brown Hotel by Chef Fred K. Schmidt. The recipe below, which claims to be the original, was published by Cissy Gregg, the late Food Editor at the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Hot Brown (4 servings)
4 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 slices toast, with crusts cut off
Turkey breast slices
Crisp-fried bacon, crumbled
Mushroom slices, sauteed
Saute onion in butter until transparent; add flour and combine. Add milk, salt and pepper and whisk until smooth. Cook on medium heat until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally. Add cheese and continue heating until they blend. Remove from heat.
Put one slice of toast in each of four oven-proof individual serving dishes. Top each piece of toast with slices of turkey. Cut remaining toast slices diagonally and place on sides of sandwiches. Ladle cheese sauce over sandwiches. Place sandwiches under broiler until sauce begins to bubble. Garnish with crumbled bacon and sauteed mushroom slices and serve immediately.
If two cups sounds like a lot of sauce for four servings, you have perceived the essence of the Hot Brown. The typical Hot Brown is smothered in sauce. You’ll also notice it says nothing about heating up the turkey slices. You can but it's not necessary. This is a recipe designed for leftovers.
There are many variations. Most places don’t crumble the bacon, and there are many substitutes for the mushrooms, including tomato slices and asparagus spears. Some simply forgo the vegetables altogether. Cissy Gregg even suggested you can substitute chicken for the turkey, but I can’t get behind that.
If you’re traveling to Kentucky, you will find the Hot Brown on the menus of many restaurants. The Brown Hotel still serves it, of course. Kurtz’s, in Bardstown, has a good one too.