Thursday, April 4, 2013

How About a REAL Kentucky Hot Brown Sandwich?

Have you ever had a hot brown sandwich?  A REAL Kentucky hot brown sandwich?  If  you are eating the sandwich in the state of Kentucky, it is called a Kentucky hot brown.  If you are in Louisville where the sandwich originated, it is called a Louisville hot brown.  Why?  Because it was created at the famous Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky,  in 1926.

If you are eating the sandwich outside of the state of Kentucky, it is usually called a hot brown.  Rather complicated isn't it?  When I talk about a REAL Kentucky hot brown, I mean one made with mornay sauce for the topping, not cheddar cheese or some other kind of cheesy sauce.  A real open faced hot brown has mornay sauce with just a little fresh grated parmesan in it.  Is it good?  Does the sun come up in the east and set in the west?  Oh my yes, it is one of the best sandwiches ever.

When I first started working back in the dark ages (1966), there was a restaurant in our town called The Lamplighter.  They had amazing food and one of their specialities was a hot brown.  A bunch of us used to go for lunch at the Lamplighter from time to time and I always ordered a hot brown.  Yum.  Yum.  I have had so called hot browns at other places through the years and most of them are fakeroos.  They pretend to be a hot brown, but they have the wrong sauce on them which totally wrecks the whole sandwich in my estimation.  No. Cheddar. Cheese. Allowed.  Only creamy, rich Mornay sauce.

You may be asking what constitutes a hot brown?   It is total yumminess.  It starts with a piece of toasted bread with slices of turkey breast on it.  Then there are sliced tomatoes, covered with mornay sauce which is broiled to bubbly brown perfection and topped by two pieces of crisp bacon - crossed.  Always cross the bacon.   It does not mean X marks the spot, but I guess it could.  The spot where you want to dig in.  Make a concerted effort to try to get a bit of bacon in every bite.  Totally worth it!

My research on this sandwich said the Brown Hotel hosted big dances in the mid-1920's with as many as a 1000 people in attendance on any given evening.  Everyone was hungry after an evening of dancing and music.  The chef came up with this late night open faced sandwich as an alternative to ham and eggs which is what most people ordered.  Thank you Chef Fred K. Schmidt for this delectable piece of food history.  It makes me wonder if he knew people would still be raving about his creation some 87 years later?  I think he would be proud, don't you?  They are as traditional to Louisville as the mint julep is to the Kentucky Derby.

This sandwich was on my mind the other day, so I created some for dinner.  This recipe is from the Brown Hotel web site, so it is the real deal.  They were quite a hit and our youngest son even ate one cold the next day.  He said it was delicious.  (Really?)  Here is what you need for two sandwiches:

1/2 stick whole butter
6 Tbsp all purpose flour
16 ounces heavy cream
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 pound sliced turkey breast
2 slices toasted bread
4 slices crispy bacon
2 roma tomatoes, sliced thin

Cook the bacon and put aside.

Next, make the mornay sauce.  A Mornay sauce is a French sauce which is basically a Bechamel sauce with some Parmesan or Swiss cheese added.  You use Parmesan for this one.

To make the Mornay sauce, melt the butter in a large saute' pan over medium heat.  Add the flour and stir for several minutes to remove any lumps and to remove the raw flour taste.  Whisk in the cream and cook until the cream begins to simmer, until the sauce thickens.  Stir continuously.  Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the Parmesan cheese until the mornay sauce is smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Time to assemble the sandwiches.

Put two pieces of toasted bread on a foil covered baking sheet.  Cover with a good amount of sliced turkey breast.  Put several thinly sliced Roma tomatoes on the turkey.  Cover each sandwich with a thick helping of Mornay sauce.  Put under the broiler until the sauce is bubbling and brown places appear.  Remove from the oven.

Cross two pieces of bacon on each sandwich.  Serve.

I doubled this recipe and had plenty of sauce for six sandwiches.   Just FYI, these sandwiches are super filling, so many people will not eat more than one.   We enjoyed ours with a beautiful butter lettuce salad and that was plenty!

This is a wonderful, rich, delicious sandwich that would be excellent for brunch also.  You really should give it a try and when you do, thank Chef Fred K. Schmidt for his contribution to food history.  This guy deserves a medal!

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

If you ever visit Louisville, Kentucky, this is still the signature sandwich of the Camberley Brown Hotel.  Don't miss having one!

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