As promised in my last post, below is our family recipe for a Kentucky Hot Brown – an open-faced sandwich that combines ham, turkey, tomato and bacon that is topped with a bubbling hot cheese sauce. I shared this recipe in my column on www.gabbygourmet.com in May of 2010 as part of a Derby Day menu – but it is good to eat all year round!
The Kentucky Hot Brown has its roots at the Camberley Brown Hotel in Louisville (where we stayed and also tasted this delicious dish!). It was developed several years after the hotel opened when the supper dance business was declining. To boost business, staff decided to introduce something new. Chef Fred Schmidt had an idea for an open-faced turkey sandwich that featured a Mornay sauce. At that time, turkey was typically eaten only around Thanksgiving and Christmas, so turkey on a sandwich was something new. To add a little pizzazz, pimiento and bacon were added.
Kentucky Hot Brown
This delicious recipe is known simply as a Hot Brown (never a Hot Brown “Sandwich” according to Kentuckians). Considered by many to be a Derby Day staple, this version uses a cheese sauce and tomatoes in place of the pimientos. While delicious on Derby Day, the dish also makes a perfect Sunday-evening meal served alongside a nice green salad.
Photo of Hot Brown sandwich courtesy of Kurtz Restaurant, Bardstown, Kentucky, USA
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups whole milk
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (can substitute Gruyere cheese)
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
4 slices toasted bread (we like multigrain)
8 slices cooked turkey or chicken breast
4 slices baked ham, preferably Kentucky
8 slices tomato
8 slices cooked bacon
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a large baking sheet with sides.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking, for 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk, raise the heat to medium, and continue cooking, stirring, until thickened. Stir in the cheese and continue cooking, stirring, until the cheese melts. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn heat down to low.
Place toast slices on a prepared baking sheet. Put 2 slices of turkey and 1 of ham on each piece of toast. Pour cheese sauce over the top. Place 2 slices of tomato and 2 slices of bacon on top of each. Place in oven and cook until sauce bubbles, around 8 to 10 minutes.
Note: These sandwiches can be prepared in a large casserole or in individual gratin dishes.
Secrets from “A Well-Seasoned Kitchen” – Making a basic white sauce
A basic white sauce is one of the most versatile recipes in cooking. A white sauce can be transformed in a number of ways with various cheeses, wines and spices to enhance a dish. Here’s a basic recipe with tips for getting a smooth and delicious sauce. The recipe takes about 15 minutes from beginning to end and yields a white sauce with medium consistency.
- In a small, heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over low heat.
- Blend 2 tablespoons of flour into the melted butter.
- Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
- Cook over low heat, stirring for 3 minutes. It is important to cook it for the full 3 minutes in order to get rid of the floury or pasty taste.
- Slowly, whisk in 1 cup of milk (you can also use light stock, cream or a combination of the two in place of the milk).
- Continue cooking slowly, stirring constantly, until smooth and thickened.
Note that the butter and flour may be doubled with the result being a thicker sauce, as is in the Kentucky Hot Brown recipe, or halved for a thinner sauce.