We LOVE the 50 nifty United States of this awesome country and believe each state is special. Every Monday we feature a sandwich unique to its state as part of our “50 Sandwiches, 50 States, 50 Weeks” series beginning with Alabama and ending with Wyoming.
This is pretty famous sandwich that’s been featured on many shows like Food Network, Travel Channel and The Today Show to name a few. Yet I’d never heard of it. I like the ingredients- simple, rich and savory. I also like the story of how this taste of Derby Town came to be.
The Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky was a luxurious hotel built in the roaring ’20’s during the time of Prohibition by wealthy businessman J. Graham Brown. The hotel became the epicenter of Louisville’s social scene known as “The Magic Corner” drawing over 1,200 guests each evening for its “dinner dance” and, I suspect, the drinking of spirits…. Many spirits.
Around midnight the guests would make their way to the restaurant for ham and eggs as a late night supper. I can’t speak from experience, “wink, wink,” but I imagine hours of drinking and dancing really works up one’s appetite and salty, greasy food was in great demand. In 1926, well before all the drunks could pile into a booth at the local Denny’s, Chef Fred Schmidt created an open-faced turkey sandwich covered in cheesy, bubbly Mornay sauce topped with bacon slices and a side of tomato wedges as an alternative to the standard ham and eggs. The sandwich immediately gained popularity and became the most popular meal of the hotel and still is today. The sandwich’s popularity also spread across the state of Kentucky.
For our version of the sandwich, we chose to roast a small 2 pound boneless turkey breast in the oven; you could also purchase a ready cooked breast or roasted chicken. As another alternative, I think deli sliced turkey would be a delicious as well. For the Mornay, a bechamel sauce, there are many variations out there on the world-wide web using a Parmesan and/or cheddar cheese as well as adding hot sauce or mustard. Our version closely resembles The Brown Hotel’s, who openly provides their recipe on its website: butter, flour, heavy cream, Pecorino Romano, and nutmeg. The Hot Brown is usually assembled in single, oven safe dishes, which we didn’t have so I used my trusty 9 x 13 inch baking dish instead. This sandwich came out so delicious and was an amazing change from the same ol’ turkey sandwich routine.
- 2 lb. turkey breast
- Olive oil
- 8 slices thick cut bacon
- 8 Slices Texas toast, crust trimmed
- Brick of Pecorino Romano to grate for topping
- 1 tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. each black pepper, garlic powder, rosemary, sage, thyme
- 3 Tbsps. butter
- 3 Tbsps. flour
- 2 cups heavy cream
- ½ cup milk
- ¾ cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (we used the cheese in the container, not the brick)
- ¼ tsp. each black pepper, salt
- ⅛ tsp cayenne, nutmeg
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Mix rub ingredients together. Rub olive oil all over turkey breast then rub with spice rub. Pour about an inch of water in roasting pan. Add the roasting rack and place the turkey on the rack. Insert a meat thermometer in the center of the breast. Bake on the center rack about 1½ -2 hours or until turkey reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. Then remove the turkey from the oven and cover with foil and allow to sit until it reaches 165 degrees F.
- Fry bacon in a large skillet until crisp. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels and then chop. Keep the bacon drippings.
- To make the Mornay, heat butter in a saucepan on medium heat and add flour to make a roux. Cook 1-2 minutes.
- Turn off heat and wait 1 minute. Whisk in heavy cream and milk until well combined with the roux. Increase heat to medium/low and cook until it becomes frothy and thick, stir occasionally.
- Whisk in cheese, salt and spices. Cook until thick then turn off heat.
- Turn oven broiler on.
- Brush both sides of the bread with the bacon fat. Place in a baking sheet and broil 1-2 minutes each side until toasted. Do not walk away as the toast will brown fast!
- Remove toast from broiler. Place 4 slices of the the toast in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and top each piece with ½ lb of sliced turkey, then a tomato slice, then smother in the mornay sauce. Sprinkle with freshly grated Pecorino Romano and broil about 5 minutes until bubbly.
- Slice the other 4 slices of toast diagonally to make "points" and set aside.
- Once the Hot Brown is hot and bubbly, remove from the broiler and plate each sandwich. Top with bacon, garnish with chopped parsley and place 2 toast points on each side of the sandwich. Eat immediately!