Christmas was yesterday. You peek in the refrigerator and see bowls of leftover vegetables, a pan of dressing and all that turkey. I could just heat up a plate of these things and basically have the same meal I had yesterday. Nah! I’m going to make a Kentucky Hot Brown instead.

A Kentucky Hot Brown is an open-faced sandwich that has turkey, bacon, and tomatoes on toast and smothered with Mornay sauce (aka Cheese sauce). The origin of this Kentucky staple is The Brown Hotel in Louisville. 

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The story goes that in the 1920’s, the Brown Hotel routinely drew over 1000 people nightly for its dinner dance. After the dance, the patrons would return to the restaurant for a late-night bite. Chef Fred Schmidt sensed that the guests desired something a bit more glamorous than bacon and eggs and created the Hot Brown to tempt their palates. It was a hit and, almost 100 years later, is still served routinely at The Brown Hotel and all over the world.

If you search for recipes for the hot brown, you will soon realize that almost everyone has put their personal touch on this classic Kentucky dish. Some recipes call for baking the tomatoes or use cheddar cheese in the sauce. Other recipes suggest frying the bread in bacon fat before assembling which sounds good if you aren’t worried about the cholesterol. So, I went to The Brown Hotel website to get the original version. It sounds delicious and I plan on making some on Boxing Day for my guests.

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Note that most recipes for Hot Brown state that you need over two hours to prepare. This is due to the assumption that you will have to roast the turkey. Since it’s the day after Christmas, I’m hoping that you have enough left-over turkey breast to skip this part. Chef Schmidt must have roasted his turkey ahead of time and doesn’t include this extra step in his recipe.

Overall, the recipe is simple with the most complicated part being the preparation of the Mornay sauce. Mornay sauce is a roux-based sauce (flour, fat, and milk or cream) that has cheese added. It’s not rocket science, but it does require a bit of attention as to not overcook the roux. If you over cook the roux, making it dark brown, you can still use it, or you can start a big batch of gumbo which is based on a dark brown roux.

I hope that you and yours have had a Merry Christmas. Live, Laugh, Love and Eat Well on the leftovers.

The Legendary Hot Brown

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Courtesy of The Brown Hotel, Louisville KY

Serves 2

  • 1 ½ TBSP salted butter
  • 1 ½ TBSP all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream (you can use whole milk, but sauce will be thinner)
  • ¼ cup Pecorino-Romano cheese shredded, plus more for garnish
  • Pinch of fresh ground nutmeg
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 14oz thickly sliced roasted Turkey breast
  • 4 slices Texas Toast with crusts trimmed (two whole and two cut into four toast points)
  • 4 slices bacon cooked
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, sliced in half
  • Paprika for garnish
  • Fresh parsley for garnish

In a two-quart saucepan, melt the butter and slowly whisk in the flour until combined to form a thick roux. Continue to cook roux for two minutes over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Whisk heavy cream into the roux and cook over medium heat until the cream begins to simmer, about 2-3 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and slowly whisk in Pecorino-Romano cheese until sauce is smooth. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.

Assembling the Hot Brown: place one whole piece of toast in an oven safe dish and cover with 7oz of turkey. Place one half of a Roma tomato on the top and bottom edges of the toast and one toast point on each side. Now cover the entire thing with about half of the Mornay sauce. Sprinkle with additional cheese and place the whole thing under a broiler until the cheese begins to bubble. Remove from broiler and place two pieces of bacon crossed on the top. Garnish with paprika and parsley and serve immediately.


You can download the recipe of the week HERE!