This legendary dish is the perfect home for leftover turkey
Thanksgiving dinner is grand. But then come the leftovers. Turkey again?
No worries. Give those stray slices some swagger in this scrumptious sandwich.
The Kentucky Hot Brown (aka Hot Brown, aka Louisville Hot Brown) is an open-faced turkey sandwich smothered in tangy, cheesy Mornay sauce.
It’s quick and easy to make. So you can get out of the kitchen in plenty of time for those Black Friday sales.
Recipe: Kentucky Hot Brown Sandwich
This dish, which dates back to the 1920s, originated at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky.
The Kentucky Hot Brown is basically a carnivore’s Welsh Rarebit: You layer turkey slices over toast, cover them with Mornay sauce, slide the sandwich under a broiler to heat (and brown) the top, then garnish and serve.
This dish takes about 15 minutes to make (including prep time).
The recipe serves two, but you can easily double or triple it.
- 4 slices of bread (Texas toast is traditional, but we prefer an Italian-style white bread)
- 6 to 8 ounces sliced turkey (thick slices – at least ¼ inch, and preferably closer to ½ inch – work better than thin deli slices)
- 4 bacon slices
- ~1 ounce grated pecorino romano cheese (may substitute parmigiano reggiano or cheddar)
- 2 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese for topping the sandwich (see Notes for substitutions)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup milk
- salt to taste (a few pinches kosher salt for us; see Notes)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste (maybe half a dozen grinds)
- 4 to 8 cherry tomatoes (or a couple of Roma tomatoes cut in half, or tomato slices)
- chopped parsley for garnish (very optional)
- Toast the bread. Place the toast slices on two individual oven-proof plates or dishes (we like to use small casseroles, sometimes called rarebit dishes).
- Slice the turkey (if it’s not already sliced). Divide the turkey and place the slices over the toasted bread.
- Cook the bacon slices to your liking. Set aside.
- Grate the cheeses. Set aside.
- Make the Mornay sauce: Place a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Melt the butter in the pan. Add the flour and stir with a whisk or wooden spoon continuously for 2 minutes. Add the cream and milk slowly (it should take about a minute to add all the liquid). Keep stirring so the sauce doesn’t become lumpy. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring the sauce to a simmer, then let it simmer for a few minutes to thicken. Add the grated pecorino romano cheese. Stir to combine, then remove the sauce from the stove. Ladle half the sauce over each sandwich.
- Cut the cherry tomatoes in half, then arrange them on the plates (we usually place them along the sides of the sandwiches).
- Sprinkle the cheddar cheese on top of the sandwiches (1 tablespoon on top of each).
- Place the plated sandwiches on a baking tray, then slide the tray under the broiler for a minute or two, until the sandwiches are piping hot and the sauce is bubbly and brown. About 30 seconds before removing the sandwiches from the oven, place bacon strips on top of each sandwich (to reheat the bacon).
- Remove the sandwiches from the oven and sprinkle them with parsley, if desired. Serve and enjoy.
- Our recipe includes some traditional garnishes for this sandwich – bacon strips and tomatoes. You can also add pimento strips (which were probably part of the original recipe). Or try sliced mushrooms, hard-boiled eggs, fried eggs, or whatever suits your fancy. We like to keep it simple, so we stick with bacon (because, well, bacon) and tomato.
- Mornay sauce for this dish is usually made with pecorino romano cheese (but feel free to substitute parmigiano-reggiano or cheddar cheese if you wish).
- You can add a bit of hot sauce (like Tabasco) to the Mornay sauce if you like a touch of heat.
- Want something zippier than cream and milk? You could substitute beer (as in a Welsh rarebit sauce) or white wine.
- BTW, you could use all cream or all milk when you make the sauce if you wish.
- We like to use two slices of bread per serving, but you could reduce this to one if you prefer (it’s a hefty dish).
- Some cooks cut the crusts off the bread when they make this sandwich. We don’t bother.
- Some cooks also cut one of the bread slices in half on the diagonal (to form two triangles), then place the triangles on either side of a regular square piece of bread. This gives the sandwich a slightly fancier look. But the whole thing is covered with turkey and Mornay sauce anyway, so you don’t really see the toast arrangement.
- We like to top this sandwich with grated cheddar cheese before broiling, but you could use extra pecorino romano or parmigiano reggiano if you prefer.
- Some cooks like to sprinkle paprika on the sandwiches after removing them from the oven. We don’t, but it’s a nice look.
- Many recipes for this sandwich call for twice as much sauce as we do (and at least twice the amount of turkey). That’s ideal if you’re feeding teenage boys, but it’s too artery-clogging for anyone over age 20.
- Rather than placing the sandwiches under the broiler, you could instead put them in the oven (400 degrees F or so) for about 5 minutes – until the sandwiches are hot and the cheese on top is melted and beginning to brown. Microwaving works too, although the cheese on top won’t get as brown.
- There’s a version of this dish called the Prosperity Sandwich (invented at the Mayfair Hotel in St. Louis around 1920). The Prosperity adds ham to the mix. The Mornay sauce is made with Swiss and parmigiano-reggiano cheese (or sometimes cheddar). It’s spicier too – you add Worcestershire sauce and paprika to the sauce, along with salt and pepper.
- We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly). If you’re using table salt, start with about half as much as we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours.
“Too bad there are no Thanksgiving carols,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “I’d serenade this sandwich.”
“Sing away,” I said. “It’ll be better than all that cheesy Christmas music we’re starting to hear everywhere.”
“If I’m going to have cheese, I’d prefer it in Mornay sauce,” said Mrs K R. “Can’t they wait until December 1 to start with the cheery chimes?”
“At least we can sandwich this dish in during the holiday season,” I said. “It will soothe our jangled – or is that jingled? – nerves.”
“I’d pay for Rudolph’s nose job if it meant I didn’t have to listen to his song anymore,” said Mrs K R.
Deck those howls.
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