Editor's note: The Southern Foodways Alliance delves deep in the history, tradition, heroes and plain old deliciousness of Southern food. Writer Sarah Baird grew up in Kentucky and lives in New Orleans. Her first book, "Kentucky Sweets: Bourbon, Spoonbread, and Mile High Pie," was published earlier this year.
Drenched in gooey cheese, anchored by salty meat, and with enough thick bread to sop it all up, the Hot Brown is quite possibly the ultimate drunk food.
Over the years, the sandwich has not only reached far across the Commonwealth as a go-to remedy for a night of hard drinking, but has become the sandwich ambassador of Louisville’s dining scene. Crafted almost 100 years ago in one of the city’s finest grand hotels, the Brown (which is regal enough to give any Wes Anderson creation a run for its money), its decadence has become a thing of legend.
The story goes that in 1926, the Brown’s executive chef Fred K. Schmidt was looking for a luxurious, late-night food to feed to the thousands of dancers and merrymakers coming to the hotel each week. Not wanting the fall back on the old standby of ham and eggs, Schmidt crafted his take on a traditional Welsh Rarebit: an open-faced turkey sandwich on thick white bread covered in a thick, bubbly Mornay sauce.
The dish was an instant hit, and quickly spread to restaurants throughout the community. (His other concept, the cold brown—which consisted of turkey, hard boiled eggs, rye, and Thousand Island dressing—didn’t quite take off in the same way.)
While there has been a resurgence in interest in the hot brown in recent years (even David Chang of the Momofuku empire tried his hand at a deconstructed version) the classic, original sandwich is all one needs to cure her hangover or enter into a deep, food-induced sleep.
Bonus: If you’re in Kentucky, there’s even a trail you can follow, the Hot Brown Hop, to try different takes on the sandwich across the city!
Yield: Four sandwiches
Time: 30 minutes, 20 minutes active
Special Tools: Individual casserole dishes
For the mornay:
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ounce gruyere cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
salt and pepper, to taste
For the sandwich:
1 pound oven roasted turkey, thinly sliced
8 slices thick toast (Italian or French bread), crusts trimmed
4 slices beefsteak tomato (if seasonal)
8 strips bacon, cooked until crisp
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano
For the mornay:
Melt butter in a heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat. Working quickly, whisk in the flour and cook until golden and combined, about one minute. Stir in milk, bring to a boil and cook until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about four minutes. Whisk in cheese and cook until melted and combined. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
Cut toast in half diagonally to form small triangles, and arrange place in the bottom of individual baking dishes. Place sliced turkey on toast points, and cover with mornay sauce. Top with bacon strips (preferably in an “X” shape) and tomatoes. Sprinkle cheese generously on top of each sandwich. Broil until golden brown and bubbly, about 5-6 minutes.
Read more at the Southern Foodways Alliance's blog
Trot on over to our other Kentucky Derby coverage:
Mint juleps, bourbon slush, benedictine and burgoo with just a smidge of squirrel
Mint juleps, five ways for Derby Day
Derby Day delights
The mint julep's muddled history
Mutton, pork butts and burgoo – an intro to Kentucky barbecue
Would it have been too much trouble to have a print friendly key for the recipe and photo?
4 Tbsp of butter, 6 Tbsp of flour and 2 1/2 cups of heavy cream will not make a white auce, all it will make is a gelatinous ball of snot.
Should be 3 Tbsp of butter, 2-3 Tbsp of flour and 2 cups of whole milk. That makes a white sauce. For mornay, you do not brown the roux, it should be only slightly golden before adding the milk.
Other than that, the recipe appears to be an accurate interpretation of a Hot Brown.
I have lived in KY my whole life and have always been aware of hot browns. It was not something we ate at home, but it shows up on restaurant menus from time to time. I have always been told that the authentic recipe has to have two sauces though, a béchamel sauce and a cheese sauce. I have never seen one with shredded cheese on top like this one. If you ever visit Lexington and want to try one, I highly recommend Ramsey's for a good one.
So haters are going to hate, but every area has their own charming food items. It won't kill you to eat one a year (probably the rate for me) and it's good to try local things when you travel. Pouting looks disgusting to me but if I visited that area, you bet I would try it.
^ poutine (silly auto correct)
That's no sandwich, that's a Weapon of Mass Digestion
This dish comes from the same people that grow lettuce in heavy red clay. It's a hoot to watch them harvest.
you people you know like dumb#$s Kentucky redneck douchb@gs. and say this as a resident of the ky
Please kill yourself. Immediately.
Ever hear of grammer?
LOL! Ever hear of spelling?
Sounds like it would hit the spot after a day at the races and a hardy post derby celebration.
Swap the bread for homemade biscuits, add eggs and that'd make a fine breakfast. Don't forget the hash browns or grits.
Two syllables for you people: Pou-tine
What do you mean :"you people?"
I mean everybody reading.....what do you think I mean by "you people"?
I imagine it's a race thing as everything is the US seems to be a race thing.
Another way to youse guys
Obviously the joke was lost on several people around here. LOL
Joke? Glad you told us.
Oh yeah baby!!! Best thing in Canada other than Molson!
I don't know about that. Those Montreal women.... ooo la la!
I have lived in Kentucky all my life. We never actually eat these. We use this dish the same way we use Mint Juleps, which we never actually drink. Both are served to snooty Yankee tourists, as a trick to make them barf. We then say: "Y'all come back.", thankful that you won't. Snarky know-it-all bitches.
I grew up in Kentucky, and we ate local dishes like that all the time. If you're skipping them, you're just missing out. A well-made julep is a glorious thing.
You can tell the toothbrush was invented in Kentucky. Otherwise it would be called a teethbrush. Present company (Kittenwithawhip) excluded :)
Wow! My family comes from Kentucky, unlike you, they are nice people.
His family was probably carpetbaggers, not native Kentuckians...
I was born in Kentucky, and no, I don't remember most of what all we ate, since we moved out when I was 2 years old.
Evidently, it wasn't a problem, however.
My dear fellow Kentuckians.... My post was meant as a sarcastic reply to all those who were criticizing the delicious hot brown as "puke" and "looks the same going down as coming up". I have had many restaurant versions and made my own, many times. It is a fantastic dish. I even add thin sliced country ham under the fresh roasted turkey, for an extra layer of salty flavor.
>>>>> Please forgive me for not making the sarcasm more clearly identifiable.
OK Caucasas. Just digested many favours meant for tomorrow. Your loss!!!
Put the bacon on the rack and open the beer!!! Time for Separate the Asian from the Gringo!! More beer please!!!!!
Makes my head spin just by looking at it while being sober. If I were drunk then my cookies would definitely be gone before even taking a bite.
The ironic thing with this meal is that it looks the exactly same going down as it does after it comes back up again.
That's not irony.
I may have a few of these in my younger years.
I'm gonna double the bacon, add tater tots and over easy eggs!
any and everything in moderation...!
A fine example of Vitamin GwC (grease with carbohydrate) at work and doing its job...!
Every kitchen, street corner grill coast to coast and around the world has their variation... I HOPE
p.s. a few big hits off an OXYGEN Tank is like HEAVEN...!!!
insto prinsto, hangover gone!!!
I've had it at The Brown Hotel in Louisville
Not only is it very tasty it is truly what you need after a few or many bourbons!!
can we PLEASE start fining people for being so fricking irresponsible with their health? I'm tired of paying for skyrocketing health insurance (that I'm NOW forced to buy) when I'm a vegetarian who goes to the gym 7 days a week and doesn't smoke or get drunk.
if you slobs want to kick the bucket at 40, be my guest. Quit expecting everyone else to pay for it.
Where does this article mention health insurance? I'm sorry to break it to you but your hippie lifestyle doesn't make you any better or healthier than those like me who indulge in a treat every now and again. There is no stable evidence to suggest that vegetarians live any longer but there are high correlations with vegetarianism and depression. Go figure. Eat on carnivores!
Any correlations to rage?
I am 53 years old. I have eaten anything I like my whole life. That includes prime rib, steaks, cheeseburgers. I don't particularly like sweets. I get a little exercise now and then, but not much. If it is fun, I'll do it: hiking, snorkeling, sex. I am a little overweight for my height but every pound has been very enjoyable. My theory is, my lifestyle may take a few years off of my life, but those are the years I am in diapers anyway! I have not had some boring 7 day a week regimen of doing reps in a gym. I have not passed on the truly enjoyable culinary temptations so I could force myself to pretend I like salad three times a day. I live! Meanwhile.....my 63 year old triathlete friend who looked like a body builder and ate very healthy foods, avoiding meats etc, dies of a heart attack. The day he died I had a cheeseburger in his honor, because it proved to me there is no real rhyme or reason sometimes. I live how I want and will be happy every day of my life instead of living a little bit longer and dreading every bite I take. To each his own.
You had a cheeseburger in his honor? What a nasty little person you are!
Ditto Dover, In my 50's have always been on weight or underweight and eat whatever I want whenever I want. I don't particularly care if it's healthy, unhealthy as long as it tastes good, I don't care if I live a few less years in diapers would rather enjoy life now!
I'm sorry your life is so boring. Give me 65 years of good food and fun instead of 80 years of kale and sweat!
Going to the gym 7 days/week is not healthy. Your body needs rest to recuperate. Sounds like you're the type of person who is the marathon runner that dies at a young age because their heart is over-worked. It's good that you exercise but, like anything else, a responsible amount is key. Eating only vegetables isn't natural, btw.
I don't know any vegetarians that are immortal.
Yep a vegetarian upper middle class liberal proving every nanny state stereotype about you correct I see.
So his whining about Affordable Care Act made you label him as a liberal? You right wingers are not too perceptive now, are you?
Sure, as soon as you young'ens start protection and learn that AIDS truly means, a death sentence!
How did a sandwich become about HIV/AIDS? And who are you kidding? Ever heard of antivirals? They do wonders. People are now living into their 30th year of being HIV positive and are no closer to death than you or I!!!! Wow education goes a long way!
Now back to that sandwich!!! Looks like it could be a nice little indulgent I wouldn't mind trying at least once.
And people who take care of their health are draining Social Security and public pensions by living longer and eating more of our tax money. It goes both ways!
Wow, a whiny, uptight narcissistic vegetarian. I've never , NEVER met one of those before!
Ooooohhh, you're a vegetarian. That explains *everything*.
Hot dog hot dog hot digity dog!
I was born in Kentucky, and I've never heard of, much less eaten, this item. It really doesn't sound all that appealing, even as a hangover cure.
True – just looking at that hot mess wants me to puke. In my early days the only go to food was top ramen. Now that I'm 50, I don't imbibe like I used to, but I don't regret having fun :)
I grew up in Kentucky and it was actually on our school lunch menu from time to time!
Slingers, at least the ones at Diner, Irving Park Rd, Chicago, worked wonders....
So somebody finally made a sandwich that makes Carl's Jr. look nutritious in comparison.
This sandwich is a hundred years old.
What, couldn't they make a fresh one?
And STILL no one has eaten it.
throw a couple of over easy eggs on top and you got a meal
so, diarrhea cures a hangover? interesting.
You want to pass the toxins in your bowls quickly. This is why it works.
I'm being totally serious. That's why I taco shop here in cali. You will get the runs for sure.
Mornay is a cheese sauce. Cheese tends to bind, not loosen. Derp.
Hey... maybe the DERP is lactose intolerant? Ever think of that you DERP? Cheese will cause horrible GI distress and diarrhea in some with lactose intolerance. SCHOOLED!!!!
It cures hangovers by giving you a massive coronary. Cures breathing too.
Two weeks of calories means 14 days of nothing but drinking.
I'd prefer a slinger to this.
Not sure what a hot karl is in your neck of the woods but in mine a hot karl belongs to a fetish group.
G0d you are naive.
I could really go for one of these right now.
Yeah that's all your liver and kidneys needs after a night of hard drinking, salty greasy food...
Is this kosher?
Don't think so, meat and dairy mixed.
and one of those meats is bacon ;-)
Yes. Now say goodnight Gracie.
This is what causes spastic colon...
Ironically, it also cures spastic colon.
This plate is nothing compared to Nick Tahoe's Garbage Plate... Rochester NY...
Right on. Cheesburg' plate, home fries, french fries, no onions...
not impressed. too difficult to make and sounds outright disgusting. NEXT.
You call that difficult to make? lol!
The Hot Brown Hop? I think that's what you'll get if you eat that thing......
Only 8 strips of bacon? Pfft. DOUBLE IT.
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