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Kentucky Hot Brown

Updated May 26, 2017
This image courtesy of Ben Fink Photography, Inc.

Editor's Note: When it comes to classic Southern dishes, the Kentucky Hot Brown sandwich is one that should be included in any list of beloved recipes from the region. This hearty dish from the Bluegrass State is filled with an assortment of flavors that every sandwich connoisseur will appreciate. Are you still looking for the perfect technique for cooking bacon? A note by the chef on how to cook bacon perfectly can be found following the recipe's instructions, too. If you can't make it to Kentucky, then bring a bit of Kentucky to you when you make this Kentucky Hot Brown recipe. 

The Kentucky sandwich. Built on a base of savory French toast, this open-faced sandwich needs no doubling up. Thick slices of turkey breast and juicy tomatoes are topped with a decadent cheese sauce, broiled until bubbly and golden brown, then crowned with crisp slices of bacon. It’s no surprise that this dish, named for its birthplace at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, has become Kentucky Derby lore.

Serves4 or 8

CostModerate

Recipe CourseMain Course

MealBrunch, Dinner, Lunch

Taste and TextureCheesy, Creamy, Meaty

Type of DishOpen-face Sandwich, Sandwich

Ingredients

  • 1 boneless turkey breast, about 3 pounds
  • 6 tablespoons ( ¾ stick) unsalted butter, softened Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups whole milk, plus more if needed
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • ½ pound sharp white cheddar cheese, grated (2 cups)
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1½ cups whole milk, or more if needed
  • 8 (½-inch-thick) sliced day-old Pullman or other good-quality white sandwich bread
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 ripe beefsteak tomatoes, sliced ½ inch thick
  • 6 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated (1½ cups)
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 16 (¼-inch-thick) slices bacon, cooked until crisp (see Note below)
  • Fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, for garnish

Instructions

  1. To roast the turkey, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Rub the entire breast with 4 tablespoons butter and season with salt and pepper. Place in a small roasting pan and roast for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and continue roasting the turkey until a thermometer inserted into the center registers 155 degrees F, 1 to 1 ½ hours. Remove from the oven, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

  2. To make the sauce, put the milk in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the hot milk. Bring to a boil and cook, whisking constantly, until thickened and the raw flour haste has cooked out, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in more milk if the sauce is too thick to pour.

  3. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cheddar and Parmesan cheeses, whisking until the cheddar has melted. Season with the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.

  4. To make the sandwiches, whisk together the eggs and milk in a medium baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Dip each slice of bread in the mixture and let sit until completely soaked through, about 10 seconds per side.

  5. Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook 2 slices of the bread at a time until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Repepat with the remaining butter, 3 tablespoons oil, and bread.

  6. Preheat the broiler. Put the tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet, brush with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and season with salt and pepper. Broil until slightly charred and just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes.

  7. Place 4 slices of the egg bread on a baking sheet, slide under the broiler, and heat just to warm through, 20 seconds on each side. Repeat with the remaining bread.

  8. Top each slice of bread with 2 to 3 slices turkey. Ladle sauce over the top and divide the cheddar and Parmesan over the top of each slice. Place under the broiler and cook until bubbly and the tops are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove from the oven, top each slice with 2 slices of bacon and a tomato slice, and sprinkle with parsley.

Note

To cook the bacon: Place the bacon in a large cast-iron griddle or sauté pan over medium heat and cook until golden brown and crisp, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.

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I'm not entirely sure where Bobby Flay got the idea to make the toast base for the Hot Brown into a French Toast base. As someone else has pointed out, we're now in Monte Cristo sandwich territory. I do like the idea of adding some cheddar cheese to the sauce and I think that's well worth a try. It's a decent open faced sandwich, but it's not at all a traditional Hot Brown

I had a REAL Kentucky hot brown several years ago. It was delicious. This recipe falls far short of the real deal. The French Toast part of it seems like it supposed to be a "new, exciting" spin on it, like so many recipes try to do today. It is new, but not exciting. It made extra work and made the sandwich fall flat. Fans of Monte Cristo sandwiches may like it, but this is not the official, real recipe.

THIS IS NOT THE RECIPE THAT I HAVE ALWAYS MADE--NOT A KENTUCKY HOT BROWN-- GIGILKY

No, no, no! French toast is NOT the base for this classic Kentucky dish. It's simply toast. I know. I've lived in Louisville, KY and have had the original Hot Brown at the Brown Hotel many times. An eggy bread would not be a good counterpoint to the rich cheese sauce. Sorry, Bobby. You missed on this one. Otherwise, the rest of the recipe is close to the original recipe, which can be found here: http://whatscookingamerica.net/Sandwich/HotBrownSandwich.htm

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