Oh my gosh, I love this Kentucky Hot Brown sandwich. The origins of this sandwich date back to 1926 when the Brown Hotel in Louisville served an open-faced hot turkey sandwich with cheese sauce, tomato and bacon on white toast. Several years ago I saw Bobby Flay’s hot brown throw down with the Castro brothers of said hotel in Kentucky. I wanted to hang out with those two guys, they were charming and hilarious, and they won the throw down. I watched that episode and then we went out to a local dive for a bite and the special was Kentucky Hot Brown! Weird karma, I think, and I of course had to have it. It was delicious.
I have been wanting to make these hot brown sandwiches ever since. Well, I finally did last Sunday for dinner and a little Golden Globe watching. I decided I was trying Bobby Flay’s version. I hear he’s a big Kentucky Derby fan and serves Kentucky Hot Brown in one of his restaurants. And I wanted to impress my good Kentucky friend up in Minnesota.
Kentucky hot brown is white toast topped with turkey, a slice of tomato, a white cheese sauce, more cheese and then broiled until all melted and gooey. Then it’s topped with a couple slices of crisp bacon. Comfort food doesn’t get much better than this.
I’m sure there are a bunch of versions of the Kentucky Hot Brown. I loved this one. Give it a try, make your own revisions if necessary, and grab a fork and knife and enjoy. By the way, my friend from Kentucky was pretty darn impressed.
Kentucky Hot Brown
- 2¼ cups whole milk
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups shredded white cheddar cheese
- ¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Pinch of ground nutmeg
- A couple dashes of hot sauce
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
- 12 slices of thick-cut bacon
- 2 tomatoes, cut into 6 ¼-inch thick slices
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
- Six ½-inch slices of white sandwich bread, preferably day-old (I used an Italian white sandwich bread called Baker's Bread)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, softened
- 12 slices roast turkey breast, sliced thick
- 1½ cups shredded white cheddar cheese
- ½ cup grated Parmigiano
- In small saucepan, bring milk to a simmer. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and then add the flour and whisk for a minute. Gradually add the hot milk, whisking constantly, and bring to a boil. Cook and whisk until thickened, about 5 minutes or so. Remove from heat and add the cheddar and parmesan cheeses, whisk until melted and smooth. Add the nutmeg and hot sauce and season with salt and pepper. Cover and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 425º. Arrange bacon on a rack over a sheet pan and bake until crisp, about 30 minutes (or fry on the stove, both ways make a mess!).
- Preheat the broiler and arrange tomato slices on a sheet pan, drizzle with canola oil, and some salt and pepper. Broil 6 inches from heat, 1 to 2 minutes per side, until lightly charred.
- Arrange 6 slices of bread on a baking sheet. Spread ½ tablespoon of butter on each slice. Broil until lightly toasted. Watch very carefully so it doesn't burn. Takes about a minute. Flip bread and lightly toast other side.
- Top each toast with 2 slices of turkey and a tomato slice. Spoon the cheese sauce on top and sprinkle remaining cheddar and parmesan evenly over the top. Broil until cheese is melted, golden brown and bubbly, about 2 to 4 minutes.
- Transfer sandwiches to platter, or keep on sheet pan, and top each hot brown with 2 slices of bacon.
*Adapted from Food&Wine, December 2015, Bobby Flay’s recipe