Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross
Food & Nutrition
This fall I had the pleasure of being a guest on a mystery bus trip that traveled to the Lexington, Ky., area and saw the sights for four days and three nights. This really could have been marketed as a food trip as every lunch and dinner was planned for more than being an evening meal.
The mystery part of the trip was that from beginning to end you never know where you were going. You just get on the bus. You are provided some clues and some of the guests try to figure it out — they have atlases and are looking at all the possibilities. Others just got on the bus and enjoyed the ride.
I know that many of you have great plans for your planned-over turkey, but as I was experiencing my first “Hot Brown,” I was thinking about writing this column. This open-faced sandwich is a wonderful way to enjoy turkey and ham from your Thanksgiving meal. The turkey and ham are nutritious before the sandwich and in it, but I never want to know the calories and/or fat grams in this hot open sandwich.
So what is a Hot Brown? In the 1920s, the Brown Hotel drew more than 1,200 guests each evening for its dinner dance. In the wee hours of the morning, the guests would grow tired of dancing and retire to the restaurant for a bite to eat. Diners were rapidly growing bored with the traditional ham and eggs, so chef Fred Schmidt set out to create something new to tempt his guests’ palates. His unique creation was an open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon and a delicate Mornay sauce. Exemplifying his unending dedication to serving his guests, the Hot Brown was born.
And now the Hot Brown — a Louisville tradition with worldwide appeal — has been featured in Southern Living, the Los Angeles Times, NBC’s “Today Show,” “ABC News with Diane Sawyer,” Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food” and The Wall Street Journal, as well as being included as a regular entry in many of the finest cookbooks.
Here is the original recipe which is very similar to what we experienced at Ramsey’s, a diner close to the University of Kentucky. The differences were ham was a part of ours and the entire sandwich was covered with cheddar cheese. The sandwich was the size of a 9-inch dinner plate, and in our group only three people ate the whole thing. I was not one of them, and I was raised a member of the clean plate club. This is a great sandwich but make them small, or if you’re in Kentucky and ordering by all means ask if you can share one. Ours could have been shared with three or four others as we had a green salad before and, of course, we had pie following the “Hot Brown.”
2 oz. butter
2 oz. all-purpose flour
16 oz. heavy cream
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, plus 1 tablespoon for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste
14 oz. sliced roasted turkey breast
2 slices of white toast (crusts trimmed)
4 slices of crispy bacon
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced in half
In a two-quart saucepan, melt butter and slowly whisk in flour until combined and a thick paste (roux) forms. 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 the Mornay sauce is smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
For each Hot Brown, place one slice of toast in an oven-safe dish and cover with 7 ounces of turkey. Take the two halves of Roma tomato and set them alongside the base of turkey and toast. Next, pour one half cup of the Mornay sauce to cover the dish. Sprinkle with additional Pecorino Romano cheese. Place entire dish under a broiler until cheese begins to brown and bubble. Remove from broiler, cross two pieces of crispy bacon on top, sprinkle with paprika and parsley, and serve immediately.
Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross is county extension director and an extension educator in health and human sciences at Purdue Extension Elkhart County. Contact her at 574-533-0554 or email@example.com.