The chefs at the Brown Hotel, which has been one of Louisville’s social centers since it opened in 1923, probably didn’t have Thanksgiving leftovers in mind when they created the Hot Brown Sandwich. But it’s one of our favorite ways to use up excess turkey.
Chef Fred Schmidt dreamed up the open-faced turkey and bacon sandwich in 1926 as a treat for up to 1,000 hungry dancers at the hotel’s swanky soirees. Schmidt’s solution to the light-night rush on the kitchen used ingredients readily at hand: toast, roast turkey, Mornay sauce, and bacon strips.
With the unbeatable combination of bacon and cheese sauce, it’s no surprise that the popularity of the Hot Brown has spread well beyond the hotel where it was born. Lots of Louisville restaurants offer a version, but we went to the source for the original. The hotel serves the Hot Brown in a small skillet-shaped ceramic casserole. And they also hand out the recipe, probably taking pity on those of us in misguided corners of America where turkey is considered a diet food. We substitute au gratin dishes for the nifty casseroles, but otherwise don’t mess with success.
HOT BROWN SANDWICH
1/2 cup butter (one stick)
6 tablespoons flour
3 1/4 cups milk
6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 ounce)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 ounce whipped cream (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
8 slices toast, cut in half diagonally
1 pound roast turkey slices, divided into 4 even parts
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan (for topping)
8 strips of fried bacon
Chopped parsley to garnish
1 large fresh tomato, divided into 8 wedges
Set oven to broil.
1. In heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour and continue stirring until it absorbs butter and stops foaming. Do not allow to brown.
2. Stir in milk, keeping flour mixture in suspension. Add 6 tablespoons Parmesan cheese. Continue stirring while bringing almost to a boil. Quickly stir in egg, reducing heat to low. Stir until sauce thickens. Fold in optional whipped cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
1. In four 9-inch gratin pans or other shallow, flameproof dishes, arrange toast points, four to a dish. Top with turkey slices. Cover each dish with one-quarter of Mornay sauce and sprinkle tops with remaining Parmesan. Broil until top is bubbling and speckled with brown.
2. On removing from broiler, cross two bacon strips on each dish. Sprinkle top with chopped parsley and stick two tomato wedges into edge of each plate. Serve immediately.