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Cooking on the Go: Kentucky Hot Browns

Love at First Bite in Louisville

By Janet Groene

It’s love at first bite when travelers visit Louisville, Kentucky, and tuck into a hot brown. These open-faced turkey sandwiches were invented at the city’s prestigious Brown Hotel in 1926. They’re now such a staple that you’ll find them on menus all over town—as hot brown waffles, hot brown pizzas, mini hot browns, or breakfast hot browns.

There is, however, only one authentic hot brown, and Brown Hotel chefs insist that it begins with oven-roasted, hand-sliced turkey breast (making it a great post-Thanksgiving dish, by the way). The tricky part in the RV galley is making the classic Mornay sauce that’s part of the dish. Trickier still is broiling the sandwich without burning it. With apologies to the hot brown purists out there, here is our shortcut hot brown recipe—geared to the RV kitchen.

Mornay Sauce

  • ½ a stick of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 2 cups of heavy cream
  • ½ cup of grated Pecorino Romano cheese plus 1 tablespoon for garnish

In a two-quart saucepan, melt the butter and whisk in the flour to make a thick paste, or roux. Stirring frequently and taking care not to burn the roux, cook it over low heat for two minutes. Begin whisking in the cream over medium heat until it begins to simmer, about two to three minutes. Remove from the sauce from the heat, whisk in the cheese, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Hot Brown Sandwiches For Two

  • 14 ounces of sliced roasted turkey breast
  • 2 slices of thick bread, toasted and with crusts removed
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 4 slices of crisp bacon
  • Paprika
  • Minced parsley

Place one slice of toast on each of two oven-safe dishes, and cover the toast with the turkey. Place tomato halves on the dishes. Add the Mornay sauce, sprinkle everything with the reserved Pecorino Romano cheese, and broil until it begins to brown and bubble. Cross two pieces of cooked bacon on top, sprinkle with paprika and parsley, and serve at once.

Cook’s Notes
One quick way to “broil” a sauce or to caramelize the top of a crème brûlée is with a kitchen, or culinary torch. Even a small blowtorch from your tool kit will work.

To lighten this very rich dish, make four portions using the same amount of sauce with a pound of turkey (four ounces per serving), four thin slices of toast, and four small Roma tomatoes. Cut each slice of bacon in half to cross atop the finished dish. To stray even further from the original recipe, make the sauce with milk or even nonfat milk instead of cream. Still, there truly is no substitute for real butter…