The Kentucky hot brown is an open-faced sandwich that is the ultimate comfort food. There is a creamy sauce, crispy bacon, and underneath that is a foundation of soft and pillowy bread.
This sandwich was invented by the owner of The Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. I share the history of this sandwich in our Kentucky state dinner post. This sandwich is delicious for dinner, but would also make a wonderful brunch item.
What Makes a Mornay Sauce?
The creamy, cheesy sauce that covers the Hot Brown is a mornay sauce. Mornay has the foundation of a classic white sauce called béchamel, but then it has cheese added to it. I love a good white sauce, and I think cheese makes it even better!
Most often gruyere or sharp cheddar are used in a mornay sauce. In this recipe, we use a little of both, so that we get a little more complexity of flavor. Both kinds of cheese melt really well. You can use any good melting cheese for this recipe, so feel free to experiment!
Tricks for a Delicious sauce
A béchamel sauce begins with a roux, which is melted butter and flour cooked together. They cook over medium-low heat for several minutes, while you stir constantly. It is kind of magical watching a roux cook. It starts out clumpy and then all of a sudden it’s like the flour gives up and turns liquid. The mixture becomes creamy and begins to bubble, and that is when you know this step is done.
Our sauce is anything but boring. In addition to the cheese, it is flavored with a tiny pinch of nutmeg, some cloves, onions, and bay leaf. And in the end, it is finished with a few dashes of hot sauce, and some salt and pepper.
Before putting your onion in the sauce, push two whole cloves into it. Then notice how it looks like eyes, and give your onion a name. Just kidding! It can go straight into the sauce. We’ll remove these at the end of our cooking time, and strain the sauce just to make sure no little clove pieces are left floating around.
Creating Your Perfect Kentucky Hot Brown Sandwich
There are many different variations of the Kentucky Hot Brown. The things that remain consistent are that it is an open-faced sandwich topped with turkey and Mornay sauce and that it has bacon. Other than that, get creative! Traditionally, it is built on the foundation of a really thick piece of white bread, which is why we are using Texas toast. But in a cooking showdown, Bobby Flay used French Toast! Go with what brings you joy!
In our version, we lay Texas toast in a baking dish, and place a thick slice of turkey over each piece of bread. A quarter-inch of turkey is just about perfect! Pour the Mornay sauce over the turkey and bread, sprinkle it with some Parmesan cheese, and broil it for just a few minutes.
When you are ready to serve, top it with some broiled tomatoes and crispy bacon, and you have perfection!
Frequently Asked Questions
This tastes like brunch food, so I like to serve it with home fries and some fruit. You also can’t go wrong with French fries! If you want something a little healthier then a side salad would be a great complement!
The texture of your sauce can be adjusted pretty easily! Just add additional milk to thin it. If it is too thin, remove a portion of the sauce into a small bowl. Add a tablespoon of flour and stir well, then mix it back into your sauce and cook for a couple of minutes, to allow it to thicken.
Kentucky Hot Brown
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- 2 whole cloves
- 1/4 white onion
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup shredded gruyere
- 1 cup shredded cheddar
- 2-3 dashes hot sauce
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 16 slices thick cut bacon
- 16 slices tomato
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 8 slices Texas toast bread
- 2 pounds roasted deli turkey, sliced 1/4-inch thick
- 1/4 cup Parmesan
- Chives for garnish, if desired
- Warm cream and milk in the microwave for 2 minutes, and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Stir in flour and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring continually.
- Slowly stir in warm cream and milk, stirring constantly.
- Stick 2 cloves into the onion and add to sauce, along with nutmeg and the bay leaf. Simmer for 10 minutes.
- Remove onion from the sauce. Pour sauce through a cheesecloth or fine mesh sieve to remove any loose clove particles.
- Stir in cheese until melted. Season to taste.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay bacon in a single layer in a large baking sheet. Cook for 20 minutes, or until crispy. Remove from oven and set aside.
- Place tomato slices on a baking sheet. Drizzle with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place on top rack in oven and turn broiler onto high. Broil 2-3 minutes, until lightly charred.
- Arrange bread in a large baking dish. Place a piece of turkey on each bread slice. Pour mornay sauce over each sandwich, fully covering the bread and turkey. Sprinkle with Parmesan.Broil for 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and golden brown.
- Transfer sandwich to serving plates and garnish each with 2 tomato slices, and 2 slices of bacon. Garnish with chives, if desired.