~ The Classic Kentucky Hot Brown Turkey Sandwich ~
Simply known as "the hot brown", or "Louisville hot brown", this Kentucky sandwich is a culinary legend. Invented in 1926 by Fred K. Schmidt at The Brown Hotel in Louisville, unlike many other famous sandwiches, this one was no accident. It was specifically created, from some carefully-selected, well-thought out ingredients, to please his hungry late-night crowd. It was a sort-of spin-off of the British Welsh rarebit and Scotch woodcock (a fondue-like cheese sauce "on toast").
We're not talking deli-turkey & store-bought cheese sauces.
The original, now classic, hot brown was an open-faced sandwich consisting of oven-roasted sliced turkey on white or brioche bread, covered in Mornay (Gruyère cheese) sauce and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, then placed under the boiler until the sauce began to bubble and brown. Crisply-fried bacon strips and a few pimentos were added at serving time. Let me be very clear, we're not talking about deli-meat and store-bought cheese sauces.
When Mr. Schmidt created his sandwich, roasted and sliced turkey was a rarity, as turkey was usually reserved for holiday feasts -- at the time, turkeys were only sold during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season and had just become available to restaurants all year long. The Hotel's dance band played each night from 10:00PM-1:00AM, and he wanted to offer something different to his after-the-dance customers. What he came up with was a unique alternative to the typical ham-and-egg-on-toast suppers available to late night clientele at that time -- it's why the original did not contain ham. It quickly became the choice of 95% of the customers to the hotel's restaurant, but, from 1971 to 1985, while the hotel was sadly shut down, it was hard to find elsewhere.
Cold Browns, Prosperity Sandwiches & Turkey Devonshire:
Variations on the original hot brown included a version in which Chef Schmidt, upon request, would include a slice of baked ham along with the turkey, and, as alternative garnishes, sliced tomatoes and/or sautéd sliced mushrooms.
The cold brown, which is rarely served anymore, consists of an open-faced rye bread sandwich topped with chicken or turkey, hard-cooked egg, lettuce, tomato and a generous drizzle of Thousand Islands salad dressing.
At St. Louis's Mayfair Hotel, the 1930's Prosperity Sandwich, strikingly similar to the original hot brown, got named as a snarky joke about President Hoover's (POTUS #31 -- 1929-1933) incessant Great Depression-era promise: "prosperity is just around the corner". In Pittsburgh, at the English-atmosphered Stratford Club, Frank Blandi's 1934 twist on the hot brown, The Devonshire, was topped with cheddar cheese sauce in place of the Mornay sauce.
Get out your favorite 8" oven-safe skillet:
Overlap 2 thick-sliced brioche bread slices in the bottom:
Arrange 6-8 ounces pulled or sliced turkey atop bread:
Drizzle 1/2-3/4 cup warm Mornay sauce over the top:
6" under the broiler for 6-8 minutes it goes, lightly-browned & bubbly it emerges, add 3 slices bacon & a parsley garnish:
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; microplane grater; 8" oven-proof skillet
Cook's Note: While writing this post, I took a break to research the finer-points of open-faced sandwiches. Why? In the true sense of the word, open-faced sandwiches, technically, aren't sandwiches. Unlike traditional sandwiches, they never sandwich anything between two slices of bread, and typically, they don't get picked up to eat with the hands. To learn more about this, read my post ~ Some Hot & Savory Open-Faced Sandwich History ~.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)