~ Spin Off: My Kentucky Hot Brown Mac and Cheese ~
When it comes to television, we all know what a spin-off is. A favorite character or two breaks from the original show to start another show with no change to their name or relationship to the original show. Maude was a spin-off of All in the Family, Rhoda a spin-off of Mary Tyler Moore, and, Better Call Saul a spin-off of Breaking Bad. Under the right well-thought-through circumstances, spin-offs can be a resounding successes. The concept is the same for recipes.
I love it when this happens, and, in the case of today's recipe, my turning a decadent open-faced turkey sandwich recipe into a luscious macaroni and cheese meal, the chances of it not being resoundingly successful were minimal. I only needed to eat a real-deal Kentucky hot brown once to realize that by swapping some cooked pasta for the bread, a terrific pasta entrée would be born. That one change to this traditional Derby Day favorite meal had me off to the races.
Another changeable option would be to use cheddar cheese sauce in place of the Mornay sauce. It's acceptable, but the dish needs to be renamed: Pittsburgh's Devonshire-Style Mac and Cheese. Why? The Devonshire, which originated at the English-atmosphered Stratford Club in 1934, was a spin-off of Kentucky's hot brown and was topped with cheddar cheese sauce.
If you've got Mornay (Gruyère and Parmesan) Cheese Sauce:
The Kentucky hot brown, invented in 1926 by Fred K. Schmidt at The Brown Hotel in Louisville, unlike many other famous sandwiches, was no accident. It was created, from some carefully-selected, well-thought out ingredients, to please his late-night crowd (as an alternative to the ham and eggs on toast meal that was already on his late-night menu). It was a sort-of spin-off of the British Welsh rarebit and Scotch woodcock (a fondue-like cheese sauce "on toast").
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. What he came up with was: an open-faced sandwich consisting of oven-roasted sliced turkey on white or brioche bread, covered in Mornay (Gruyère cheese) sauce and a few pimentos or tomato slices plus a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. It goes under the boiler for a few short minutes, until the bread is toasted around the edges and the sauce is bubbly and beginning to brown. Served hot out of the broiler, crisply-fried bacon strips and a parsley garnish go on just before serving.
In the traditional style of the Kentucky hot brown, I'm not even altering the way the dish is layered and broiled. Mornay sauce, rich with milk, Gruyère and Parmesan cheeses makes a fantastic, alfredo-esque sauce for pasta. That said, my choice to use tubular penne, instead of stranded fettuccini, is no accident. The sauce flows freely into the tubes of this is fork-friendly pasta dish, which is an integral part in keeping with a typical macaroni-and-cheese-inspired theme.
Get out your favorite 8" oven-safe skillet:
Special Equipment List: appropriately-sized saucepan; colander; cutting board; chef's knife; microplane grater; 8" oven-proof skillet
Cook's Note: How many versions of macaroni and cheese are there? I'm guessing about as many recipes as there are cooks out there, and, if they're anything like me, all of us have several versions in our repertoire. ~ My Stovetop Green Chile Chicken Mac & Cheese ~, which gets made and served out of the the same pot it is cooked in, uses a cheese sauce made with Monterey Jack w/Jalapeño Cheese.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)