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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 2000 of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch over 125 Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV segments using the TV Videos tab, join the discussion about all of my creations using the Facebook tab, or Email your questions and comments directly to me--none go unanswered. "We are all in this food world together." ~Melanie


~ Some Hot & Savory Open-Faced Sandwich History ~

IMG_0737There's no time like the week after Thanksgiving to dive into a discussion about open-faced sandwiches.  After all, a great percentage of our United States's population just spent the weekend making hot, open-faced sandwiches using their leftover turkey, dressing and gravy.  I'm no exception.  Shortly after sitting down to write my recipes for Kentucky's Classic Hot Brown and Pittsburgh's Original Devonshire, two iconic hot turkey sandwiches, both with rich histories, I took a break to research the finer-points of the open-faced sandwich. Why? Technically, open-faced sandwiches aren't sandwiches in the true sense of the word.

Unlike traditional sandwiches, open-faced sandwiches never sandwich anything between two slices of bread, & typically don't get picked up to eat with the hands.

IMG_0722The definition & origin(s) of the open-faced sandwich.

According to Wikipedia, an open-faced sandwich, also known as an open-face sandwich, bread platter, or, tartine (a fancy French word for an open-faced sandwich made with spreadable ingredients), consists of a single slice of fresh bread with one or more foods piled on top.  During the middle ages in 15th Century England, thin slices of coarse-grained bread, called "trenchers" were used as plates.  At the end of the meal, the food-soaked trencher was eaten by the diner (referred to as a "trencherman"), fed to a dog, or, given to a beggar.  Trenchers were not only the harbinger of today's open-faced sandwiches are they were the first disposable plates.

The precursor to the English open-faced trencher is:

IMG_0411The Scandinavian-style served-cold open-sandwich.

The precursor to the English open-faced sandwich (not known to the English at the time), is the iconic Scandinavian open sandwich (Danish:  smørrebrød, Norwegian:  smørbrød, Swedish: smørgäs), consisting of one buttered piece of bread, usually whole-grained rye,  topped with thinly-sliced cold items (cheese, steak, ham, turkey, shrimp, smoked salmon, caviar, cooked eggs, bacon, herring, fish filets, liver pâté, etc.).  A condiment, such as mayonnaise, or a mayo-based dressing was/is usually included too.  In the 17th Century, naturalist John Ray, wrote about what he experienced while in the Netherlands:  "In the taverns, beef hung from the rafters, which they cut into thin slices to eat with bread and butter, heaping the slices upon the butter."  

Versions of the cold Scandinavian-type open sandwich are served all over the world.  That said, in Great Britain, open sandwiches are rare outside of a Scandinavian delicatessen, except for the famous Welsh rarebit and Scotch woodcock (a fondue-like cheese sauce "on toast"), historically served at the colleges of the University of Cambridge. The hot, hearty and somewhat messy-looking open sandwich, usually consisting of warm, sliced meat and a generous drizzle of gravy, or leftover sliced meat reheated in simmering gravy, is the traditional sandwich in poorer Eastern European countries, where they are eaten with a knife and fork for breakfast, lunch or dinner -- to turn leftovers into a meal.  The latter is the type of open-faced sandwich, I grew up eating.

IMG_0730When to call the food police about your open-faced sandwich:

130328_FoodPoliceBadge-picIn the United States, in the court case of White City Shopping Ctr., LP v. PR Rests, LLC, 21 Mass. L. Rep. 565 (2006), the judge ruled that to be called a true sandwich (from a legal perspective) the dish must include at least two slices of bread.  In many restaurants, many open-faced sandwich do not meet this criteria, although most served in diners and restaurants here in the Northeastern states where I live generally do pile the meat and gravy atop two overlapping slices of bread.  Oh my.  I'll no longer be throwing the term "open-faced sandwich" loosely around. Important:  before you pick up your knife and fork: 

If on your dish doesn't appear two slices of bread, (side-by-side or slightly-overlapping), you're only being served "half-an-open-faced sandwich".

IMG_0759"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2023) 


~ The Classic Kentucky Hot Brown Turkey Sandwich ~

IMG_0931Simply 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.

IMG_0834The 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:

IMG_0849Variations 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:

IMG_0853Overlap 2 thick-sliced brioche bread slices in the bottom:

IMG_0867Arrange 6-8 ounces pulled or sliced turkey atop bread:

IMG_0872Drizzle 1/2-3/4 cup warm Mornay sauce over the top:

IMG_0884Four tomato slices (or some diced pimientos) are nice:

IMG_0889Sprinkle w/2 teaspoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c938d1dd970b6" under the broiler for 6-8 minutes it goes, lightly-browned & bubbly it emerges, add 3 slices bacon & a parsley garnish:

IMG_0893Eat, drink & be very, very merry:

IMG_0937The Classic Kentucky Hot Brown Turkey Sandwich:  Recipe yields instructions to construct and broil one large, hot and hearty, open-faced sandwich.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; microplane grater; 8" oven-proof skillet

IMG_0737Cook'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 2023)