Ya’ll, (I can use this word, check my credentials). Ya’ll if you haven’t had a Kentucky Hot Brown yet, then you need this recipe in your life. Even if you have had a true Kentucky Hot Brown, I am confident that my rendition of this classic Kentucky dish will be one of the better Hot Browns you've ever had. In 1926 the Chef’s at the local Brown Hotel came up with this open faced turkey sandwich and it has been a staple of this great state ever since! Traditionally, a hot brown is an open faced turkey sandwich with a Mornay sauce. There are hundreds of variations on this dish, so let me add just one more.
When I was a boy, my mother was in love with the hot brown. She would make them often, and make them delicious. My friends and I used to call her Mornay sauce “Heaven sauce”. We convinced her over the years to serve it over everything. It was, and still is, my favorite thing she cooks. So inspired from my mother, and some other delicious hot browns I’ve had around this awesome city, I give you The Kentucky Kitchen Hot Brown.
The Kentucky Kitchen Hot Brown
Serves 4 Cooking Time: 2 hours Prep Time: 30 minutes
For the Poultry:
4-6lbs Chicken, or Turkey Breast
¾ Stick of softened butter
1 Rosemary leaves from one stem, diced
4-6 Fresh Sage Leaves, chiffonade
2 oz Kentucky Bourbon
4 oz Maple Syrup
1 Tbsp Mustard (Dijon, Brown, Spicy...)
½ Tbsp Cayenne Pepper
For the Bread:
Dense Loaf of Bread (Pictured is a Multi Grain Loaf)
1 Cup Buttermilk
Butter for the skillet
For the Sauce:
½ White Onion Minced
4 Tbsp Butter
4 Tbsp Flour
4 Cups Whole Milk
8oz Shredded White Cheddar
6oz Grated Parmesan
Pinch of Nutmeg
Fresh Tomato Slices
Preheat Oven to 375 degrees. Depending on the season, use Chicken or Turkey. Chicken is always readily available and is similar (at least to my pallet) to turkey. But if you can get a fresh (not frozen) turkey breast go traditional. Rinse of the chicken and pat dry with paper towels, place in a baking dish. Combine Butter, herbs and salt/pepper and gently massage the herb butter into the skin of the chicken. Combine all ingredients for the glaze, and set aside. Place the chicken in the oven for 20 minutes to allow the skin to brown. Reduce heat to 350 and cook until the chicken is done. (My rule of thumb is 20 minutes of cooking per pound. I used a 6 pound chicken, so it was 2 hours total cooking time.)
About 15-20 minutes before your chicken is cooked, brush the glaze all over. Use it all. Return the chicken to the oven for remaining cooking time, then remove from heat and allow 30 minutes or so to rest.
Meanwhile, cut your bread into thick slices. Mix buttermilk, eggs, salt/pepper and cayenne pepper together to make a French toast style batter. Heat a skillet over medium high heat, after your skillet is hot, add butter. Dip both sides of the bread into the batter and place in a hot buttered skillet. Hopefully you hear it sizzling. After 1-2 minutes, flip the bread and cook the other side. You want nice sear marks, and a crispy edge, but still soft in the middle. Repeat this until all the bread is gone. (Each hot brown needs two pieces of bread).
In a large sauce pot, start melting the 4 tbsps. of butter. Add the diced onion and sauté until fragrant and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook for another minute stirring constantly. Be sure you cook the flour for at least a minute, raw flour does not taste good. Slowly whisk in one cup of milk at a time, scrapping the flour bits of the bottom of your pot. Bring this mixture up to a gentle boil, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens. 5-10 minutes (To test this, dip a wooden spoon into the sauce. Draw a line with your finger down the back of the wooden spoon through the sauce. If the sauce remains separated its ready, if it runs back together cook longer.) Stir in the cheddar and the parmesan cheese, stirring until smooth.
*Dinner guest tip: I know this is a lot of work, but at this point, you can place the bread and chicken in a warm 170 degree over, and simmer the sauce until it’s time to eat. This is a great “pause” moment if you are having guests for dinner and you don’t want to spend the entire time in the kitchen.
On an oven safe plate, place two pieces of the bread, and top with both white and dark meat. Spoon on those delicious drippings from the roasting pan. All that flavor is really concentrated and enhanced by the drippings of the chicken and needs to be on this sandwich. Ladle a generous portion of mornay sauce on the chicken and place under a broiler for 3-4 minutes to lightly brown the sauce. Top with crispy bacon and fresh sliced tomatoes. This is certainly a hearty, and filling dish. Filled with decadent creamy cheese, and deliciously seasoned chicken. The tomatoes really help cut through the richness of this sandwich and offer some much needed acid.
It takes some time, but wow it’s worth it! This is easily one of my most popular dishes!