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Kentucky Hot Browns

Julia Bainbridge
Food Editor
May 1, 2014

Photo credit: Julia Bainbridge/Jen Fox

Talk of open-faced sandwiches brings radish tartines to mind. Or Nordic platters of thinly sliced dark bread with smoked fish and pickles. Both, in essence, light, springy lunches.

The Kentucky Hot Brown is no such open-faced sandwich. It starts with savory French toast, meaning egg batter–dipped thick-cut slices of white bread crisped with a hot panful of butter, then comes roast turkey breast—thick slices, not the deli stuff—then rich Mornay sauce. We're not finished yet! On top of that comes grated cheddar and Parmesan cheese turned golden and bubbling under the broiler. Whole bacon slices act as a garnish. And then there’s a liiiiiitle bit of roasted tomato and parsley, because you’ve got to eat your vegetables.

It’s named for the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, where it was supposedly created in 1926. While Joe and John Castro, current chefs at the Brown Hotel, beat Bobby Flay in a Hot Brown cook-off episode of “Throwdown!,” Flay still serves up a darn good classic version at his Bar Americain in New York City. And we got his recipe.

So make this ultimate, shall we say, re-tox dish for your Kentucky Derby viewing party this weekend. Or for the morning after your Derby party, since you’ll be having a lot of these.

Kentucky Hot Brown
by Bobby Flay
Serves 8

Roast Turkey Sauce
1 boneless turkey breast, about 3 pounds
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, softened
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups whole milk, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ pound sharp white cheddar cheese, grated (2 cups)
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

4 large eggs 1½ cups whole milk, or more if needed
8 (½-inch-thick) sliced day-old Pullman or other good-quality white sandwich bread
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
6 tablespoons canola oil
3 ripe beefsteak tomatoes, sliced ½ inch thick
6 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated (1½ cups)
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
16 (¼-inch-thick) slices bacon, cooked until crisp
Fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, for garnish

Roast Turkey Sauce
1. To roast the turkey, preheat the oven to 425°F.

2. Rub the entire breast with 4 tablespoons butter and season with salt and pepper. Place in a small roasting pan and roast for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350°F and continue roasting the turkey until a thermometer inserted into the center registers 155°F, 1 to 1½ hours. Remove from the oven, ten loosely with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

3. Put the milk in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the hot milk. Bring to a boil and cook, whisking constantly, until thickened and the raw flour haste has cooked out, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in more milk if the sauce is too thick to pour.

4. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cheddar and Parmesan cheeses, whisking until the cheddar has melted. Season with the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.

1. Whisk together the eggs and milk in a medium baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Dip each slice of bread in the mixture and let sit until completely soaked through, about 10 seconds per side.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook 2 slices of the bread at a time until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Repeat with the remaining butter, 3 tablespoons oil, and bread.

3. Preheat the broiler. Put the tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet, brush with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and season with salt and pepper. Broil until slightly charred and just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes.

4. Place 4 slices of the egg bread on a baking sheet, slide under the broiler, and heat just to warm through, 20 seconds on each side. Repeat with the remaining bread.

5. Top each slice of bread with 2 to 3 slices turkey. Ladle sauce over the top and divide the cheddar and Parmesan over the top of each slice. Place under the broiler and cook until bubbly and the tops are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove from the oven, top each slice with 2 slices of bacon and a tomato slice, and sprinkle with parsley.