Hot Brown Sandwich: Everything You Wanted to Know

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What is a Hot Brown?

The Hot Brown is an open-faced turkey sandwich that is covered in Mornay sauce. This is a Derby City favorite and is sometimes called the Louisville Hot Brown or Kentucky Hot Brown.

The “Legendary Hot Brown” was created at the Brown Hotel in the 1920’s and included thick sliced turkey, texas toast, crispy bacon and roma tomatoes.

Where was the Hot Brown Created?

In the 1920’s, the Brown Hotel in Louisville, KY was famous for its evening dinner dances. Many times these events drew over 1,200 guests.

The hotel business created a dinner and dance, but after a few years in operation the dance business started to flounder.

Dancing would start at 10pm and run until 1am. For the first few years, the hotel would serve ham and eggs around midnight.

Eventually the hotel figured out that they needed something new on the menu. Turkey was usually reserved for holiday meals like Christmas and New Years, but Chef Fred Schmidt had another idea to bring turkey to life year round.

He created this open-faced turkey sandwich smothered in Mornay sauce. The Hot Brown was born and has been a staple in Louisville, KY ever since!

Legendary Hot Brown Recipe

The Brown Hotel doesn’t hold their secret close to the vest, but they share it for the world to enjoy. Here is the recipe to the original Hot Brown.

The Legendary Hot Brown

The original hot brown as shared by the Brown Hotel in Louisville, KY.

  • 2 oz whole butter
  • 2 oz all purpose flour
  • 8 oz heavy cream
  • 8 oz whole milk
  • ½ cup Pecorino romano cheese plus 1 tbsp for Garnish
  • 1 pinch Ground Nutmeg
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 14 oz Sliced Roasted Turkey Breast, Slice Thick
  • 4 slices Texas Toast (Crust Trimmed)
  • 4 slices Crispy Bacon
  • 2 whole Roma Tomatoes
  • Paprika
  • Parsley
  1. In two-quart saucepan, melt butter and slowly whisk in flour until combined and forms a thick paste (roux)

  2. Continue to cook roux for two minutes over medium-low heat, stirring frequently.

  3. Whisk heavy cream and whole milk into the roux and cook over medium heat until the cream begins to simmer, about 2-3 minutes

  4. Remove the sauce from heat and slowly whisk in Pecorino Romano cheese until the Mornay sauce is smooth.

  5. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste

  6. For each Hot Brown, place two slices of toast with the crusts cut off in an oven safe dish – one slice is cut in half corner to corner to make two triangles and the other slice is left in a square shape – then cover with 7 ounces of turkey. 

  7. Take the two halves of Roma tomato and two toast points and set them alongside the base of the turkey and toast

  8. Next, pour one half of the Mornay sauce to completely cover the dish. 

  9. Sprinkle with additional Pecorino Romano cheese.

  10. Place the entire dish under a broiler until cheese begins to brown and bubble.

  11. Remove from broiler, cross two pieces of crispy bacon on top, sprinkle with paprika and parsley, and serve immediately.

What is a Mornay Sauce

Mornay sauce is a béchamel sauce with shredded or grated Gruyère cheese added. 

The hot brown in its original form varies from the typical Mornay Sauce in that it uses some different cheese varieties. Some other variations use different combinations of Gruyère, Emmental cheese, or white Cheddar.

What are some Variations?

There are many ways to make the Hot Brown your own.

First, let’s start with the meat. The original included sliced Turkey, but we have seen many other variations as well. If you don’t want to substitute the Turkey, try adding ham in as well. Another fan favorite is to replace the turkey with chicken.

Tomatoes or not tomatoes? Tomatoes are often added on top, so feel free to leave them off part of the dish. If you are cooking for the picky eater in your house, this may be the way to go.

What about the bacon? I don’t recommend leaving the bacon off. The bacon adds some nice crunch to the ooey gooey mix!

Is there anything else to add? Many restaurants in the Louisville area have started adding an egg on top. A fried egg is probably the most common, but get creative and try some other types as well!

What Restaurants Serve the Hot Brown?

Besides the Brown Hotel, you will find the Hot Brown on many menus around Kentucky. Whether you are a local or if you are stopping in for the Kentucky Derby, you can find a one on almost every corner. We found some interesting twists on the dish:

Best Bread we have eaten

Of Course the Brown Hotel will serve you wherever you stop

Head to the Lobby Bar or maybe sit down at a restaurant. Either way, you can get what you came for.

On a Biscuit

On a Pizza

For Brunch with an Egg on Top

At an Irish Pub of Course

With Fish

At the Kentucky Derby

28 More Places to Eat a Hot Brown in Louisville

Because we didn’t give you enough options already, here are 28 more places that we found in Louisville serving up the Hot Brown.

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