The Lexingtonienne




When Hubba Bubba and I were married in the home state two years ago, many of our California friends made their very first visits to the Bluegrass for the wedding and festivities.



To my great delight, the Los Angelenos unanimously fell in love with Lexington’s horse culture, Woodford Reserve bourbon, and — of course — Kentucky Hot Browns.





So when I started this blog a few months ago, my L.A. friend Katie (now my New Jersey friend Katie, btw) immediately requested a blog about Hot Browns.






“Yes, yes,” I had assured her. “Hot Browns are coming. Eventually.”



Although she was patient, Katie stayed on me about it on at least a weekly basis. I would get comments on the blog, Facebook messages, and texts on my phone demanding to know when a Hot Brown recipe was coming.



Well this week, Katie gave birth to a 10 pound, 2 ounce baby girl — Lucy Elizabeth — and simultaneously declared that there would be no more waiting for a Hot Brown recipe. Katie wants this recipe NOW, and since she did just push out her second 10-pound baby (her son, Sean, was born in February 2009 at 9 pounds, 13 ounces), is there any arguing that she deserves it?



What I didn’t tell Katie was that I was going to have to create a Hot Brown recipe. Of course any Kentuckian knows the basic ingredients for our favorite open-faced sandwich — white toast, turkey, sauce Mornay, extra cheese, bacon, and tomato. But there are a lot of variations out there, as far as recipes go.



And on top of that, there is the challenge of making the sauce Mornay. It starts with a roux, which, no matter how many times I’ve done it, remains an intimidating process. It’s easy to burn a roux (in which case you have no choice but to throw it out and start over). It’s also very easy to overcook a roux (in which case there is also no turning back, and you must decide whether to live with the imperfection — ugh — or to throw it out and start over).


For my 30th birthday party this past Derby Day, we served a buffet of Kentucky-style dishes, including mini Hot Browns which we passed as an hors d’oeuvre. I designed them — crostini, turkey, sauce Mornay, cheddar cheese, bacon crumbles, cherry tomato slices — but left the heavy lifting (i.e. the roux-making) to my Best Friend Jenny, who is fabulous in the kitchen. So until now, I have deftly avoided the Mornay challenge.



But, for Katie and her 10-pounder, I pulled it together, faced the challenge head-on, and finally made a Kentucky Hot Brown. This one is regular size — not mini (in celebration of the 10 pound baby, of course) — and is intended as a main course.

Hot Brown! Gonna Make You Sweat

CONGRATULATIONS to the Rickard Family on their newest arrival!!!

For each serving, you will need:
1 slice white bread (I sliced 1/2-inch thick slices from a French loaf), lightly toasted
1/4 pound roasted turkey breast
1/3 C (approx) sauce Mornay (recipe below)
2 T (approx) shredded cheddar cheese
1 tomato slice
2 slices bacon, cooked until crisp

In an oven-safe dish (preferably individual if you have them, which I do not), place toast slices on the bottom, top with turkey, then sauce Mornay*, then cheddar cheese, then tomato. Broil until cheese is bubbly, about 10-12 minutes (but keep an eye on it). Top with bacon slices, crossed over one another in an X. Broil for a minute or two more if you like your bacon extra crispy. Serve in the individual oven-safe dishes (if you have them), or transfer to plates. You’ll need a knife and fork for this sandwich!

*If you make your sauce Mornay in advance like I did, you may want to re-warm it either by itself in a pot on the stove (then scoop it over the sandwich), or just heat the whole sandwich for about 10 minutes in a 400 degree oven before broiling.

1 1/4 C whole milk
1/2 small onion with 1 bay leaf stuck to it using 2 whole cloves
Pinch of ground nutmeg
2 T unsalted butter
2 T all-purpose flour
Salt & pepper to taste

In a small saucepan over very low heat, simmer (uncovered) milk, onion with bay leaf and cloves, and nutmeg for about 15 minutes. Discard the onion, bay leaf, and cloves.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir in flour. Cook, uncovered, stirring with a spatula over medium-low heat until the roux is fragrant but not darkened, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Remember that the heat from your pan will continue cooking the roux even off the heat, which will cause it to darken some, so you will want to allow for this. Let roux cool slightly, then slightly whisk in the warm milk. Return the saucepan to the heat, bringing the sauce to a simmer, whisking and stirring often to prevent lumps and to prevent a skin from forming on top. It should reach the consistency of thick cream soup. If it seems too thick, whisk in a tiny amount of milk until desired consistency is reached. Season with salt & pepper.

At this point you have a Bechamel sauce. To make it a sauce Mornay, add 1/4 firmly packed grated cheese. It is traditional to use 2 T Gruyere and 2 T Parmesan (4 T = 1/4 C), but I used all Parmesan. Whisk until cheese is melted.

You can transfer your sauce Mornay to a bowl, press plastic wrap over the top to prevent a skin from forming, and store in the fridge until ready to use. Or you can use it right away.



  • Comment by Jess Caterina — September 16, 2010 @ 2:29 pm

    Reading this brought back so many great memories of your wedding weekend. And what better occasion to share this recipe?!? xo

  • Comment by Katie Rickard — September 16, 2010 @ 5:17 pm

    Oh my god! FINALLY!!! Thank you thank you thank you! Lucy is big enough where she could probably have one, so I’ll make her a mini one.

  • Comment by Maggie — September 19, 2010 @ 7:07 pm

    I am in Alaska drooling…love Kentucky hot brown !! CONGRATULATIONS Katie and Danny !!!

  • Comment by Yvette — September 20, 2010 @ 5:04 pm

    This is downright sinful. I will repent and say three Hail Mary’s as I partake…

  • Comment by Jayne — September 22, 2010 @ 12:18 pm

    Um…looks amazing. Somehow I am going to work up to this.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.