Welcome to week 15 of Fifty States of New Recipe Tuesday. This week we welcome the Commonwealth of Kentucky, who joined the union on June 1st, 1792.
At one time, Kentucky was actually part of Virginia. In 1776, the counties of Virginia that were west of the Appalachian Mountains were known as Kentucky County, although no one knows for sure where the name came from. It may have been derived from Indian words for ‘on the meadow’ or ‘on the prairie’. Later, the area petitioned to succeed from Virginia, and eventually it became its own state.
An interesting fact about Kentucky is that it has a non contiguous part known as Kentucky Bend. It is completely surrounded by Missouri and Tennessee. It was formed as a result of a surveying error, and this tiny little piece of land is home to less than 20 people.
Most people know several things about Kentucky. It is nicknamed the Bluegrass state, because of the bluegrass that grows in many of its pastures. It is home to the Kentucky Derby. It is home to Kentucky Fried Chicken. And it is the home of Bourbon.
And none of those things went into my dinner tonight! I thought about trying some sort of bourbon recipe, but nothing appealed to me. The only thing I could find related to the Kentucky Derby was Derby pie and I didn’t want to do a dessert. I really didn’t want to recreate KFC. But what I did find was a very famous dish, called the Kentucky Hot Brown.
The story behind this sandwich begins in the 1920s at the Brown Hotel in Louisville. The hotel regularly hosted dinner dances, which would run well into the wee hours of the morning. Guests would gain a late appetite and head into the hotel’s restaurant for something to eat. The head chef, Fred Schmidt decided to upscale the standard ham and eggs, and created a hot opened face sandwich with turkey, bacon and Mornay sauce.
This sandwich is so famous that it has appeared on Man vs. Food, Throw Down with Bobby Flay, The Today Show, as well as the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and Southern Living. Impressive.
For being such a prestigious sandwich, it was really easy to make. I used a fresh loaf of country bread and sliced it into thick slices. The original recipe called for Texas Toast. The original also used a massive amount of heavy cream to make the Mornay sauce (which is a Bernaise with cheese added). I opted for a more traditional milk base, which I don’t think affects the total dish at all. I also halved it, because I just didn’t need 4 cups of sauce! And because I got a new deep fryer for Christmas, AND I bought myself a really nice new knife today (a vegetable cleaver), I made homemade fries to go with it. Yum.
Overall, this was really tasty. Josh thought it was like a turkey alfredo sandwich. Good description. It is warm, creamy and very filling. I join the rest of the world and give this a solid A.
Recipe for Kentucky Hot Brown
(Adapted from the original at www.brownhotel.com/dining-hot-brown)
For the Mornay Sauce:
¼ cup butter
2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 ¾ cups milk
¼ cup (2-oz.) shredded Pecorino Romano cheese (plus a little more for the sandwich top)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in flour; cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Bring to a boil, and cook, whisking constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until thickened. Whisk in Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
For the Hot Brown sandwich:
14 oz. sliced roasted turkey breast, slice thick
4 slices of thick sliced country bread or Texas toast (crusts trimmed), lightly toasted
4 slices of bacon
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced in half
Prepared Mornay Sauce
For each Hot Brown, place one slice of toast in an oven safe dish and cover with 7 oz. turkey. Take the two halves of Roma tomato and two toast points and set them alongside the base of turkey and toast. Pour half of the sauce over the dish, completely covering it. Sprinkle with additional cheese. Place entire dish under a broiler until cheese begins to brown and bubble. Remove and cross two pieces of crispy bacon on top. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley and serve immediately.
And see you next week in Tennessee!