This classic Kentucky Hot Brown Sandwich recipe is easy to make and the ultimate comfort food sandwich. This rich and decadent open-faced sandwich is made with slices of hand-carved turkey, crisp bacon and fresh tomatoes all piled high on toasted bread slices. Smothered in cheesy mornay sauce and then broiled until bubbly and golden brown this Kentucky hot brown is a meal on its own.
The Classic Hot Brown Sandwich
Whether you are celebrating Kentucky Derby day with a few mint juleps, or want to enjoy leftover turkey the day after Thanksgiving, get your forks ready because this incredibly delicious, over-the-top open-faced turkey sandwich is going to blow your mind!
Irresistible Hot Brown sandwiches are made with thick slices of toast (think Texas toast) slices of turkey breast, pieces of crispy bacon and fresh tomato slices. As if that wasn’t delicious enough, rich and creamy Mornay sauce, made with white cheddar cheese and Parmesan cheese is poured all over the sandwich and broiled to ooey gooey golden brown perfection.
The combination of toasty, savory, smoky and cheesy makes this epic open-face sandwich outrageously delicious.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- It’s Unique: Tired of eating the same meal over and over or re-heating yesterday’s holiday dinner? This sandwich recipe is extraordinary.
- Flavorful: This sandwich is loaded with flavor in every single mouthwatering bite!
- Leftover Friendly: If like me, you cooked too much for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, this is a great way to use up your leftover turkey.
What’s a Hot Brown?
Louisville Hot Brown is an open faced turkey sandwich created in the 1920’s by head chef Fred Schmidt from the Brown Hotel in Louisville.
Tired and hungry hotel guests would go looking for a hearty and filling pre-breakfast meal at the hotel’s restaurant after partying and dancing until the wee hours of the morning. Chef Schmidt created this sandwich as a “morning-after” meal. It was a success then and it’s still now.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Toasted Bread: French bread, pullman bread, Texas toast (see chef’s notes below) and sourdough are good options. You’ll need thick slices of bread so it’s best if you buy a loaf of bread and slice it yourself. Pre-sliced bread loaves from the grocery store are usually sliced too thin for this sandwich. Ask the bakery to slice the bread for you into 3/4-inch thick. slices
- Roast Turkey: Hand-carved turkey breast slices are best. I’ve made this recipe with small pieces of dark meat, leftover from my holiday turkey and it was great as well. This is one of those times when deli meat really doesn’t quite work. Chicken breast can also be used.Toasted Bread: Texas toast, sourdough, French bread and pullman bread are good options. My mom loves this sandwich with rye bread.You’ll need thick slices of bread so it’s best if you buy a loaf of bread and slice it yourself. Pre-sliced bread loaves from the grocery store are usually sliced too thin for this sandwich.
- Roast Turkey: Hand-carved turkey breast slices are best. I’ve made this recipe with small pieces of dark meat, leftover from my holiday turkey and it was great as well. This is one of those times when deli meat really doesn’t quite work. Chicken breast can also be used.
- Bacon: Crispy strips of bacon are a must! I love cooking slices of bacon in the oven. It’s easy, less messy and the bacon is cooked to perfection. You can use regular or thick-cut bacon.
- Tomatoes: I usually get tomatoes on the vine but you can use what’s available. Roma tomatoes and colorful heirloom tomatoes are good options.
- Mornay Sauce: This is simply béchamel sauce or white sauce with cheese added to it! To make this cheesy sauce you will need whole milk (sub with Half and Half), all-purpose flour, butter, an egg, a pinch of nutmeg, shredded white cheddar cheese (sub with sharp cheddar cheese), Parmesan cheese (sub with Pecorino Romano), salt and black pepper.
- Optional Garnish: Chopped fresh thyme or chives
How to Make a Hot Brown Sandwich
To Make the Mornay Sauce
- Warm up the milk. You can do this in a saucepan or in the microwave.
- Make A Roux: In a medium saucepan melt butter. Whisk in the flour and cook for about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the warm milk and cook whisking frequently until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat.
- Temper the Egg: Beat the egg in a small bowl. Gradually, pour about 1/4 cup of the warm sauce into the egg while whisking constantly Whisk the egg mixture back into the sauce in the pan. Cook on low heat for about 1-2 minutes whisking frequently. Remove from the heat.
- Add Cheese and Season: Stir in the white cheddar and Parmesan cheese and mix until melted. Season with nutmeg, salt and and a couple cracks of fresh pepper
To Make the Sandwich
- Prep: Set the oven to broil.
- Broil: Place the bread slices on a parchment or aluminum foil lined baking sheet pan. Lightly drizzle or brush the bread with olive oil. Broil both sides of the bread until lightly toasted.
- Build the Sandwich: Top a slice of toast with the sliced turkey and tomato slices and season with salt and ground black pepper. Broil until the turkey and tomatoes are warmed through and the edges of the bread are lightly browned. Remove from the oven.
- Top with Sauce: Spoon the desired amount of mornay sauce over the open-faced sandwiches. Sprinkle with additional cheese and broil until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and transfer to plates.
- Finish and Serve: Top each sandwich with strips of crispy bacon and sprinkle with fresh thyme (or chives). Serve immediately with any remaining sauce.
What’s Mornay Sauce?
Basically, Mornay sauce is a cheesy sauce just like the one used to make Mac and Cheese. Mornay sauce is made with Béchamel sauce (aka white sauce) which is one of the mother sauces of classic French cuisine. The name may sound intimidating but this sauce it’s not only easy to make, chances are you’ve made it many times before.
Making Ahead and Reheating
- Cook the bacon ahead of time and keep it stored in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
- Mornay sauce can be made ahead of time. Cool it completely and store it in the refrigerator in a sealed container for 3-4 days.
- The sandwich should be eaten fresh after is made. Leftovers can be store in the fridge overnight.
- Reheat the sandwich in a preheated 300ºF oven. Tent the sandwich with aluminum foil if needed.
- The mornay sauce can be re-heated gently on the stove top over very low heat, stirring as needed. You can also reheat it in the microwave in small intervals, stirring between each interval until heated through.
Tips for Success
- When making the roux for the cheesy mornay sauce, cook the flour and butter together for 2-3 minutes to get rid of the “raw flour” taste.
- When making the mornay sauce, add the warm milk gradually and slowly while whisking constantly to prevent lumps.
- Toasting the bread is a must and will prevent the bread from becoming soggy quickly.
- If using frozen Texas toast, keep in mind that you are using garlic bread slices. The flavor of the bread will be stronger and the bread will be greasier than if you simply drizzle bread with oil and toast it.
Check these other leftover turkey recipes:
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Kentucky Hot Brown Sandwich
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 large egg
- 2 cups shredded white cheddar cheese plus more to sprinkle on top
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus more to sprinkle on top
- Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
- Few dashes of hot sauce
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
For the Sandwich
- 4 thick slices of bread such as white bread Pullman bread, French bread or Texas toast (about 1/2-inch thick)
- Olive oil to lightly drizzle or brush the bread you can use melted butter if preferred
- 1 pound roasted turkey breast sliced thick (about 1/4-inch thick)
- 2 ripe tomatoes sliced Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 8 slices of thick cut bacon cooked until crispy
- 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme or chives
Make Mornay Sauce
- Heat the milk in the microwave for about 60 to 90 seconds or until warm through.
- Melt the butter in a medium pan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for about 1 minute.
- Gradually whisk in the warm milk until smooth. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking frequently for about 3-4 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat.
- Beat the egg in a small bowl. Gradually, pour about 1/4 cup of the warm sauce into the egg while whisking constantly (you don’t want to scramble the eggs!). Whisk the egg mixture back into the sauce in the pan. Cook on low heat for about 1-2 minutes whisking frequently. Remove from the heat.
- Add Cheese: Stir in the white cheddar and Parmesan cheese and mix until melted. Season with nutmeg, hot sauce, salt and ground black pepper to taste. Cover to keep warm.
To Make the Sandwich
- Set the oven to broil, positioning the oven rack 6-8 inches from the heat source.
- Place the bread slices on a baking sheet pan lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper and lightly drizzle or brush with olive oil (or melted butter). Broil until lightly toasted, about 45 seconds to a minute depending on the type of bread and your broiler. Flip the bread and that the other side for about 30 seconds. Remove from the oven.
- Top the toasted bread with the sliced turkey and tomato slices and season with salt and ground black pepper to taste. Broil until the turkey and tomatoes are warmed through and the edges of the bread are lightly browned, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from the oven.
- Spoon the desired amount of sauce over the open-faced sandwiches. Sprinkle with additional cheese and broil until lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and transfer to plates. Top each sandwich with bacon and sprinkle with fresh thyme (or chives). Serve immediately with any remaining sauce.