It’s no accident the Hot Brown, invented in Louisville, K.Y., works so well to soak up bourbon, the state’s native spirit. Legend says Brown Hotel Chef Fred Schmidt concocted the rich dish in 1926 for the exuberant revelers swooping in from the Brown’s ballroom in need of sustenance. He created an open-faced turkey sandwich drenched in Mornay sauce and topped with bacon. It’s done the trick for decades.
Today restaurants all over Louisville put their own spins on the dish. There are so many ways to combine Mornay, turkey and bread that the state’s convention and visitors’ bureau is cooking up a trail to hit some of the best. The current chef at the Brown, Laurent Geroli, has created 85 renditions, although he’ll tell you a Hot Brown is a once-a-year kind of dish. Derby Day on May 4 provides the perfect excuse to indulge in the super-rich dish. The Brown will sell more than 800 Hot Browns over the weekend. You can add to Hot Brown fever yourself by cooking up the classic dish. Or opt for a variation like Hot Brown Pizza.
Story by Dana McMahan, a food writer in Louisville, K.Y.