And that means it's time for the Hot Brown, a Kentucky favorite.
The Hot Brown is a turkey-based, open face sandwich specifically made for topping off a stomach full of bourbon. Chef Fred K. Schmidt created it at Louisville's Brown Hotel in 1926 as a breakfast dish to be served before the previous night's revelers finally went home, or upstairs, to bed.
Today it's usually served for lunch or brunch, sometimes for dinner. It's easily scalable and can be anything from a light snack to a hearty main course. It is on the menu at hundreds of Kentucky restaurants.
This is the original recipe, as reported by the Louisville Courier-Journal. There are many variations. Some people say the Hot Brown itself is based on Turkey Mornay, which is similar but uses gruyère cheese instead of the Hot Brown's cheddar and parmesan blend.
Hot Brown (4 servings)
4 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 slices toast, with crusts cut off
Turkey breast slices
Crisp-fried bacon, crumbled
Mushroom slices, sauteed
Saute onion in butter until transparent; add flour and combine. Add milk, salt and pepper and whisk until smooth. Cook on medium heat until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally. Add cheese and continue heating until they blend. Remove from heat.
Put one slice of toast in each of four oven-proof individual serving dishes. Top each piece of toast with slices of turkey. Cut remaining toast slices diagonally and place on sides of sandwiches. Ladle cheese sauce over sandwiches. Place sandwiches under broiler until sauce begins to bubble. Garnish with crumbled bacon and sauteed mushroom slices and serve immediately.
There are many variations. Most places don’t crumble the bacon, and there are many substitutes for the mushrooms, including grilled tomato slices and asparagus spears. Some simply forgo vegetables altogether. Parsley can be added for color.
At buffet tables around Kentucky you may encounter the Hot Brown Casserole, whose creation the Brown Hotel also claims. That brings us close to Turkey Noodle Casserole, leftover turkey's last resort. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.