Famous for bourbon and derby pie, Kentucky is also home to the classic Hot Brown. The Mornay sauce-covered open-faced sandwich was invented in the late 1920s at the Brown Hotel in Louisville by Chef Fred K. Schmidt. Back then, it was thought of as a glamorous alternative to ham and eggs. For Harold Moore, chef and owner of Harold’s Meat + Three in New York City, the Kentucky Hot Brown is not just any other brunch item. The dish sends his visitors on an epicurean journey. “The first bite is not the same as the last,” Moore says. “Your first bite may be very cheesy and hot, but the parts at the bottom are caramelized and crispy.”
Moore prepares his Hot Brown with thick slices of brioche. (If you try this at home, do not use pre-sliced bread—it’ll get soggy too quickly.) He cuts off the crusts and places the brioche in a mini oval-shaped cast-iron skillet. Then he uses the back of a spoon to form an indentation in the center of the slice that will serve as a nest for extra Mornay madness. His Mornay sauce starts with a scalded milk base and includes melted Velveeta, Gruyère, and cheddar cheeses. The Hot Brown’s layers go like this: Brioche, Mornay, turkey, Mornay, tomato, Mornay. Sprinkle shredded Gruyère and cheddar on top and bake it for a few seconds until the cheese begins to bubble and boil. Remove it from the oven, top with bacon, and serve.