Kentucky Derby season is in full swing as natives of the Commonwealth lay in big supplies of bourbon for mint juleps; cured meats for biscuit-stuffing; sacks of walnuts for Derby Pie-making, and critters from the hardwood forests to construct mammoth kettles of Burgoo.

There are plenty iconic dishes in Kentucky but perhaps none more so than the Hot Brown. Putatively, a simple sandwich consisting of only a handful of ingredients, the dish has taken on a mythos over the near century since its invention, and now food pilgrims travel from all over the globe to sample this delicacy. You haven’t lived til you’ve sat down to a Hot Brown at the namesake Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville. Particularly on Derby Weekend when the bourbon flows like branch water, and womenfolk stream into the restaurant in finery to rival the most beautiful ladies of Paris or even San Antonio.

There’s a popular bumper sticker in Kentucky that reads “Kentucky:Home of Fast Women And Pretty Horses”

I only make Hot Brown once per year. Like Burgoo, it’s a special dish that I spend one day making and eating, then another 11 months daydreaming about. But as the Kentucky Derby draws nigh, I’ve begun making plans to hit the kitchen and knock out a batch.

This is a recipe I constructed when I was executive chef for a big banking concern in N.E Austin. The hard-working suits that conducted the affairs of the corporation clamored for this dish around the holidays when we’d generally have some leftover deep-fried turkeys from our catering operation.

It’s solid country gold and you will star the show if you show up with this dish at a Derby party.

The formula:

In Honor Of Chef Fred K. Schmidt, creator of the Kentucky Hot Brown Recipe


1 T. shallots, finely chopped

2 T. butter

2 T flour

1.5 c. milk, whole

1 T. Sherry wine

1 c. Romano Pecorino

4 each, slices Texas toast, buttered and broiled

1 lb Turkey breast sliced thin, run by LA BBQ or another good purveyor and buy the smoked-style

4 slices tomato

8 slices bacon (par-cooked) Benton out of Madisonville, Tn is a good option


* melt butter, saute’ shallots

* add flour

* cook roux for upwards of 5 minutes

* add milk, whisk til gravy forms

* cook for five minutes, add cheese and sherry, whisk thoroughly

* you now have Mornay sauce!

Line baking dish with Texas Toast

Garnish with turkey and Mornay sauce

Top with bacon and tomatoes

Broil til bacon is crisp and Mornay forms a crust


Most traditional recipes call for country ham, but it’s damn near impossible to get the good stuff out here in Texas. If you live in the South, by all means, add thinly sliced country ham to this sandwich and you’ll make a good recipe even better.

Kentucky Recipe Archive

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