Hot Brown Recipe: Discover the Origins and Modern Twists of the Original

The original Hot Brown was first served at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky in 1926. The Brown Hotel, known for its grand architecture and luxurious accommodations, attracted numerous guests seeking an upscale experience. The hotel became a focal point for social gatherings, particularly in the evenings after dances and events. To meet the late-night appetites of these patrons, the hotel’s culinary team devised a unique dish. The result was the Hot Brown, an open-faced sandwich that quickly gained popularity among the hotel’s visitors. Its rich combination of turkey, bacon, and Mornay sauce provided a comforting yet indulgent option. This dish’s creation added to the hotel’s already prestigious reputation, intertwining the Hot Brown with Louisville’s culinary history.

The Creator, Chef Fred Schmidt

Chef Fred Schmidt is credited with creating the original Hot Brown. As the head chef at the Brown Hotel during the 1920s, Schmidt sought to devise a new dish to revitalize the hotel’s late-night menu. He aimed to offer something distinct from the standard fare of ham and eggs. Inspired by French cuisine, Schmidt opted for a turkey-based dish, enhanced with a creamy Mornay sauce and topped with bacon. By broiling the assembled ingredients, he introduced a new, flavorful experience to his patrons. The Hot Brown not only showcased Schmidt’s culinary expertise but also highlighted his ability to blend comfort with sophistication. Through this creation, Chef Schmidt’s legacy endures, celebrated by food enthusiasts and culinary historians alike.

Key Ingredients of the Original Hot Brown

The Importance of Mornay Sauce

The Mornay sauce is essential to the Original Hot Brown. This creamy, cheese-based sauce enhances the flavors of the turkey and bacon. You make it by adding grated Parmesan and Gruyère cheese to a classic béchamel sauce. Whisk these cheeses until melted and smooth, giving the sauce its rich texture. The velvety consistency helps it cling to the bread and turkey, providing a luscious coating that ties the sandwich together. For best results, prepare it fresh to ensure optimal flavor and thickness.

Choosing the Right Turkey and Bread

High-quality turkey defines the Hot Brown’s taste. Opt for thick slices of roasted turkey breast. Avoid processed or deli meats since these lack the robust, savory flavor. The bird needs to have a tender texture and ample juices to complement the sauce and bread.

The dish traditionally uses Texas toast or a thick-cut white bread. Toast each piece until golden brown to provide a sturdy base that won’t become soggy under the Mornay sauce. The bread’s thickness and slight crispness enhance the overall mouthfeel, making your Hot Brown sandwich both filling and satisfying.

Traditional Recipe versus Modern Variations

How the Classic Recipe Is Made

The classic Hot Brown features distinct elements that blend perfectly. Begin by toasting a slice of thick-cut bread, like Texas toast, to a golden brown. Place the toasted bread on an oven-safe dish. Top the toast with layers of roasted turkey breast slices, ensuring even coverage. Pour a generous amount of Mornay sauce, made with Parmesan and Gruyère in a béchamel base, over the turkey. Sprinkle additional Parmesan cheese on top, then place the dish under a broiler. Broil until the cheese starts to melt and turn golden. Finish the dish with crispy bacon strips and a sprinkle of paprika. Serve immediately to enjoy the optimal texture and flavor.

Contemporary Twists on the Classic

Modern variations of the Hot Brown incorporate creative ingredients while honoring the original’s essence. Some versions use smoked turkey instead of roasted for a deeper flavor. Others swap Texas toast with artisan breads like sourdough or ciabatta. Chefs often garnish the dish with fresh tomatoes or add a layer of sautéed spinach for added complexity. Some recipes replace the Mornay sauce with spicier cheese sauces, introducing a new level of heat. Vegan adaptations employ plant-based cheeses and proteins, making the dish accessible to different dietary preferences. Each twist reflects personal tastes while maintaining the comforting characteristics of the original Hot Brown.

Serving and Presentation Tips

Ideal Side Dishes

Pair your Original Hot Brown with complementary side dishes that enhance its rich flavors. Consider the following options:

  1. Fresh Salads: Utilize mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, and a light vinaigrette.
  2. Seasonal Vegetables: Choose roasted asparagus, steamed broccoli, or sautéed green beans.
  3. Potato Variations: Serve mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, or potato wedges.
  4. Fruit Medleys: Include melon cubes, berries, or a citrus fruit salad to add a refreshing contrast.
  1. Layer Neatly: Assemble your ingredients with precision so each component is clearly visible.
  2. Add Height: Create dimension by stacking elements rather than spreading them flat.
  3. Use Garnishes: Enhance appearance with fresh parsley, a sprinkle of paprika, or a lemon twist.
  4. Choose the Right Plate: Opt for a wide, flat plate or a shallow bowl to contain the sauce effectively.
  5. Keep It Warm: Serve on a pre-warmed plate to maintain the dish’s temperature and texture.

Health and Nutritional Aspects

Caloric Content and Nutritional Info

The Original Hot Brown is rich in flavor and equally rich in calories. Each serving approximately contains 700-800 calories. The primary contributors are the Mornay sauce, which includes heavy cream and butter; the layers of turkey and bacon; and the base of white bread. High in saturated fats and cholesterol, the dish offers over 40 grams of protein but also includes significant sodium, reaching upwards of 1,500 milligrams per serving. While providing carbohydrates from the bread, the dish lacks substantial fiber. For a comprehensive breakdown:

NutrientAmount per Serving
Calories700-800 kcal
Protein40+ grams
Total Fat45-50 grams
Saturated Fat20-25 grams
Cholesterol150-200 mg
Sodium1,500+ mg
Carbohydrates50-60 grams
Fiber2-3 grams

Making a Healthier Version of the Original Hot Brown

Reducing the calorie and fat content is possible without losing the essence of the dish. First, substitute heavy cream in the Mornay sauce with a lower-fat milk or a plant-based alternative. Opt for a reduced-fat cheese to cut saturated fats. Replace white bread with whole grain or gluten-free bread to increase fiber content. For the protein, choose lean turkey breast and bake it instead of using fried or processed meat. Replace traditional bacon with turkey bacon to reduce sodium and fat. Incorporate vegetables like spinach or tomatoes to add vitamins and minerals. Prepare the sauce with olive oil instead of butter when wanting a healthier fat option. By making these adjustments:

NutrientAmount per Serving (Adjusted)
Calories500-600 kcal
Protein35-40 grams
Total Fat25-30 grams
Saturated Fat10-15 grams
Cholesterol100-150 mg
Sodium800-1,000 mg
Carbohydrates40-50 grams
Fiber5-7 grams

These changes make the Hot Brown more nutritious while maintaining its signature taste.


The Original Hot Brown remains a beloved culinary tradition, cherished for its rich flavors and historical significance. Whether you stick to the classic recipe or explore modern variations, this dish offers a delightful experience for your taste buds. By considering healthier ingredient substitutions, you can enjoy a nutritious version without compromising on taste. So, next time you’re looking to impress at a gathering or simply indulge in a comforting meal, the Hot Brown is sure to satisfy. Enjoy crafting and savoring this iconic dish!

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