With so much to boast about —award-winning dining; breathtaking turn-of-the-century architecture; attentive, caring service—some may wonder: “Why the Hot Brown” was created at The Brown Hotel? Briefly here is history behind this now legendary dish.
In the 1920’s, The Brown Hotel drew over 1,200 guests each evening for its dinner dance. By the wee hours of the morning, guests would grow weary of dancing and make their way to the restaurant for a bite to eat. Sensing their desire for something more glamorous than traditional ham and eggs, Chef Fred Schmidt set out to create something new to tempt his guests’ palates. His unique dish? An open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon and a delicate Mornay sauce. The Hot Brown was born!
Available in The Brown Hotel restaurants, bar and through in-room dining, the Hot Brown continues to exemplify our unending dedication to serving their guests. Such culinary prowess and commitment, of course, doesn’t go unnoticed. The Hot Brown—a Louisville tradition with worldwide appeal—has been featured in Southern Living, The Los Angeles Times, NBC’s Today Show, ABC News with Diane Sawyer, Travel Channel’s Man v. Food, and The Wall Street Journal, and is a regular entry in many of the world’s finest cookbooks.
The Legendary Hot Brown
1 1/2 tablespoons salted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for garnish
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
14 ounces sliced roasted turkey breast, slice thick
4 slices of Texas toast, with crusts trimmed
4 slices of bacon
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced in half
Ground smoked paprika, for garnish
Finely chopped parsley, for garnish
In a two-quart saucepan, melt butter and slowly whisk in flour until combined to form a thick paste or roux. Continue to cook roux for 2 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Whisk heavy cream into the roux and cook over medium heat until the cream begins to simmer, about 2-3 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and slowly whisk in Pecorino-Romano cheese until the Mornay sauce is smooth. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.
For each Hot Brown, place one slice of toast in an oven safe dish and cover with 7 ounces of sliccd turkey. Take the two halves of Roma tomato and two toast points and set them alongside the base of turkey and toast. Pour half of the sauce over the dish, completely covering it. Sprinkle with additional cheese. Place entire dish under a broiler until cheese begins to brown and bubble. Remove and cross two pieces of crispy bacon on top. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley and serve immediately.
Photo Credit: Jocelyn & Cathy at FoodishFetish, 2014.
The “Monte Cristo” is thought to be a tribute to the French novel, “The Count of Monte Christo” by Alexander Dumas, and as such, the sandwich’s name suggests its French origins.
Basically, a Monte Cristo is a fried ham and cheese sandwich, which can be considered a variation of the French croque-monsieur. Recipes for the sandwich abound, with regional variations.
In the Southern United States, versions of the Monte Cristo calls for dipping it in egg and then heavy breading, like corn flakes, rice cereal or bread crumbs. The egg battered sandwich is then deep fried, resulting in an all-over very crusty exterior. ANd because everything is not for every body, as my Grand would say, most people prefer the more traditional grilled sandwich, as it is lower in fat than its deep fried versions.
Some Monte Cristo sandwiches also vary ingredients, and may include baked chicken, turkey as well as ham and Swiss, or may add several types of cheeses. Some restaurants combine the traditional triple-decker club sandwich of turkey, ham or bacon, and Swiss, dip in it egg and present this as a Monte Cristo. This is not the traditional sandwich, but many argue that it is an improvement. In some areas of the contiguous United States, it is served grilled; in other regions, it served as an open sandwich with only the bread battered and the assembled sandwich heated slightly under a grill or broiler. A finished Monte Cristo tends to be topped with a small amount of powdered sugar and is most traditionally served with raspberry or strawberry jam. In some cases, maple syrup is served in place of the jam. Though many think the combination unusual, the flavors actually seem to work well together, accounting for its continued popularity for modern diners of today.
In the 1930s–1960s, American cookbooks had recipes for this sandwich under such names as “French Sandwich”, “Toasted Ham Sandwich”, and “French Toasted Cheese “. The first know written recipe was found in the 1949 cookbook published by the Brown Derby Restaurant in Los Angeles, California. Although it may be speculated that the sandwich had been previously served at several other Los Angeles restaurants, there is no definitive evidence on its precise origins or who really invented the sandwich.
Opened in 1926, the original restaurant at 3427 Wilshire Boulevard was the first and most famous of these distinctive eateries, shaped like a man’s derby hat, an iconic image that became synonymous with the Golden Age of Hollywood. Whimsical architecture was popular at the time, and the restaurant was designed to catch the eye of passing motorists. The Brown Derby name originated from a Malverne, New York-based restaurant of the same name that had been a popular hang-out for vaudevillians in the 1920s. The Los Angeles based resturant was founded by Wilson Mizner as a small cafe, across the street from the popular Hollywood hot spot the Cocoanut Grove at the Ambassador Hotel. Wilson was the front man; Herbert K. Somborn, who was a former husband of film star Gloria Swanson, owned the property and movie mogul Jack L. Warner put up the money for the initial investment of the restaurant. Wilson Mizner sat in booth 50 almost every day.
The cafe was successful enough to warrant building a second branch later. Soon after its opening, the Brown Derby chain was started by Robert H. Cobb and Herbert K. Somborn. The original, derby-shaped building was moved in 1937 to 3377 Wilshire Boulevard at the northeast corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Alexandria Avenue, about a block from its previous location and directly across the street from the Ambassador Hotel.
Over the years, the sandwich gained great popularity in the United States in the 1960s, when the Blue Bayou restaurant in Disneyland began serving it on a regular basis. Disneyland’s version deep fried the sandwich, which some people feel results in an overly greasy result.
In September 1980, the original Brown Derby restaurant closed without warning Local preservationists unsuccessfully tried to stop the building from being bulldozed. Unfortunately, the demolition was completed in November and replaced by a parking lot. It should be noted that a Disney-backed Brown Derby national franchising program revived the brand in the 21st century and brought the Monte Cristo sandwich back to the public.
The Monte Cristo has appeared on various menus, including the Cheesecake Factory and Denny’s. I really love this old-time classic version listed here. It is the prefect sandwich for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. Traditionally served with a side of jam or jelly, to make this a savory treat you can add a dab of Dijon mustard, if you like. Although this sandwich can be quartered and deep fried separately, many of the earliest recipes like this one adapted from the Brown Derby Cookbook, calls for frying the sandwich in a skillet, much like French Toast.
1/4 cup whole milk
Salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, taste
5 tablespoons butter, softened
6 pieces thinly sliced white bread
4 thin slices cooked turkey
4 thin slices cooked ham
4 thin slices Swiss cheese or Gruyere Cheese
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Strawberry Jam, Raspberry Jam or Red currant jelly, for dipping
To make the egg batter, lightly beat eggs and milk in a shallow bowl. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
For each sandwich, lightly butter 3 slices of bread on both sides. Place 2 slices of turkey and 2 of ham between 2 slices of bread. Top with 2 slices of cheese and add last slice of bread.
Trim crusts, secure with toothpicks, and cut in half on the diagonal.
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat.
Dip sandwich halves, top and bottom, in the egf batter. When butter foams, place sandwiches in skillet and fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes.
Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to skillet, turn sandwiches, and fry for 2 minutes more.
Transfer to plates, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, and serve with jam or jelly.
For me, cooking and baking is a true expression of love. And with Valentine’s Day right around the corner I can’t think of a better way to express love by treating the special people in my life with this delightful scrumptious dessert.
Adapted from The Classic Catering People January 31, 2017
Makes 2 Pastries
Ingredients: For the Red Velvet Filling: 1 cup graham cracker crumbs 4 commercially prepared red velvet cupcakes, without icing 1 sheet puff pastry 1 egg yolk
For the Cheesecake Filling: 1 1/2 8-ounce packages cream cheese 3/4 cup granulated sugar 2 eggs 2 teaspoon vanilla extract 6 ounces sour cream
Confectioners sugar, optional
Special Equipment: Heart-shaped cookie cutters Pastry bag with plain tip (#3 or #4 tip)
Directions: Preheat the oven to 365 º F.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar together until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla; mix until smooth. Add sour cream; mix until combined. Fill a pastry bag with the cream cheese filling and set aside.
Using a heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut 4 heart pieces out of the puff pastry, to have a top and bottom for each heart.Layer half of graham cracker crumbs in a heart shape on top of the puff pastry, keeping it away from the edges.
Pipe a layer of cheesecake in a zigzag pattern on top of the graham cracker crumbs.
Crumble the red velvet cupcakes and sprinkle some on top of the cheesecake layer, covering the cheesecake as much as possible.
Pipe another layer of cheesecake filling on top of the red velvet cake, making sure to stay away from edges.
Place a puff pastry heart on top of the layers; line it up to meet the edges of the bottom heart. Using the same cookie cutter push down to cut the edges off the heart and seal the pastry together.
Brush the pastries with the egg yolk wash. Place the pastries on the prepared cookie sheet and place in the oven and bake until golden brown, turning over once.
Remove from the oven. Dust with a little confectioners sugar and serve with coffee, if desired.
If you prefer to bake a red velvet cake from scratch, pleaseclick herefor the link to a great recipes.
If you are using frozen commercially prepared puff pastry sheets, be sure to thaw them according to the directions on the package.
Substitutes for pastry bags Plastic Sandwich Bag:Plastic sandwich bags are a popular substitute for pastry bags. They are useful because they are disposable, most homes have them and they are easy to handle. You can use zip-top bags, slider-tip bags or simple sandwich bags that have a fold-over top. Simply put the frosting in the bag and push it to one corner. Twist the top of the bag shut and place one hand at the back of the frosting. Snip the tip of the corner with a pair of scissors and begin piping. Begin with a small cut and gradually adjust if you want your pipes bigger. You can also snip the corner and place a metal pastry piper into the bag before you put the frosting in so that you can make designs.
Paper:You can use parchment, greaseproof or waxed paper to make a pastry bag. Simply cut the paper into a square. Then, fold it into a triangle by bringing one corner to the opposite corner. Roll the triangle into a cone so that the point will be where the frosting comes out. Tape the cone together. Add a metal piping tool and then the frosting. Fold the top of the bag down and begin piping. Paper is a popular substitute for pastry bags because most kitchens will have some variety of glossy paper.