Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Thanksgiving Leftovers Were Better Than Your Thanksgiving Leftovers

Unless you, too, had Kentucky Hot Brown turkey sandwiches built on homemade levain brioche toast:

With home-smoked maple-cured bacon:

Smoke-grilled turkey breast:

Mornay sauce flavored with six-year-old Wisconsin white cheddar:

And THE LAST! two fresh garden tomatoes, a small brandywine and a little peach number. The perfect use for those late season tomatoes:

With thanks to Lucky Peach  , vol. 1, iss. 2. Lucky Peach is the new magazine venture of  Momofuku's gonzo genius David Chang and writer/editor Peter Meehan. I'd seen mention of the Hot Brown--a hot, open face sandwich created at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky in the 1920s--in the past, but the simple flow chart in the magazine made it a must-do. The theme of this issue is "the sweet spot," and it hits its target, indeed. They had me at the correction cartoon that starts off the magazine. Corrections in newspapers are usually dry and factual, and printed in small type at the bottom of the page, so as not to call too much attention to themselves. Lucky Peach goes the other way, 180 degrees, dramatizing the screw-ups from issue 1 in full-color cartoon glory. And, uh, there were a couple of pretty major errata.

But nothing was wrong with the Hot Brown recipe--except that the portions truly are designed for the drunken jitterbugger (or in modern times, wasted frat boy) crowd. I'm sure we used half the turkey called for (14 ounces for two!), and I halved the mornay sauce--the magazine recipe made a pint; a cup was more than enough.

What you do: Toast your brioche or another type of good white bread--this is the rare recipe that truly requires a soft-ish loaf. They ask for Texas toast, which I think just means thick-sliced white bread. Challah would be good. We had four slices from our brioche loaf; with larger bread, cut the slices in half diagonally--you must have two portions of bread per person; explanation below. Lay the slices in a gratin or other baking dish. Slice the turkey fairly thick and lay that on the bread.

Making the mornay sauce is the hardest part, and not all that difficult. Melt a generous tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan, and as the foaming subsides, whisk in a rounded tablespoon of all-purpose flour. Keep whisking, cooking over medium heat, until the roux takes on a little color. The recipe called for cream, but I used whole milk; I know, that's not like me, but we get this excellent unhomogenized raw whole milk from Renee at Bolen Vale, and the cream rises to the top, and I didn't shake it up, so; maybe it was more like half-and-half. Whisk in your dairy a bit at a time, whisk whisk whisk to break up the lumps. When all the milk or cream is in, continue cooking until the mixture comes to a bubbling simmer and starts to thicken. Take the saucepan off the heat and stir in cheese: the recipe asked for a half cup of pecorino romano; I used the cheddar, likely at least a half cup grated medium. I added small handfuls at a time and tasted until it tasted cheesy. I had used up what I grated, so I grated a little more for topping.

My one personal addition to the recipe was a generous teaspoon of sambal oelek chili paste.  I highly recommend this variation.

Spoon the mornay over the turkey, and put your pan under the broiler, pretty close, until the sauce starts to bubble and brown. Then take it out and add the tomatoes and a sprinkling of cheese. Back under the broiler until the cheese melts. One more back and forth: bring it out, add the bacon slices that you've precooked, then back under the broiler just to warm everything through.

It wasn't in the recipe, but Tom's excellent cranberry-orange relish from Thanksgiving made a delightful contrast to the rich flavors.

You absolutely must serve each person two portions, so if your bread is big, cut the slices in half before assembling the dish. The reason each person needs two pieces is that you will scarf down the first one in a matter of seconds; seeing that there is a second portion on the plate will cause you to sit back, to reflect, to smile at the thought that there's another piece of Hot Brown sandwich there which you can eat more thoughtfully. You may assume the happy yummy face seen on my wife, above.

This was just flat out the best thing I ever ate with turkey in it. You could also make it with chicken, or perhaps leftover roast pork. In the absence of good tomatoes, I might make a slaw or remoulade to serve alongside or dollop on top. And the thought of a poached or over-easy egg on top makes my mouth water just a little....

The sprig of parsley is de rigeur.

(I haven't forgotten about my ode to a timberdoodle, the grilled woodcock post; but Thanksgiving intervened. Next time it's back to game on the grill.)

Text and photos copyright 2011 by Brett Laidlaw


Susan Berkson said...

Yes, they were

s said...

Mmmm, I agree. That beats my turkey kale hash, and probably the mole too ;)

I saw a similar recipe in a Saveur email, and it looked amazing, though not as good as this. I considered throwing it into the leftover rotation, but no bacon in the house (I know! but I swore no more food shopping until I used up a lot of stores, ha ha).