Good morning! I have a super busy day planned so I had to get up really early to write this. Like 5:45am early. I rarely get up before 7:30am. I am not a morning person. I really am not a night time person either….I guess I have a good solid 2 hours in the afternoon when I really shine;) But anyway, I am up and writing. I had no idea that the sun was up this early……
This Saturday, May 7th, is the Kentucky Derby! Do you watch horse racing? I don’t watch it on a regular basis, but I do get excited about the Derby. Perhaps it is my fascination with hats that makes me watch the Derby. The women wear fantastic hats. Almost like “Fascinators” at the Royal Wedding, but more “Southern”. I wish I was going so I could wear one. My mom would tell me that I look like a thumbtack, but I think I look awesome in hats;)
Derby food is good traditional Southern food……obviously, as the Kentucky Derby is in Kentucky;) This year, I chose to make a “Kentucky Hot Brown” to celebrate. A Hot Brown is an open-face sandwich that was created at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, KY in the 1920’s. It is turkey, bacon, and tomatoes….smothered in a cheese sauce and popped under the broiler until the sauce gets brown and bubbly. I am thinking this wouldn’t be a good dish to serve at the actual Derby…..it is messy and those fancy ladies don’t want cheese sauce down the front of their dresses. But since it is a popular dish throughout the state of Kentucky…..I’m making it…..or a version of it…..
I say a “version” of it because I turned this sandwich into a casserole. I wanted to make it easier to make in a large quantity…something just a bit more substantial. The final product was crazy good. Seriously, you have to make this….and not just for the Derby. This will become a family favorite.
I will start by showing you how to make the cheese sauce. This is supposed to be a traditional Mornay sauce, which is a white sauce with parmesan cheese and Gruyere cheese thrown in. I used Gruyere, but I used sharp cheddar instead of parmesan. I also used butter, flour, milk and some Gourmet Rooster Carolina Style BBQ Sauce.
This sauce starts with a roux. A roux is fat cooked with flour. It thickens liquids. This will be a “blonde” roux, which means it will be light. Sometimes a roux is cooked for a long time, until it is the color of a penny. We aren’t doing that here……this will be quick and easy.
Above is a picture of the roux when the flour has just been added to the melting butter. It is whisked to combine, and then cooked for a minute or so to get the floury taste out.
I slowly added the milk, and once the mixture boils, it thickens. Once the mixture is smooth, you can stop using a whisk and switch to a spatula. At this point, I added the BBQ sauce. If you don’t have Gourmet Rooster Carolina Style sauce, you can substitute about ¼ cup of plain mustard, a squirt of Worcestershire and some black pepper. But…..this sauce is readily available at The Royal Rooster in Clayton, CA, Maynard Station in Virginia City, NV, The Cheeseboard in Reno, NV and Piedmont Grocery in Oakland, CA. An online…..get yo’self some.
Time for the cheese! I stirred constantly while adding the cheese. This sauce will be thick! Once you know how to make this sauce, it can be used for so many things….mac and cheese, a sauce for veggies, etc. I could eat it straight out of the pot…..just as it is. I love cheese.
To assemble the rest of the casserole, I used sourdough bread, turkey, cooked bacon, tomatoes, and chives. I cut the bread into bite sized pieces and put them in the oven to toast. I toasted them at 400 degrees until they were browned a bit. I wanted to get the bread to harden a bit. If the bread was too soft, it would have become really soggy in the casserole. To keep this from happening, I turned the bread into croutons.
I also chopped the turkey, cooked bacon and tomatoes into bite-sized pieces. I used turkey that I got from the deli….so just lunchmeat turkey. If you, for some reason, had turkey sliced right off the bird…..that would be amazing in this. FYI-the chives are just for garnish.
I put the toasted bread into a greased 13 x 9 casserole dish. It should cover the entire dish.
I covered the bread with the turkey, bacon and tomatoes. Make a nice even layer.
Then, I poured the cheese sauce over the top. I used a spatula to even it out a bit. When this bakes….the cheese will go down into all the nooks and crannies. Yum.
This is what it looks like when it is done. The cheese gets all brown and bubbly. I sprinkled the chives over the top for a bit of color, plus….I love the mild onion flavor of chives. I let it cool a bit, and then dove in.
Ummmm….are you kidding me right now? A casserole consisting of bread and cheese? Yep, best thing ever. The bread absorbs the cheese, but doesn’t get soggy. The bacon and turkey add a nice salty bite, and the tomatoes still taste bright and fresh. This casserole would be amazing served at a Derby party, and any other time of the year.
Oh but wait….I’m not done yet….
How about finishing the meal with a Mint Julep Milkshake? A traditional mint julep comes straight out of Kentucky. It is Kentucky bourbon, mint, sugar and water. I used Kentucky Bourbon, vanilla ice cream, a bit of milk, mint extract and a dash of green food coloring. I blended it in the blender and it was done! So much better than a regular julep. It has to be….it has ice cream in it. For the kids, just take out the Bourbon;)
Kentucky Hot Brown Casserole
1 lb. loaf of sourdough bread, cubed
1 lb. bacon, cooked and chopped into bite-sized pieces
12 ounces tomatoes, chopped
1 lb. turkey, chopped
1 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
½ lb. Gruyere cheese, grated
½ cup butter (1 stick)
½ cup flour
3 ½ cups milk
½ cup Gourmet Rooster Carolina Style BBQ Sauce
Chives for garnish
Toast bread cubes in 400 degree oven until browned, about 10 minutes.
Melt butter in large pot. Add flour, whisking constantly. Cook for 1 minute. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly. Simmer until mixture boils and thickens, about 4 minutes. Stir in BBQ Sauce and cheeses. Cook over low heat until cheese is melted.
Layer bread cubes in the bottom of a greased 13 x 9 dish. Layer turkey, bacon, and tomatoes over bread. Top with cheese sauce and spread evenly.
Bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes, or until cheese sauce is browned and bubbly. Top with chives.
Mint Julep Milkshake
2 ounces bourbon
1 cup vanilla ice cream
1 tablespoon mint extract
1 cup milk
Dash of green food coloring
Combine all in blender and blend until smooth. Garnish with fresh mint.