So while everyone else was talking about Cinco de Mayo yesterday, I’m still in post-Derby recovery. For those of us who live in Louisville, Kentucky, it’s kind of like the day after Christmas. For months you look forward to the big day with tons of anticipation, you prepare endlessly for parties and entertaining, you buy fancy outfits, schools close the day before the big event, you spend lots of time together with family and friends celebrating, and then BOOM!, it’s over before you know it. Everything else seems completely anticlimactic. Like egg nog, mint juleps have their moment in the spotlight and then are forgotten until next year. Huge hats, like Christmas decorations, are put back in the box and shoved to the far corners of a closet. And all of a sudden there’s rarely a mention of burgoo, Benedictine cheese, hot browns, or Kentucky Pecan Pie again until Derby fever starts anew eleven months later.
While I won’t particularly miss drinking a mint julep or eating a Benedictine sandwich, I would miss eating a hot brown, and, for our peanut/tree nut allergic family, a Kentucky Chocolate Pie.
First, the hot brown. It’s basically bread, turkey, cheese sauce, bacon and more cheese. Who wouldn’t love that year round? I used a recipe from Damaris Phillips, Food Network Star and culinary instructor at Jefferson County Technical College here in Louisville, KY. This recipe is incredibly easy – do not be scared off by the thought of making a “Mornay sauce.” The sauce comes together fast and is basically fool proof. I did not use a bone-in turkey breast per the recipe though – much easier to buy a boneless turkey breast. You can even get the pre-cooked ones from Costco to make it super simple. If you’re really pressed for time I could suggest using the meat from a rotisserie chicken, but that would seem blasphemous when talking about a hot brown, so I’ll just leave it there and we’ll act like that suggestion never came from me. I also added a little smoked paprika to the sauce just to give it a bit of a kick, and, for my two non-parmesan cheese loving kids, made one dish sprinkled with cheddar cheese instead of parmesan cheese.
The best thing about this hot brown? Everyone loved it and asked for seconds. Which is really a good thing because seriously, I could have eaten the whole dish. By myself. In one sitting. It truly is that yummy!
As for the Kentucky Chocolate Pie, let me digress – Derby Pie© is what is associated with the Kentucky Derby, but a company here in Louisville, Kern’s, has trademarked the name “Derby Pie”. Kern’s recipe does not include bourbon and uses walnuts instead of pecans. To avoid running amiss of any legal issues, I most definitely did not make that pie, but instead made a non-nut version of a Kentucky Pecan Pie, what I will call a Kentucky Chocolate Pie. Same incredible yumminess, just without the nuts. You can prepare this recipe either way depending on your preference. You also can include or not include the bourbon, depending on how boozy you want your pie.
I also used honey instead of the corn syrup. I’m not a huge fan of corn syrup and you can substitute honey in place for corn syrup easily. In a hurry? Use a store bought pie shell. While I’m a big advocate of making things from scratch, sometimes you need to save a little time, and if it means you’ll get to make this pie, this is one place you can cut corners.
The pie is very decadent and really just a mess of chocolateness. Serve it warm with ice cream and whip cream and there is nothing better. Vanilla ice cream is the usual staple as a pairing for this pie, but I like it with a Salted Caramel ice cream. Something about the saltiness of the caramel ice cream paired with the intense chocolate flavor of the pie is truly incredible to me. I doubled the recipe and made smaller pies so we would have extras to enjoy later in the week – this recipe also would be great as smaller tartlets for serving at a party.
Add a salad with the hot brown and you’ve got dinner and dessert that can be made in little time but will have everyone in the family asking for seconds!
Hot Brown with Pimento Mornay Sauce
Courtesy Damaris Phillips, Food Network
1 bone-in turkey breast half (about 2 pounds)
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces bacon, cut into lardons
20 grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar
1/4 cup chopped roasted red peppers
2 slices stale sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (a heaping 2 cups total)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Rub the turkey breast with 2 teaspoons of the oil; sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 160 degrees F, about 55 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest 15 minutes; the turkey will continue to cook and the internal temperature should reach 165 degrees F.
Place the bacon lardons on a baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 20 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate; drain and reserve the fat for another use.
Lower the oven temperature to 250 degrees F. Coat the tomatoes with the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the tomatoes cut-sides up on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake until they start to dehydrate and wrinkle, about 45 minutes.
While the tomatoes are cooking, start the Mornay sauce. Add the butter to a medium saucepan and melt over medium heat. Add the milk to a small saucepan and heat over medim heat. When the butter is melted, add the flour and stir continuously so the roux doesn’t scorch, about 2 minutes. When the milk starts to simmer, slowly add it to the roux, stirring continuously so lumps don’t form. Increase the heat and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the Cheddar and red peppers and stir until smooth. Remove the sauce from the heat and season with salt and pepper.
You are now ready to assemble the dish. Heat the broiler. Distribute the bread cubes evenly among four 6-inch round cast-iron gratin pans. Cut the turkey into bite-size pieces, about 1/2 inch each, and divide evenly among the gratin pans. Spoon the Mornay sauce over the pans, and top each with 10 tomato halves. Sprinkle each pan with the Parmesan and bacon and place under the broiler on the bottom rack of the oven until golden and bubbly, 5 to 10 minutes. Serve immediately.
Kentucky Chocolate (Pecan) Pie
Courtesy of David Lebovitz, Food and Wine
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup ice water
2 cups (about 7 ounces) pecans
3 large eggs
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons bourbon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
In a food processor, pulse the flour with the sugar and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the ice water. Knead the dough 2 or 3 times on a lightly floured surface and pat into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a 12-inch round. Fit the dough into a 9-inch glass pie plate. Trim the overhang to 1/2 inch, fold the edge under itself and crimp decoratively. Refrigerate until firm.
Preheat the oven to 375°. On a rimmed baking sheet, toast the pecans for about 8 minutes, or until fragrant; coarsely chop. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, melted butter, bourbon and salt until blended. Stir in the pecans and chocolate chips until evenly distributed.
Pour the filling into the pie shell. Bake on the bottom shelf of the oven for about 55 minutes, or until the center of the pie is set. Tent the crust with foil halfway through the baking time if the edge is browning too quickly. Transfer the pie to a rack and let cool for at least 1 hour before serving.
The pie can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 day, or stored for a week in the refrigerator. Rewarm at 325° for 15 minutes.