Two Recipes of the The Brown Hotel’s Hot Brown

What do you do with hungry dancers in the wee hours of the morning?

Well, if you’re Chef Fred Schmidt at the Brown Hotel in Louisville back in the Roaring 1920s, you improvise and come up with a dish that is sure to please the more than 1200 guests attending the newly opened hotel’s dinner dances each evening. Determining they wanted something more than just ham and eggs, Schmidt created an open-faced turkey sandwich topped with bacon and a rich Mornay sauce.

Can you say Hot Brown?

The Hot Brown is wonderful and the Brown itself is divine. An architectural gem, the  Georgian-Revival style hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and it’s showstopping elegance is all gold, grandeur, gilt, glitter, and glamour.

From when it opened in 1923, it’s allure attracted the crème-de-la-crème of society. According to the hotel’s website,  the French American operatic soprano and actress Lily Pons, who was staying there while playing at the Brown Theatre, let her pet lion cub roam free in her suite. Al Jolson, also playing at the Theatre, got in a fight in the hotel’s English Grill, but said everything was all right—his makeup would cover the shiner. Queen Marie of Romania, when she was on a diplomatic tour of the U.S. with her children, visited in 1926 and was entertained in the Crystal Ballroom in royal style complete with red carpet and a gold throne on a dais. Victor Mature had a brief career as an elevator operator at the hotel before moving on to find fortune and fame in Hollywood.

Other well-known visitors have included the Duke of Windsor, Harry Truman, Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Young, Joan Crawford, Muhammad Ali, Jimmy Carter, George H. Bush, and Barack Obama.

As for the Hot Brown, it’s become more than just a Louisville tradition and 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.

Here is the Brown Hotel’s Hot Brown Recipe.

It makes two Hot Browns.

  • 2 oz. Whole Butter
  • 2 oz. All Purpose Flour
  • 8 oz. Heavy Cream
  • 8 oz. Whole Milk
  • ½ Cup of Pecorino Romano Cheese
    Plus 1 Tablespoon for Garnish
  • Pinch of Ground Nutmeg
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 14 oz. Sliced Roasted Turkey Breast, Slice Thick
  • 4 Slices of Texas Toast (Crust Trimmed)
  • 4 Slices of Crispy Bacon
  • 2 Roma Tomatoes, Sliced in Half
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Paprika
  • Parsley

In a two‑quart saucepan, melt butter and slowly whisk in flour until combined and forms a thick paste (roux). Continue to cook roux for two minutes over medium‑low heat, stirring frequently. Whisk heavy cream and whole milk 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 two slices of toast with the crusts cut off in an oven safe dish – one slice is cut in half corner to corner to make two triangles and the other slice is left in a square shape – then cover with 7 ounces of turkey. Take the two halves of Roma tomato and two toast points and set them alongside the base of the turkey and toast.

Next, pour one half of the Mornay sauce to completely cover the dish. Sprinkle with additional Pecorino Romano cheese. Place the entire dish under a broiler until cheese begins to brown and bubble. Remove from broiler, cross two pieces of crispy bacon on top, sprinkle with paprika and parsley, and serve immediately.

Hot Brown Casserole

  • 1 cup butter
  • 3⁄4 cup flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 6 cups milk
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1⁄4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 16 slices white bread
  • 16 slices cooked turkey (roast)
  • Paprika
  • 1 lb. bacon (to make 1 cup bacon bits)
  • 1 cup tomatoes, seeded & diced
  • 1⁄4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper

The Brown Hotel’s Hot Brown Casserole

Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add flour stirring to make a roux; cook 2 to 3 minutes.

Thoroughly beat eggs; beat into milk. While stirring, very slowly add milk mixture to butter mixture.

Stir in parmesan cheese. Cook until mixture thickens, but do not boil. This will take 30 to 45 minutes.

Mixture should heavily coat the back side of a large spoon.

Remove from heat. Fold in whipping cream and add salt and pepper to taste.

Trim crust from bread edges. Toast 10 slices in a regular toaster or place in pan under broiler till golden. Repeat on the other side. Reserve remaining bread slices.

Line the bottom of a 9x13x2-inch casserole with 6 slices of toast. Place the remaining 4 slices of toast in an 8x8x2-inch pan. (If you can place all in one pan then do so.). Top with slices of turkey. Cover with sauce, dividing the sauce between the two casseroles. Spread all of the sauce over the turkey.

Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese and paprika.

Place in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 15 minutes or till golden brown.

While casserole is baking, fry bacon till crisp; drain on paper towels. When cooled, break into bits.

Toast remaining slices of bread. Cut on a diagonal. When casserole is done, place toasted bread around outer edge, point side up.

Garnish top of casserole with bacon bits and diced tomatoes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Serve while hot.

Bourbon Entertaining Made Easy By Experts

Inspired by the amazing win of Strike Rich, the second biggest upset in the Kentucky Derby’s history, I decided to delve into Kentucky food history by reading and cooking from a new book on the subject, it’s title compelling asking Which Fork Do I use with My Bourbon?: Setting the Table for Tastings, Food Pairings, Dinners, and Cocktail Parties from University Press of Kentucky.

Wondering what fork to use when serving bourbon isn’t a question we commonly ask, but authors Peggy Noe Stevens and Susan Reigler are entertainment and bourbon experts who travel frequently conducting seminars and tastings. The impetus for their book stems from being constantly asked how to go about hosting the perfect cocktail or dinner party starting from table setting to pairing the best foods and bourbons.

Their bourbon credentials are impeccable. Stevens is an inductee into the Bourbon Hall of Fame, the first female master bourbon taster, founder of the Bourbon Women Association, and one of the originators of the Kentucky Bourbon Trails. Reigler is the author of several bourbon and travel books including Kentucky Bourbon Country: The Essential Travel Guide and The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book, a former restaurant critic and beverage columnist, and past president of the Bourbon Women Association as well as a certified bourbon steward.

Now Stevens and Reigler are the type of Kentucky women who if they were going to tailgate at the Kentucky Derby wouldn’t bring a cooler filled will take-out from the deli counter of the local grocery store to be served on  paper plates and eaten with plastic dinnerware. This type of Kentucky woman brings great grandmother’s silver serving dishes and great great Aunt Mabel’s fine China. And, of course, the food would be equally well turned out though not necessarily fussy or hard to make.

Despite the elegance of it all, Stevens and Reigler don’t want anyone “to work their fingers to the bone planning and executing.”

Susan Reigler

Peggy Noe Stevens

After all, they say, “the best form of bourbon etiquette is simple to make people feel comfortable.”

The following recipes are from Which Fork Do I Use With My Bourbon.

Dark and Bloody Mary:

  • 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, paprika mix
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 2 large lemon wedges
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato juice

To prepare the seasoning mix, combine in a mortar (or spice grinder) one part each smoked sea salt, smoked black pepper, and smoked paprika (the authors suggest these should all come from Bourbon Barrel Foods– bourbonbarrelfoods.com). Finely crush with a pestle and shake together in a jar.

To a pint glass or a large mason jar filled with ice, add the bourbon, squeeze and drop in the lemon wedges, and add 1teaspoon of the seasoning mix and the Worcestershire sauce. Shake. Add more ice and the tomato juice. Shake again.

Garnish with a long straw and baby corn, large pitted black olive, and cherry pepper, all on a stick.

Wabbit

Combine all the cocktail ingredients in a shaker. Shake on ice and double-strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a sage leaf.

Date Syrup

Macerate 1 pint of dates with rich syrup (1 pound of “sugar in the raw” and ½ pound of water, heated and stirred until the sugar dissolves).

Susan’s Tuna Spread:

Author Susan Reigler came across this recipe forty years ago in a small spiral-bound  book of recipes by James Beard that was included with her purchase of a Cuisinart food processor. She always gets raves when she serves it. Spicy and tangy, this is not your bachelor uncle’s bland tuna fish salad.

  • 2 5-ounce cans albacore tuna packed in water, drained
  • cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup tightly packed fresh parsley sprigs
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1½ tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend briefly.

Bourbon Pineapple Poundcake:

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup bourbon
  • 1 to 2 fresh pineapples, quartered and sliced
  • in thick strips
  • 1 pound cake

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees. Mix the brown sugar and bourbon until it forms a thin paste. Lay the pineapple strips side by side in a baking dish.

Brush the brown sugar mixture thickly on the pineapple strips. Put the dish in the oven and allow the mixture to melt over the pineapple until warm.

Lay the pineapple strips over slices of pound cake and ladle any extra juice over each slice. Serve immediately.

Woodford Reserve Chocolate Bread Pudding:

  • 12 cups stale French bread, diced in 1-inch cubes
  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1¾ cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 6 ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate, chopped in large chunks
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Place the bread cubes in a large bowl and toss with the milk until the

bread is moistened. Soak for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the eggs, sugar,

vanilla, and cinnamon and pour over the bread-milk mixture. Fold

together until well mixed.

Fold in the chocolate chunks and mix until evenly distributed. Pour

into a greased, deep 13- by 9-inch pan. Drizzle the melted butter over

the batter and cover with foil.

Bake for 30 minutes covered and then for another 10 to 15 minutes

uncovered, until the pudding is set and firm in the middle and golden

brown on top. Serve warm with Bourbon Butter Sauce.

Bourbon Butter Sauce

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat.

Whisk in the sugar and bourbon and bring to a simmer. Crack the eggs

in a large bowl and whisk until blended. Add a little warm bourbon

mixture to the eggs and whisk. Continue to add the bourbon mixture

a little at a time until the eggs have been tempered. Pour all the liquid

back into the pan and return it to medium heat. Bring to a light simmer

and cook for several minutes, until thickened. Keep warm and serve over bread pudding.

Photography by Pam Spaulding.

Road Trips & Recipes: Hidden Surprises in Horse Cave, KY

Guest Road Tripper Kathy Witt takes us to underground Kentucky in her latest travel piece. Always glad to have you, Kathy!

Mammoth Cave National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve located in southcentral Kentucky, recently made headlines for adding six miles to what is already, at 426 explored miles, the world’s largest cave system.

A 25-minute drive away in tiny Horse Cave, KY, another cave is newsworthy in its own right as one of the world’s few caves located directly beneath a town. Hidden River Cave (www.hiddenrivercave.com) is not only Kentucky’s largest, privately operated cave, it stretches out beneath Horse Cave’s downtown, a National Historic District, with an entrance located directly off Main Street.

Play: Hidden River Cave is also home to the world’s longest underground suspension bridge, swinging far above the river rushing below. Completion of the bridge in 2020 made it possible for guided tours to reach Sunset Dome, inaccessible to the public for 76 years. At 150 feet wide, 200 feet long and 100 feet high, give or take, it is one of the largest free-standing cave domes in the United States –a sight to behold in glowing shades of red, yellow and orange.

The main entrance to Hidden River Cave is off Main Street in downtown Horse Cave, KY.
Photo: Kathy Witt

Before hiking down the 200-plus steps into the cavern (and yes, you’ll have to climb back up them on your way out), visitors can read about the history of the cave at the free-admission American Cave Museum. Home of the American Cave Conservation Association, the museum offers self-guided tours of exhibits on karst geology, a landscape characterized by sinkholes, sinking streams, caves and springs, as well as the archaeology of caves. Photo: Kathy Witt

Local Amish craftspeople custom-built the tepee accommodations at Horse Cave KOA Holiday. Photo: Kathy Witt

Stay: For a small town (population: 2,400), Horse Cave has an unexpectedly delightful array of accommodations, including country cottage vacation rentals, waterside campsites and glamping options. At Horse Cave KOA Holiday (www.kygetaway.com/horse-cave-koa-holiday), climb into the treetops for cozy overnights in a treehouse. Crawl into a Conestoga wagon or slip into a custom-built tepee, each one beautifully furnished and fully equipped – from Keurig coffeemaker and refrigerator to private patio and firepit.

A pioneer adventure awaits at the Conestoga wagon accommodations at Horse Cave KOA Holiday.
Photo: Kathy Witt

Clean, comfortable and scenically situated overlooking gently rolling hills and pastures, the campground also offers cabins and pull-thru RV sites, beautiful new bathhouse, fishing pond, jump pillow, playground and seasonal swimming pool.

Tuck in amidst the treetops in a Horse Cave KOA Holiday treehouse. Photo: Kathy Witt

Eat: Besides its cave and Conestoga wagons, Horse Cave surprises with horse-drawn buggies seen hitched downtown and clip-clopping along the rural roads. The town has a large Amish population and thriving Amish business landscape. In fact, Amish craftspeople constructed the treehouses and tepees at Horse Cave KOA Holiday and one of Horse Cave’s most appealing restaurants, Farmwald’s Restaurant and Bakery (www.farmwalds.com), is Amish owned.

The gift shop at Farmwald Restaurant and Bakery is cozied up with Amish-made items arrayed among a seating area with fireplace. Photo: Kathy Witt

This rambling building with country-store setting is destination dining at its best, with freshly baked donuts, breads and melt-in-your-mouth fried pies and made-to-order deli lunches like grilled ribeye and build-your-own cold-cut sandwiches, chicken baskets and fish dinners.

Hidden River Cave is home of the largest subterranean suspension bridge in the world. Photo: Kathy Witt

A gift shop spreads over half of the building, offering everything from local honey and jarred condiments to wooden toys and woven baskets to home décor and accessories spilling from shelves and adding charm to a seating area near the fireplace. Most of the items are handcrafted by the local Amish community.

A kangaroo at Kentucky Down Under Adventure Zoo shows its enthusiasm for feeding time.
Photo: Courtney Thompson

Treat: Horse Cave has two different animal encounter experiences that pair perfectly for a family-fun outing. At Dutch Country Safari Park (www.kygetaway.com/dutch-country-safari-park), drive through or board the hay wagon and bump along a dirt road through the wilds of Kentucky backcountry to see Watusi, water buffalo, camels, llamas, wildebeests, ostriches and other animals. Feeding the animals is part of the fun, and these well-trained beasts will nose into the wagon to eat from extended hands or directly from the bowl.

American Cave Museum is next door to Hidden River Cave in Horse Cave, KY. Photo: Kathy Witt

Visitors to Horse Cave’s Australian Outback at Kentucky Down Under Adventure Zoo (www.kentuckydownunder.com) discover they are at one of the few places in the country where it is okay to feed and pet the kangaroos, take selfies and even nap with them.

Farmwald Restaurant and Bakery’s chicken basket with toast and a side of gravy is comfort-food delicious.
Photo: Kathy Witt

“We are the only place in Kentucky where you can get close to Bigfoot (kangaroos are macropods, meaning they have big feet),” said park spokesman Brian Dale, “And we almost always have a batch of new joeys in and out of the pouch in the Outback.”

Interactivity: A Great Way to Learn

Visitors to Kentucky Down Under Adventure Zoo are often surprised at how soft and friendly the kangaroos are. Photo: Kentucky Down Under Adventure Zoo

Interactive experiences are the big draw here: feeding parrots and lorikeets; mining for fossils and gemstones at the sluice; exploring scenic Mammoth Onyx Cave; and watching animal shows that feature a dingo, porcupine, serval kitten, woma python or another one of the zoo’s most beloved and intriguing residents. Explore the Outback by foot or on wheels, with a rental of a four- or six-passenger golf cart.

Read: Visit www.kygetaway.com to plan your adventure to Horse Cave, KY.

RECIPE

Farm Beans with Amish Relish and Hoecakes     

Farm bean ingredients

  • 2 C of dried pinto beans
  • 2 whole cloves of garlic from the garden
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 8 C of water

Rinse beans in colander. Put freshly rinsed dried beans in a large bowl, cover with cold water and let soak overnight in fridge. Drain soaking water and rinse beans. Place in large cooking pot. Add water, garlic, bay leaves and salt to beans. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low and cook until the beans are tender, 2 to 3 hours. Stir frequently and add water as needed to get desires soup texture, i.e., beans thoroughly cooked down with a bean-rich broth.

Serve in bowls with a topping of Amish corn relish and a freshly fried hoe cake (see recipe below).

Hoe cake ingredients

  • 1 C self-rising cornmeal
  • 1 farm fresh egg
  • 3/4 C buttermilk (more or less based on preferred consistency)
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Mix all ingredients, except oil, to create batter. Add vegetable oil to skillet and place on the stovetop at medium high heat. Place spoonfuls of batter into the skillet to create desired size cake. Fry hoecakes until bubbles appear on the tops and their edges are cooked. Flip each of the cakes and cook the other side until golden brown. Repeat with remaining batter. As each cake is removed from the skillet, place on paper towels to absorb any excess oil.

Writer/Author

About Kathy Witt

Writer and author Kathy Witt is a member of SATW Society of American Travel Writers and the Authors Guild

She is the author of Secret Cincinnati; The Secret of the Belles; Atlanta, GA: A Photographic Portrait

NEWCincinnati Scavenger: The Ultimate Search for Cincinnati’s Hidden Treasures arriving October 2022.

NEWPerfect Day Kentucky: Daily Itineraries for the Discerning Traveler arriving Fall 2023.

www.KathyWitt.comwww.facebook.com/SecretCincinnatiNKY

www.LinkedIn.com/in/KathyWittwww.Instagram.com/Kathy.Witt

Straight Bourbon: Distilling the Industry’s Heritage

“Bourbon is a legacy of blue grass, water and Kentucky limestone,” Carol Peachee tells me when I ask what makes Kentucky bourbon so prized.

Limestone? Water? Bluegrass? What’s that have to do with fine bourbon?

Turns out it’s quite simple. According to Peachee, the limestone filters the iron out of the water as it flows through the rock, producing a sweet-tasting mineral water perfect for making the greatest tasting liquor. Limestone, with its heavy calcium deposits, also is credited with the lush blue grass the state’s prize-winning horses gaze upon — making their bones strong.

It’s been a long time since I took geology in college, but I do like the taste of good bourbon and the sight of stately horses grazing in beautiful pastures and the more I can learn about it all, the better. Which is why I love Peachee’s entrancing photographs.

Carol Peachee

I first met Peachee, an award-winning professional photographer, when she was autographing copies of her latest book, Straight Bourbon: Distilling the Industry’s Heritage (Indiana University Press 2017; $28). Creating beauty as well as a sense of yearning, her books, including The Birth of Bourbon: A Photographic Tour of Early Distilleries, take us on a wanderlust journey of lost distilleries and those now re-emerging from the wreckage of Prohibition. At one time, Kentucky had over two hundred commercial distilleries, but only sixty-one reopened after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. Now, as Kentucky bourbon becomes a driving force throughout the world, once barely remembered and long closed distilleries are being restored and revamped and are opening again for business.

Using a photographic technique known as high-dynamic-range imaging ― a process that produces rich saturation, intensely clarified details, and a full spectrum of light ― Peachee hauntingly showcases the vibrancy still lingering in artifacts such as antique tools, worn cypress fermenting tubs, ornate copper stills some turning slightly green with oxidation and age, gears and levers —things we would never typically think of as lovely and compelling.

Traveling with the Book

Keeping copies of her books in my car when I travel to Kentucky, I love visiting some of the places and sites she’s photographed.

Her passion for bourbon may also have come about, in part, because she lives in Lexington, Kentucky which is rich in the history of bourbon making (and, we should say, sipping).

To get a taste of how bourbon connects to the land, when in Lexington, Peachee suggests a stop at the Barrel House Distilling Co. including the Elkhorn Tavern located in the old James B. Pepper barrel plant. It’s part of Lexington’s happening Distillery District. But fine bourbon doesn’t just stop in Lexington.

“There are so many bourbon distilleries now,” she says, noting that the heritage of good bourbon making is more than the equipment and the water.

“The cultural heritage of distilling also lays in the human culture,” she writes in the Acknowledgements section of her latest book, “the people who learned the crafts of milling, copper welding and design, barrel making and warehouse construction and then passed them on through the generations down to today’s workers and owners.”

And now Peachee has passed them down to us so we can fully appreciate the art of distilling

Town Branch Bourbon Bramble

  • 2oz Bourbon
  • 3/4oz Fresh squeeze lemons
  • 3/4oz Simple syrup
  • 5 Fresh blackberries muddled

Shake with ice, strain and pour over fresh ice in rock glass with blackberry garnish.

Town Branch Bourbon Mint Julep

  • 2 oz Bourbon
  • 8 mint leaves
  • 1/4oz simple syrup
  • Dash of bitters

Muddle ingredients.

Add crushed ice with mint garnish and straw.

The above recipes are courtesy of the Lexington Brewing & Distilling Company.

Mark Your Calendars for Bourbon Heritage Month

When it comes to bourbon, it’s never too early to start making plans. So even though we have to wait until September, mark your calendars for celebrating Bourbon Heritage Month in Paducah, Kentucky. Paducah, a river town with rich past, is a UNESCO Creative City. And when it comes to bourbon, that creativity is on display at several of the city’s restaurants.


Barrel & Bond

Barrel and Bond is a bourbon-centric bar in Historic Downtown Paducah, recently named one of the Best Bars in Bourbon Country according to Bourbon Review. The new bourbon and cocktail bar features one of largest selections in the United States, boasting more than 1,400 Bourbons and American whiskeys. Expertly curated cocktails and charcuterie boards offer a perfectly paired introduction to Kentucky food and drink. Take the bourbon experience to the next level by attending a meeting of the Paducah Bourbon Society.

Freight House

Freight House, a farm-to-table restaurant in Paducah, serves up traditional Southern flavors, paired with locally sourced meats and garden-fresh fare. Freight House Paducah features a full bar and with a staggering selection of bourbons, as well as a seasonal rotation of cocktails and craft beer. Named one of America’s Best Bourbon Bars by The Bourbon Review and Buffalo Trace.

“Buck 50” at The FoxBriar Cocktail Bar

This cocktail, which has been a year in the making, is inspired by the Kentucky Buck cocktail. FoxBriar takes this ginger beer-based cocktail and combines it with the ratios of a French 75 to create something new and special.

While you’re waiting, here are some recipes to make.

The following recipes are courtesy of the Freight House in Paducah.

Freight House Fried Chicken

marinade

  • 1 pt buttermilk
  • 1/4 c hot sauce
  • 1 T granulated garlic
  • 1 T granulated onion
  • 1 T granulated salt

breader

  • 4 c flour
  • 2 T smoked paprika
  • 2 T salt
  • 1 T cayenne pepper

for the marinade

  1. mix ingredients together, then add chicken to marinate. marinate for about 4 hours.

to fry chicken

  1. mix all breader ingredients into a bowl.
  2. remove chicken from marinade and shake of extra liquid. dredge pieces one by one, shaking excess. make sure to coat chicken well.
  3. let rest at room temperature for 10 min while you heat your oil.
  4. heat oil on stove top to 360 degrees.
  5. slowly lower chicken into oil and fry for about 5-8 minutes (depending on thickness. longer if you have a chicken that has the bone in it) to reach a temp of 160-165f. breading will have a golden brown color.
  6. season with salt.

Champagne Chess Pie

ingredients

  • 1 9 in pie crust (rolled, crimped, and chilled in refrigerator)
  • 2 1/4 c sugar
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 1 1/3 T yellow corn meal
  • 4 1/2 eggs beaten well
  • 1 1/2 T champagne reduction (see below)
  • 1/2 T white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 6 oz melted butter

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 325 F. combine the sugar, salt, and cornmeal in a medium size bowl and mix. add your eggs, champagne, vinegar, and vanilla and whisk to combine. add the butter and whisk again. make sure everything is well mixed with no lumps. it should be kind of thick.

Pour the mixture into your pie crust.

Bake the pie for 55-60 minutes on the bottom rack of your oven. the pie should have golden brown crust and be pretty firm when done cooking. You only want a little jiggle when you give it a wiggle.

Let it cool for at least 4 hours before serving. it can be cooked the day before and kept in the fridge. bring to room temperature before serving.

For champagne reduction: reduce 1 bottle (25.4 oz) of champagne to 3/4 cup. will hold in the fridge for months.

Freight House Deviled Eggs

1 dozen eggs

hard boil, chill, and split eggs in half (we cut ’em horizontally). remove yolks and set aside.

ingredients

  • 3 e yolks
  • 2 T salt
  • 1 t granulated onion
  • 1/4 c caramelized onion should be dark
  • 4 T red wine vinegar
  • 1 c vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c sour cream

instructions

  1. add all ingredients but the veg oil and sour cream to food processor.
  2. process for about 1 minute.
  3. slowly add oil. taste for seasoning. the base will be highly seasoned.
  4. add the egg yolk and process until smooth.
  5. add the sour cream and pulse to incorporate.
  6. pipe into egg whites. garnish with caramelized onions.

Board the Belle of Louisville for a Halloween Cruise on the Ohio River

It’s not too late to book passage on the Belle of Louisville for one of their Halloween-themed cruises. Built in 1914, the Belle is now the last authentic steamboat from the great American packet boat era, a time when these medium-sized boats designed for domestic mail, passenger, and freight transportation plied the waters of European countries and North American rivers. Both a National Historic Landmark and an icon of the Louisville waterfront, the Belle is the most widely traveled steamboat in American history.

October 30: Hull-o-ween Family Cruise

 A family event, guests get to explore the 107-year-old boat accompanied by their very own Ghost Guide, stopping along their journey to hear terrible tales inspired by the antique steamboat’s own history and the murky depths of the Ohio River. Beyond the spooks and frights, the cruise also includes Halloween-themed crafts, activities, music, and at the cruise’s end trick or treating.

Costumes are encouraged but not required. This Hull-o-ween Family Cruise takes place on Saturday, October 30 from 1 P.M. to 3 P.M. Tickets are $35.99 for adults (15-64), $34.99 for seniors (65+), $14.99 for kids (5-14) and children 4 and under are free.


October 30: Haunted River Cruise

Come aboard the historic Belle of Louisville and meet your Ghost Guide who takes visitors on a tour while telling terrible tales inspired by the antique steamboat’s own history and the murky depths of the Ohio River. Continue on to the Captain’s Quarters for a Tarot care reading by a mysterious psychics. Need a drink? Head to the Ballroom Deck for cursed cocktails, costume contest, and music by DJ Jill at the Halloween Dance Party.

This adults-only (ages 21+) cruise departs at 8 P.M. and returns at 10 P.M. Costumes are encouraged for this Halloween cruise, but not required. Tickets are $35.99 for adults (21-64) and $34.99 for seniors (65+).

Why Not Begin or End the Trip with a Hot Brown at the Brown Hotel

While visiting Louisville, either book an overnight at the iconic Brown Hotel or at least stop by long enough to enjoy their famous Hot Brown invented by the hotel’s Chef Fred Schmidt in the 1920s who went way beyond anything a like typical sandwich or bacon and eggs to serve to late night guests.  Instead, he whipped up a concoction that would become famous throughout Kentucky and beyond—an open faced turkey sandwich topped with bacon and a delicate but rich Mornay sauce,

  • 2 oz. Whole Butter
  • 2 oz. All Purpose Flour
  • 8 oz. Heavy Cream
  • 8 oz. Whole Milk
  • ½ Cup of Pecorino Romano Cheese
    Plus 1 Tablespoon for Garnish
  • Pinch of Ground Nutmeg
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 14 oz. Sliced Roasted Turkey Breast, Slice Thick
  • 4 Slices of Texas Toast (Crust Trimmed)
  • 4 Slices of Crispy Bacon
  • 2 Roma Tomatoes, Sliced in Half
  • Paprika
  • Parsley

In a two‑quart saucepan, melt butter and slowly whisk in flour until combined and forms a thick paste (roux). Continue to cook roux for two minutes over medium‑low heat, stirring frequently. Whisk heavy cream and whole milk 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 two slices of toast with the crusts cut off in an oven safe dish – one slice is cut in half corner to corner to make two triangles and the other slice is left in a square shape – then cover with 7 ounces of turkey. Take the two halves of Roma tomato and two toast points and set them alongside the base of the turkey and toast. Next, pour one half of the Mornay sauce to completely cover the dish. Sprinkle with additional Pecorino Romano cheese. Place the entire dish in the oven. Suggested bake time is 20 minutes at 350º. When the cheese begins to brown and bubble, remove from oven, cross two pieces of crispy bacon on top, sprinkle with paprika and parsley, and serve immediately.

Bourbon and Southern Cooking at the Historic Beaumont Inn

Robert E. Lee CakeWhen I arrive in the new bourbon tasting room at the historic Beaumont Inn, there are already set-ups of four bottles of bourbon with empty glasses in front of each. Master Blender Dixon Dedman, who with his parents own the inn which has been in their family since 1917, is famed for his bourbon tastings as well as his revival of the bourbon his great great grandfather, Charles Dedman, who in 1880 started up what would become one of the largest distilleries in the state, until before Prohibition shut it down.

In other words, Dedman is a bourbon expert and I am someone who in my college days mixed the spirit with diet cola. But not this evening. Dedman is going to teach me how to taste the “terroir” of bourbon meaning the type of land here—limestone rock and natural springs that give a special flavor to the wheat, corn and rye used to make bourbon. There is, I note, no diet cola anywhere in sight.

“When they char the barrel it releases the sugars and caramelizes it,” Dedman says as he pours Pappy Van Winkle, a 20-year old bourbon named in tribute to Julius Van Winkle by his grandson and great grandson who are carrying on the family tradition.

That’s important because Pappy Van Winkle is a wheated bourbon which means it contains no rye  and thus gets its flavor from the interaction with the barrel.

“Focus on where you’re tasting it,” he says. “That’s how you build your palate.”

Because it’s wheated,  which means, Dedman tells me, you can taste it in the front of your mouth.

Pappy Van Winkle has almost a cult like following says Dedman.

“When they’re going to release it, people sit in their cars in front of liquor stores for two days to get a bottle,” he says.

At this point, I know I can’t ask for a can of diet cola.ky-owl-bourbon-e1505438614307.jpg

The next taste is a sip of Four Roses Al Young 50th Anniversary. Now I remember Four Roses as a cheap bourbon—the kind you do mix with soda pop particularly at college dorm parties but its roots go back 130 years. The brand was allowed to languish and almost disappeared until Al Young, Senior Brand manager with 50 years of experience in the bourbon biz, was allowed to bring it back to its glory. He has several blends which are based on patented yeast strains he’s developed. The taste of this bourbon comes from the yeast strains and rye and Dixon says to pay attention to its finish on the back on the mouth.Cornmeal cakes witht beaten biscuits

When Dixon was working on developing Kentucky Owl he wanted to emulate the complexity of Four Roses. Later this month, he’ll be releasing his Kentucky Owl Batch # 7, the seventh of his limited release bourbons.

“It’s an 11-year old Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey and it’s exactly what a Rye Whiskey should be,” Dixon writes on Kentucky Owl’s Facebook page. “I put this blend together and bottled it at 110.6 proof. It’s a full-flavored rye perfect for the coming fall weather.”

Barrel aging can produce bourbons with a high proof count but then before they’re bottled, they’re watered down to around 80 proof. But Dixon wasn’t about to do that to Kentucky Owl.

“It’s full flavored,” he said about this batch of Kentucky Owl and it sure was. “You can’t hide anything in barrel proofed whiskeys.”

Later, when I’m in the dining room ordering dinner—the Classic Beaumont Inn fried yellow leg chicken, beaten biscuits, country ham—I glance at the bourbon list. I read that Dixon’s Batch #6 costs $40 a glass and am glad I didn’t ask for a diet cola. Not just because I would have looked stupid but also because I had begun to get a sense of how to appreciate a great bourbon.

Beaumont Classic DinnerBut the Beaumont Inn is about more than Kentucky Owl. It was built in 1845 as a girl’s school and was bought by Dixon’s great great grandmother in 1917. Two years later she turned it into an inn. Many of the recipes on the menu and in their cookbook have been favorites since they first opened including, fried green tomatoes, house made pimento cheese, traditional Kentucky Hot Brown, corn meal batter cakes with brown sugar syrup and the General E. Lee Orange Lemon Cake.

The latter, my waiter told me, was such a favorite of the general that he carried the recipe in his breast pocket. I guess that was in case anyone asked if they could bake a cake for him. I, of course, had to order that despite being a northern girl, and it was delicious—very light with a distinct sugary citrus taste. The lightness I discovered later was because the cake flour used in the recipe is sifted eight times.

The food at the Beaumont Inn is so good that a few years ago they won the James Beard America’s Classic Award which is given to “restaurants with timeless appeal, each beloved in its region for quality food that reflects the character of its community. Establishments must have been in existence for at least ten years and be locally owned.”

The inn itself is beautiful, all polished wood and thick carpets, antique furniture and the timeless grace of a wonderfully kept three-story historic mansion with an exterior of red brick and tall white columns. Located in Harrodsburg, the oldest city in Kentucky, it sits on a rise on several rolling, beautifully landscaped acres. I mentioned Duncan Hines a few weeks ago when I was writing about Claudia Sanders Dinner House in Shelbyville, Kentucky well, Duncan was here quite a bit too and I can see why.

“Now write this down for the people in Kentucky,” he told a reporter back in 1949. “[Say] I’ll be happy to get home and eat two-year-old ham, cornbread, beaten biscuits, pound cake, yellow-leg fried chicken, and corn pudding. And you can say what I think is the best eating place in Kentucky: Beaumont Inn at Harrodsburg.”

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Beaumont Inn

The food here is real Kentucky fare–Weisenberger meal from a seventh generation mill not far from here, Meacham hams which the Dedmans bring to maturation in their own aging house—a process that takes several years and, of course, Great Great Grandpappy’s Kentucky Owl.

The following recipes are courtesy of the Beaumont Inn Special Recipes, their cookbook now in its sixth edition.

Corn Pudding 

2 cups white whole kernel corn, or fresh corn cut off the cob
4 eggs
8 level tablespoons flour
1 quart milk
4 rounded teaspoons sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt

Stir into the corn, the flour, salt, sugar, and butter. Beat the eggs well; put them into the milk, then stir into the corn and put into a pan or Pyrex dish. Bake in oven at 450 degrees for about 40-45 minutes.

Stir vigorously with long prong fork three times, approximately 10 minutes apart while baking, disturbing the top as little as possible.

Country Ham Salad

6 cups chopped aged country ham

1 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped red pepper

1/2 cup chopped purple onion

1.5 cups chopped sweet pickle

2 chopped hard boiled eggs

2 tablespoons of whole grain mustard

Hellman’s Mayonnaise to your liking.

Note: This is great on crackers, finger sandwiches with a thin slice of homegrown tomato, toasted open faced sandwiches with tomato and a melted slice of your favorite cheese or as an appetizer – toasted crostini, ham spread, thin slice of homegrown tomato topped with shredded parmesan cheese run under the broiler.

Corn Meal Batter Cakes

1 cup corn meal

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons bacon drippings or shortening

Sift meal, soda and salt together. Add beaten eggs, then buttermilk. Beat until smooth. Dip a tablespoon of batter (or a bit more) onto a greased hot griddle. Let brown on bottom, then turn quickly and lightly to brown on other side. Serve with Brown Sugar syrup.

Makes about 10-12 good-sized cakes.

Brown Sugar Syrup

2 pounds light brown sugar

3 cups cold water

Mix sugar and water well. Bring to a hard boil for 10 minutes. Do not stir after placing over heating element as stirring or agitating will cause syrup to go to sugar

General Robert E. Lee Orange-Lemon Cake

9 Eggs, separated

a few grains salt

2 cups cake flour, sifted twice before measuring

2 cups white sugar, sift 6 times

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 lemon, juice

Grated rind (yellow part only)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

Beat egg yolks to creamy texture; beat egg whites until stiff. Add baking powder and tartar to flour and sift six times. Mix all ingredients together. Divide batter into four greased 9-inch cake pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes. Turn cakes upside down on a rack until cool.

Spread Orange-Lemon Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Store in refrigerator until serving time. Garnish with orange slices and fresh mint leaves if desired.

Orange-Lemon Frosting

¼ pound butter, softened

3 egg yolks

2 (16 ounce) packages powdered sugar, sifted

4 oranges, rind of, grated

2 lemons, rind of, grated

4 tablespoons lemon juice

6-8 tablespoons orange juice

Cream butter; add egg yolks and beat well. Add powdered sugar and grated rind alternately with juices, beating well.

Original “Robert E. Lee” Cake

Twelve eggs, their full weight in sugar, a half-weight in flour. Bake it in pans the thickness of jelly cakes. Take two pounds of nice “A” sugar, squeeze into it the juice of five oranges and three lemons together with the pulp; stir it in the sugar until perfectly smooth; then spread it on the cakes, as you would do jelly, putting one above another till the whole of the sugar is used up. spread a layer of it on top and on sides.

638 Beaumont Inn Drive, Harrodsburg, KY. (859) 734-3381; beaumontinn.com

Claudia Sanders Dinner House

DSC_0100 (1)My first stop in Kentucky last week was at Claudia Sanders Dinner House in Shelbyville, a large Southern Colonial style building with a long front porch, tall white columns and a row of rocking chairs. It’s the type of place Scarlet O’Hara would have been comfortable hanging around.

If the last name Sanders sounds familiar, it’s because Claudia was the second wife of Harland, better known to most of us as Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame. And before we got any further, the title of Colonel is totally honorific, conferred by the governor of the state. It’s a Kentucky thing.

Claudia and the Colonel met when she was a waitress at the gas station in Corbin, Kentucky where he served his Southern-style cooking including fried chicken, gravy, biscuits, country ham, string beans, okra and other such fare. After word spread about how good the food was Sanders got rid of the gas station part of the business and enlarged the building to seat 142.DSC_0108 (2)

In the late 1930s Sanders restaurant was listed in Duncan Hines’ “Adventures in Good Eating” and for those of you who think Duncan Hines is just a brand of cake mixes, here’s an interesting aside. Hines was a traveling salesman who between 1935 and 1955 started compiling a list of restaurants that he recommended to fellow travelers. The list turned into a series of books and Hines also started writing a thrice weekly newspaper column which was syndicated in newspapers throughout the county.

Here’s his listing for the Colonel’s place.

“Corbin, KY.   Sanders Court and Café

41 — Jct. with 25, 25 E. ½ Mi. N. of Corbin. Open all year except Xmas.

A very good place to stop en route to Cumberland Falls and the Great Smokies. Continuous 24-hour service. Sizzling steaks, fried chicken, country ham, hot biscuits. L. 50¢ to $1; D., 60¢ to $1”

Of course, eating at a restaurant associated with the Colonel and his lady (when the place originally opened it was called The Colonel’s Lady), I had to order the chicken as well as some true Southern sides—corn pudding, chicken and dumpling soup and mashed potatoes with milk gravy. If you’re shaking your head at the number of calories in this meal, at no time did we say it was lean cuisine.

Claudia Sanders Dinner House 1Anyway, back to the Colonel and Claudia.

“The Colonel was a really good guy,” Charlie Kramer, owner of Kentucky Backroad Tours,
tells me over dinner (yes, I was eating again but more about this place in a future column). Charlie worked at the dinner house staring in the 1970s and so knew both Claudia and Harland.

It seems that the Colonel was a perfectionist when it came to cooking and not only did he come up with the secret recipe of herbs and spices that made the batter so “finger-lickin’ good” but he also realized that a new way was needed to cook fried chicken. The answer was a pressure cooker, a relatively new appliance in 1939. It was better than pan frying which took too long and deep frying which made the chicken greasy and dry. Pressure cooking not only sealed in the chicken’s flavor it also preserved its moisture without being greasy.

“He’d go around to these restaurants around Louisville and showed them a better way to make chicken,” Charlie told me. “He’d take a pressure cooker and the spices and herbs and show them how to do it. He’d ask them to pay him a nickel for every fried chicken they sold and he’d stop by later and collect the money.”

It may seem like an odd business model but it worked.

When I-75 opened, the Sanders Café was off the main road which is why Claudia and Harland moved to Shelbyville and opened the dinner club.

Claudia Sanders Dinner House 3The Colonel eventually sold his business to John Y. Brown, Jr. who would become the governor of Kentucky and then later to PepsiCo and its name changed to KFC. The Sanders kept the restaurant where the original recipe is still being used. Both Claudia and Harland are gone now, but the restaurant remains very popular. It was crowded when I was there at lunch time on a Wednesday and it seemed like a lot of chicken was being served.

As for the recipe for the real Kentucky Fried Chicken, here’s one that is said to be real. I don’t know if that’s true but it supposedly was found in a home belonging to a Sanders’ family member when some remodeling was going on. The claim that it is the secret recipe (which is supposedly kept locked away and known by just a few people all sworn to secrecy) resulted in a long-running lawsuit between KFC and the family that says they discovered it. I do find it interesting that one of the secret ingredients is ground ginger—not an ingredient I’ve ever encountered in a fried chicken recipe before.

The Maybe-Secret-Original-Recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken

2/3 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon thyme

½ teaspoon basil

1/3 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon celery salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon dried mustard

4 teaspoons paprika

2 teaspoons garlic salt

1 teaspoon ground ginger

3 teaspoons white pepper

2 cups white flour

Mix all ingredients together.

Claudia Sander’s Creamed Spinach

1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach

2 strips bacon, chopped fine

1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped onion

¾ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 cup half-and-half

1 ½ tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon flour

Thaw and cook spinach 4 minutes in salted boiling water. Drain and set aside. In a skillet brown the bacon and onion. Add salt and pepper. Set aside. In a saucepan bring the half-and-half to a boil.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour. Mix thoroughly. Combine with the half-and-half. Cook until mixture thickens. Add the spinach and the bacon-and-onion mixture to the half-and-half. Stir thoroughly and heat.

Claudia Sanders Yeast Rolls

2 cups sifted flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon butter or corn oil or margarine

1 cake yeast

1/3 cup lukewarm water or milk

1 egg, well beaten

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Sift flour and salt together. Work in butter. Set aside. Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water or milk. Combine with egg and sugar. Add to flour mixture. Gently stir until blended.

Shape into rolls and let rise in greased baking pan for about 2 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.

Bake in a preheated 425-degree oven for 15-20 minutes.

Claudia Sanders Dinner Club is located at 3202 Shelbyville Road, Shelbyville, KY. For more information: 502-633-5600; claudiasanders.com

Jane Ammeson can be contacted via email at janeammeson@gmail.com