The Hot Brown at Billy Sunday looks unlike any version of the dish I've ever encountered. Not that I've seen thousands of variations, but I did eat my requisite share of the Kentucky classic while growing up in the Louisville area, and none of them looked nearly as beautiful as this one. Most are a blank canvas of muted gray thanks to the turkey, toast, and mornay sauce, with maybe a spot of red from the tomato slices to break things up. But Billy Sunday's Hot Brown is downright colorful.
A little history: created on a whim one late night at the Brown Hotel (as the story goes), the Hot Brown hits a strange spot between fancy hotel speciality (mornay sauce!) and hearty hangover food (bacon!). When the Hot Brown is bad, that delicate balance usually tilts too far to the gut-busting side.
Billy Sunday's version is all about balance. The mornay sauce is aggressively seasoned but sparingly applied, which allows you to actually appreciate the delicately flavored turkey. Most importantly, the kitchen realizes the importance of acidity, replacing the roasted tomato slices with fresh ones and adding on pickled red onion to help enliven each bite. You can polish off a whole one and not feel like cheese sauce is running through your veins.
It might not be the most traditional version, but if you've never understood the appeal of the Hot Brown, this is the place to start.
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