Guy Fieri cooks ‘Kentucky Klassics’ on a new episode of Guy’s Big Bite Back Yard on Food Network, “a culinary Kentucky Derby in my backyard.”
“I have some cities that I really love. One of them happens to be Louisville, Kentucky,” he says, specifying, “That’s how you say it by the way: LOU-a-vul.”
“It’s the home of the birthplace of Muhammad Ali, phenomenal fighter. Home to one of the greatest races in the world, the Kentucky Derby, and home to to one of the sandwiches that — once you have it — you’ll never forget it, and that is The Hot Brown. So that’s what we’re going to do is have a whole menu dedicated to Louisville. Starting off with the Hot Brown: garlic sourdough toast, piled up with turkey, bacon, tomato, and a cheddar parmesan mornay sauce that browns up in the oven. This is no finger sandwich.”
Also on his “tribute to Louisville” menu is, inexplicably, a baked potato soup? (Though there’s nothing about baked potato soup that is remotely indigenous to Kentucky or to Louisville. And all that dairy and bacon would be a redundant overkill pairing with the Hot Brown, both for the palate and the arteries.) To drink, he adds a Lemongrass-Ginger Julep, “a Guy spin on the famous Kentucky Bourbon cocktail,” the Mint Julep.
The affably animated spiky-haired Fieri, whose Times Square restaurant recently took a viral drubbing in the New York Times, has visited many a Kentucky restaurant. Central Kentucky has been a frequent destination for Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives show, including stops at Lexington’s JJ McBrewster’s for BBQ, Lexington’s Parkette Drive-In, Frankfort’s White Light Diner for crawfish pie, and a farm-to-table burger at the second spoke on chef Ouita Michel‘s culinary empire, Wallace Station on Old Frankfort Pike near Versailles.
He starts the “gravy” for the Hot Brown by dicing onions and cooking them down in butter in an enameled dutch oven, then basting the sourdough bread with garlic butter, and griddling them. “It was the 1920s, everybody’s dancing and partying, eating bacon and eggs — this is at The Brown Hotel — someone says, ‘wait a second. We’re going to make this open-faced turkey sandwich. It’ll be awesome. We’ll put bacon on it. And then hit it with gravy. That’s what this is all about.”
“When you have a hot brown,” he explains, “different chefs make it different ways. This is the Guy Fieri way. It’s got turkey. It’s got this fantastic bacon. And then we’ve got this mornay sauce” ["chicken stock, onions, butter, I made a little roux," to which he adds milk, "think about it as bechamel with cheese. I was calling it gravy earlier. It is kinda gravy."]
“The Hot Brown is kind of like the French Dip all over the country. Chicken-fried steak in the South. Shrimp cocktail up in Maine. Everybody does it. And everybody’s got their own little twist. This is mine.”
He adds sharp yellow cheddar to the mornay (about 3/4 cup), and then parmesan cheese and a grate of nutmeg, before beginning to build the Hot Brown: garlic-toasted sourdough, turkey, bacon, slices of heirloom tomatoes, followed by a ladle of mornay, a sprinkle of parmesan, and then a quick trip into the oven til the cheese bubbles, and then garnishes with scallions. After a bite, he proclaims, “they knew what they were doing in the 1920s.” [It was invented in 1926 at Louisville's Brown Hotel.]
Click here for his recipe for the Sourdough Hot Brown.
For the julep he makes a simple syrup (two cups sugar and two cups water), then bruises lemongrass with the back of a knife, and adds it to the simmering simple syrup, along with a slice of ginger.
Next, he adds ice to the glass,with a sprig of mint, a touch of syrup, and then muddles. He adds more syrup, more ice, a little club soda, and a generous pour of Knob Creek bourbon, with the juice of one lime, then shakes and pours.
Click here for his recipe for the Lemongrass Ginger Julep.