Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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Louisville’s Hot Brown, and Benedictine

September 17th, 2008 · 5 Comments

Kentucky’s favorite — the Hot Brown

A good friend is traveling in and around Indiana, and mentioned two lunches he’s had in Louisville, Ky. At one, he passed on the famous “hot brown” — it’s an open-faced turkey sandwich, generally made with bacon and pimientos, and topped with a Mornay sauce (a white, or Bechamel sauce, made with shredded or finely grated cheese — old schoolers use Gruyere, but any cheese shows up today). The sandwich is put under a salamander or broiler to melt the cheese.

The sandwich gets its name from the Brown Hotel in Louisville and is served in and around the area as a favorite lunchtime meal.

I tasted it one of our favorite places of all times: Billy’s Tap Room in Ormond Beach, FL. I never made a trip to Daytona or near there without stopping at Billy’s. All of the foods were classic, as are the 50’s photos on the wall of famous patrons, all decked out to the nines. Billy’s has a great history: It used to be a speakeasy. There was an underground room here, and neat stories about this famous spot and the “activities” at it abound.

I noticed the menu’s changed somewhat from what I recall, and the “hot brown” isn’t on it, but maybe they offer it as a lunch special. Worth asking if you go.

“It’s a cucumber spread”

My friend also mentioned that they were brought a cucumber spread — he couldn’t recall the name — to the table at another lunch. Benedictine is its name: It’s a creamy concoction made from grated cucumbers and cream cheese and a little onion. The unique thing about is the slight green food coloring cooks add to it — a tradition kept up to this day, apparently. I think that’s a hoot.

It was apparently created by a Louisville caterer, Jennie Benedict, sometime in the early 1900s. Traditionally, it’s served on slices of crustless white bread, cut into long fingers and served with tea. Today, it’s a cocktail food, served on crackers or inside hollowed out potatoes, cherry tomatoes or the like. We think it would be just splendid with another Kentucky favorite, the mint julep — not just for Derby days!


  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese (do not use fat free!)
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise (do not use Miracle Whip!)
  • 1 cucumber – peeled, seeded and very finely grated to make 3 tablespoons — drain well
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped or grated onion, or green onion
  • 2 to 3 drops green food coloring

Mix all ingredients until very well blended. Serve on crustless bread, wheat crackers, or in hollowed-out hard-cooked eggs or cherry tomatoes.

Tags: Off Road · Recipes: What's Cooking!

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 ksteinhoff // Sep 18, 2008 at 8:54 am

    When I hear the phrase “brown hot,” I think of the wonderful BBQ sandwich at Wib’s in Cape Girardeau, MO. The “brown” part is the outside of the smoked port and the “hot” is the unique sauce they put on it.

    Some kid backed into the joint in June ( http://www.semissourian.com/article/20080621/NEWS01/12243456 ) and we long-time customers were afraid that they might have to close, but Son Matt was there on vacation this week and proclaimed it as good as new.

    Every time we go home I manage to make several stops. The last couple of times, we’ve FedExed sandwiches back to Matt, who says they warm up fine.

  • 2 Lurch // Sep 18, 2008 at 11:47 am

    Bobby Flay’s “Throwdown” show on Food Network did an episode on “Hot Browns.”

    Watch their sked and you may see it in a rerun.

  • 3 Ben // Sep 18, 2008 at 11:40 pm

    Benedictine sound terrific… and it is hard for me to believe that foodies would have to be warned not to use fat free cream cheese or Miracle Whip!

    I bet Benedictine on a Ritz cracker would be awesome.

  • 4 Ben // Sep 18, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    Just thought of this… a green/bell pepper sliced into wedges, topped with Benedictine and baked. Or a nice bread round heavily smeared with this heavenly spread and baked… then maybe a shot of Tabasco sauce.

    Gosh, I am read to test it right now and it is almost midnight!

  • 5 scottsfla // Sep 23, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    My family friend in Louisville says folks there will have the Benedictine on rye bread with bacon.

    Have to say Louisville has a vibrant restaurant scene. Wouldn’t mind eating my way through the town.

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