“Do you have something planned for dinner? Or should we stop and pick up something from the store?”
Pretty typical question from my hubby, making sure that everything was covered for the evening. But I chuckled this time, because this wasn’t a typical day- it was the day after Thanksgiving. A Thanksgiving we hosted. And that meant our fridge was crammed full of containers of leftover food. Do we have food in the house? That’s funny.
I’m a leftover lover, but even I wasn’t really excited about a repeat of last night’s dinner. But it seemed the financially wise decision, so I was going with it.
As we continued to chat about dinner, Brandon happened to mention that turkey and ham were also ingredients in hot browns. Queue the lightbulb in my brain. Google helped me ascertain which ingredients I might be missing. Though it’s one of my favorites, I had never attempted the iconic dish.
As I read, I realized I already had almost everything I needed. And most of it was found in the numerous leftover containers in my fridge. Which would make sense. Legend has it, the original hot brown was created in Louisville Ky, at the Brown Hotel. After a long night of drinks and dancing, the hotel guests found themselves hungry and requested a late night snack. The hotel chef threw together leftovers from his kitchen to create the dish that would soon become famous all throughout the south.
If he could do it…why couldn’t I? I stopped at the store to get milk, which I ran out of just the day before; then headed home to attempt my first ever Thanksgiving Leftover Hot Brown. And I’m excited to share it with you!
Disclaimer: I find recipes in article form to be tedious. Most of the time, I just want the recipe. Why would I write this then? Mainly because I am incapable of writing down exact recipes. There are a lot of liberties and guestimates when I create or even replicate dishes. If you were to ask me in person how I made this dish, it would go down about like this article will. I couldn’t give you specific steps and measurements. So there’s no “click here to skip to recipe” link. And I apologize.
Instead of Texas toast, I cut my mother-in-law’s famous yeast dinner rolls in half, and layered the bottom of my casserole dish. Then I filled in the gaps with stuffing. And just sprinkled some more stuffing on top of the rolls. Stuffing is one of my favorite sides…and I use it in a lot of other dishes too!
Next, I sliced up some leftover ham and turkey and layered on top of the bread.
This is the part I was most concerned about. A hot brown isn’t any count if the sauce is off. As I researched what went into the fancy French based sauce, I realized that it was very similar to making white gravy from flour and a protein fat. So I ended up taking the gravy I’d made for Thanksgiving (which was more white gravy, than turkey gravy….and not my best batch) and adding to it.
I’m including this link to another site for the specifics on making gravy like this from scratch. It’s not hard, but if you’ve never done it, you might want to read up on some more step-by-step instructions. I’m not going to get into the weeds here.
Using melted butter and flour, create a rue in your pan. Slowly add in milk until a sauce forms. A whisk is a good tool to use for this part. Just play with the consistency. To thicken, add more flour. If it’s too thick, add more milk. You’ll want it just under the final thickness, because we still want to add cheese.
Once it’s well mixed, begin to add in cheese. I just used what I had at home. Some parmesan, mozzeralla, and mixed cheddar. Just plain old bagged shredded cheese. Add a little at a time so that it melts easily. Then salt and pepper to taste.
This is the part I was quite proud of. I used this method and added my so-so leftover gravy. I did the final taste test….and dang, it was good. So I poured it over my bread and meat.
I sadly didn’t have any tomatoes at home and forgot this when I went to the store for the milk. So my hot brown was tomato-less. But I would suggest adding them!
Bacon is a staple in our house, so I fried up a few pieces to put on top of my dish. I actually did this ahead of time and used some of the bacon grease in my gravy mixture.
Everything is already cooked, so baking it was really just a matter of browning the top and melding the flavors. Thirty minutes at 350 degrees did the trick.
And it was delicious. I was proud that my little concoction both tasted good and used up ingredients that I would otherwise end up throwing away.
Now it’s your turn! Read recipes like I do- as a general framework for the dishes you’ll create in your kitchen. Take this idea, use what you have in your kitchen, and create your own version of the Thanksgiving Leftover Hot Brown.