Thanksgiving Hot Browns are a cornucopia of holiday flavors

Illustration for article titled Thanksgiving Hot Browns are a cornucopia of holiday flavors
Graphic: Natalie Peeples

Welcome to Hibernation Holiday, The Takeout’s guide to celebrating Thanksgiving in the comfort of your own home—and in your sweatpants.

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Sometimes I think that the only reason anyone makes Thanksgiving dinner is to have leftovers. I’m always more excited about post-Thanksgiving sandwiches than the meal itself, so now that we’ve got ourselves a year where we can buck all traditions, why not skip straight past the fussiness of a sit-down dinner and get straight to the good part? Why don’t we take everything we love, make it into the thing we actually want, and do it in a fraction of the time?

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These are the sort of game-changing revelations that I’ve had this year in quarantine, and I do declare that this sandwich could possibly change this holiday as we’ve always understood it. People are going to spend Thanksgiving eating this sandwich in sweatpants in front of the TV, and they are going to be so freaking happy that they’ll never be able to go back to the old ways of yore. By bringing this sandwich into the world, I just might have killed Thanksgiving, so to my fellow Americans who hate washing dozens of roasting pans, cutting boards, and casserole dishes at the end of the night: you’re welcome.

This sandwich is modeled on my favorite turkey sandwich in the world, the Kentucky Hot Brown: turkey breast, bacon, and sliced tomatoes on a slab of Texas toast, drenched in cheese sauce and broiled. My Thankgiving-ified version uses an entire split loaf of bread (I like using ciabatta for its plentiful nooks and crannies), which is then topped with a “butter” that makes it taste like stuffing. Instead of sliced tomatoes, I used thick slices of canned jellied cranberry sauce, which is the most superior of all the world’s cranberry sauces.

Though it’s not a traditional Thanksgiving meat, I kept the bacon from the original because, well, bacon. I also kept the cheese sauce made from Pecorino Romano because I just plain like it. You can use any sort of cheese, though, because it’s your damn sandwich, and you are going to love the crap out of it. This is the Thanksgiving where no one can boss you around and tell you how to eat your dinner. Let yourself be filled with the Hibernation Holiday spirit, then spread your wings and fly.


Illustration for article titled Thanksgiving Hot Browns are a cornucopia of holiday flavors
Photo: Allison Robicelli
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Thanksgiving Hot Brown

For the turkey:

  • 1 split turkey breast, about 4 lbs.
  • 2 carrots, unpeeled and cut into small pieces
  • 2 onions, unpeeled and cut into small pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves garlic, unpeeled and smashed
  • 2 cups water
  • Salt and pepper

For the “stuffing” spread:

  • 2 medium onions, peeled and diced
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 6 Tbsp. (3/4 stick) butter
  • Salt and pepper

For the cheese sauce:

  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, or another cheese you enjoy

The other stuff:

  • 1 lb. thick-cut bacon, cooked
  • 1 (14-oz.) can jellied cranberry sauce
  • 1 loaf Ciabatta or Italian bread
  • Fresh herbs, for garnish

First, make the turkey

Generously season the turkey with salt and pepper. Stir together the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and bay leaf in an Instant Pot, then add the turkey breast and water. Set for 30 minutes on high pressure, followed by a natural release.

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Use tongs to remove the turkey breast to a plate; remove the skin and bones and put those back into the pot, setting the meat aside to cool. Turn on the Instant Pot’s simmer function and continue cooking for 20 minutes; strain, discarding the solids, then set the stock aside for a few minutes to let the fat rise to the top. Remove the fat, then pour the stock back into the Instant Pot and simmer until reduced to one cup.

After the turkey comes out of the Instant Pot, start making the stuffing butter

Over high heat, melt the butter in a large skillet, then add the onion, carrots, and celery with a hefty pinch of kosher salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the garlic, then reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking while stirring for another 10-15 minutes, until the vegetables caramelize into a rich shade of amber. Stir in the poultry seasoning and flour, cook for another minute, then add the reduced turkey stock. Cook for another few minutes until thickened, then turn off the heat. Give it a taste and add salt/pepper/poultry seasoning as you see fit.

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Next, make the cheese sauce

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over high heat, then stir in the flour and cook for one minute to make a roux. Whisk in the milk and cream, bring to a boil, then remove from heat and stir in the cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Assemble the sandwich

Turn the broiler to high. Split the loaf of bread in half and place cut-side-up in an oven-safe dish, then slide under the broiler to toast for a few minutes. Keep an eye on the bread, because it will take a few minutes for the toasting to start, but once it does it’ll quickly go from slightly brown to burnt.

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Remove the bread from the oven and cover with the stuffing butter. Cover with slices of bacon and sliced turkey breast. Slide the cranberry sauce out of the can, cut into 1/2" rounds, and layer on top. Pour on the cheese sauce, then slide the sandwich back under the broiler for 5-10 minutes until the hot brown is brown and bubbly to your liking. Garnish with fresh herbs and serve immediately.

Allison Robicelli is The Takeout staff writer, a former professional chef, author of three books, and The People's Hot Pocket Princess. Questions about recipes/need cooking advice? Tweet @Robicellis.

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DISCUSSION

Dr Emilio Lizardo

I don’t know where all the Thanksgiving meal hate is coming from around here. I enjoy every dish at Thanksgiving and most of them aren’t terribly hard to make. I think the main reason the turkey causes problems is because people don’t make a 15 lb hunk of anything all that often, much less poultry, so the lack of experience is the real issue. My only real problem with it is the constraints placed by the traditional menu. You can make beef, lamb, pork, foul, or even fish for Christmas and pair whatever you want with it, but Thanksgiving is turkey, stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberries, pumpkin pie. Sure, you can go off book a little, but most people will be surprised if you are serving beef ribs. I try to be creative within the traditions. Make a butternut squash gratin instead of sweet potatoes or a sweet potato pie instead of pumpkin, which allows a starchy potato gratin or mash. Find a new cranberry recipe, since home made cranberry sauce is about as hard to make as hot water. Or go nuts with a couple of appetizers, like curing your own gravlax (also remarkably easy, except maybe for the slicing).

But I really like all the traditional food and I don’t know what has prompted the hipster anti-thanksgiving takes.