The Burger Lab

Burger recipes and cooking tips from J. Kenji López-Alt.

The Burger Lab: Burger + Hot Brown = Hot Brown Burger

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

We all know what a Hot Brown is, right? The iconic Kentucky open-faced sandwich of turkey-on-toast topped with bubbling hot Mornay sauce, a few slices of bacon, and tomato? You know, the one that was created by Fred Schmidt at the Brown Hotel in the 1920s? Curious how one of the world's great hangover helpers was created during an era in American history when alcohol was supposedly prohibited, isn't it?

Anyhow, this version of that classic sandwich takes out the one head-scratching element: the turkey. I mean, it's not like the turkey tastes bad, per se. I quite like the turkey in there. But still, it has always felt odd to me to combine what is regarded as one of the healthier meat choices with what has the potential to be the greatest calorific splurge of a sandwich ever created.

Replacing the turkey with a grilled juicy hamburger patty realizes that potential. Burgers and cheesy goo go very well together, and that cheesy goo can hide a multitude of sins. Case in point: I made this sandwich in the office one day and served it to Robyn, who ate it while standing at the kitchen island, making Robyn-noises (as Robyn is wont to do) and either looking very thoughtful or very tired (it's hard to tell with her sometimes).

I asked her if the burger patty was overcooked. Her response was, "Buh......I dunno. Even if it is the cheesy goo makes it all juicy anyway. I guess it's overcooked but it still tastes good to me. Buh....."

This all leads me to two conclusions: if you're the type who accidentally overcooks their burgers or over-pickles their bellies on occasion (and who isn't guilty of at least one of those two crimes?), then this may well be the recipe for you. It may well be the burger recipe for you anyway.

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About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.

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