This savory spin on baked French toast has all the components of a Kentucky hot brown--tender turkey, juicy tomato, thick slices of white bread, meaty bacon and a generous drizzle of mornay sauce that’s broiled until golden. The savory custard base not only keeps the bread moist (no one likes a dry sandwich), but also adds another layer of flavor. We used a combination of grated pecorino and shredded sharp Cheddar for the mornay sauce; the pecorino is a classic addition to the hot brown, while the Cheddar adds creaminess and browning. Top with more pecorino, fresh parsley and a pinch of paprika, and you'll have hot browns for a crowd!
a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan (must be broiler safe)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F; lightly spray a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Whisk together the half-and-half, eggs, 2 tablespoons of the pecorino, 1/4 teaspoon of the nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl until smooth and combined. Lay 7 slices of bread on a cutting board. Sprinkle 1 heaping tablespoon shredded Cheddar on top of each slice. Top each with 2 slices of tomato, then 2 slices of turkey, folding the turkey as needed to fit. Place the remaining 7 slices bread on top to form 7 sandwiches. Cut each sandwich in half diagonally. Dip both sides of each sandwich half into the custard mixture and transfer to the prepared baking pan, arranging in 2 long shingled rows. Pour any remaining custard over the sandwiches.
Spray a large piece of foil with nonstick spray. Place the foil sprayed-side down on top of the baking pan, crimping the sides of the foil around the pan to seal. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the custard is set but still slightly jiggly, about 10 minutes more. Remove the baking pan and switch the oven to broil.
Meanwhile, add the bacon to a large nonstick skillet and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until light golden and almost completely rendered, 8 to 12 minutes (it will cook the rest of the way and crisp up under the broiler). Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
Next, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook until bubbling and no longer raw, 1 to 2 minutes. While continually whisking, slowly pour in the milk. Cook, whisking continuously, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining Cheddar (about 1 cup), 2 tablespoons pecorino, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, 3/4 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper and whisk until combined. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
When the French toast is baked, pour the cheese sauce over it, making sure the bread is evenly coated, then sprinkle with the chopped bacon. Broil until bubbling at the edges and light golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle with the parsley, paprika and another couple pinches of pecorino.
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