Coming to the end of a full week filling in for Morning News Anchor Eric Scott, I wanted to pay forward what Eric does for us every week and bring in food for the morning crew on Friday. So with Thanksgiving coming up, I thought what better way to prepare than with a dish that puts turkey right up front and center?

The Kentucky Hot Brown is a regional specialty I was introduced to back when my wife Kristen and I were dating, while she attended graduate school at the University of Kentucky from 2010 to 2012. It's an open-faced sandwich, starting with a white bread base, topped with sliced roast turkey, and covered in Mornay sauce (a béchamel or white roux-based sauce blended with grated cheese).

More grated cheese is typically added over top, then the whole thing is topped with sliced tomato. After that, the sandwich goes under the broiler until the sauce gets bubbly and brown, the extra cheese melts, and the tomatoes start to char. Then, it's crowned with two criss-crossed slices of bacon.

So, not exactly the picture of health, but boy is it good.

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I hadn't had a Hot Brown in years when Kristen and I hosted a party at our home around my birthday in 2018. It was the day of the Kentucky Derby, and I wanted to bring a bit of the Bluegrass State to New Jersey, but I wasn't going to make dozens of sandwiches. So I searched online, and because the internet is heretofore undefeated, I found an easy and functional recipe on a website called Push Button Kitchen for Kentucky Hot Brown dip ... made in a slow cooker! How perfect for a party.

My colleagues were somewhat skeptical all this week when I was talking about the recipe. A dip with turkey in it? How would that work? But think of it this way: You've had Buffalo Chicken dip, haven't you? This isn't too far removed. I think I won most everybody over.

No video here, but I'll explain how to assemble everything following the ingredient list.

Special thanks to Jill Myra for the pita chips, a perfect complement, and to Kathy Wagner for the bakery-fresh apple pie to carry on the Thanksgiving theme.

Have a wonderful Turkey Day and a joyous start to your holiday season!

Shopping List (I've doubled the original recipe for a big crowd):

  • 1.5 lbs. whole turkey breast (will yield about 3 C. diced)
  • 8 slices thick-cut bacon (will yield about ⅔ C. diced)
  • One 14.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes, well-drained
  • 3 C. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 C. grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Two 8 oz. pkgs. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 C. sour cream
  • ½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (if you are a fan of my eggnog recipe, you know my love of nutmeg)
  • Bread (I like sourdough), chips, crackers, pretzels, or if you're boring, raw vegetables for dipping

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and roast the turkey breast in a shallow pan for 45 minutes, or until the middle of the breast reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. I like to bake my bacon whenever possible, so when the turkey is done, remove it from the oven, increase the heat to 400 degrees, and cook the bacon in a single layer on a sheet pan for about 15 minutes or until crisp. (If you want to minimize the residual bacon grease in the finished product, place your slices on a wire rack and put that over the pan to catch the drippings, but honestly, look at the rest of the list of ingredients before you seriously consider that option.)

When cool enough to handle, dice both the turkey and the bacon, put them into your slow cooker with the tomatoes, Monterey Jack, Romano, cream cheese, sour cream, and nutmeg, and stir to combine. Cook on Low for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring at the half-hour and hour marks, or until the cream cheese and sour cream have incorporated fully and the Jack cheese has melted to the point it is no longer stringy.

Keep the slow cooker on Warm until ready to serve. You can do that as long as you like; this dip is so indestructible it could patch a roof.

Patrick Lavery is Senior Producer of Morning News and Special Programming for New Jersey 101.5, and is lead reporter and substitute anchor for "New Jersey's First News." Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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