Writer, Bellamy Partridge, the father of one of my school friends, wrote a novel when I was about 14 entitled "January Thaw". I thought about that book this morning...not just because it was one of the first truly grown-up books I'd ever read, but because of how Januarys were back then.
Growing up in New England, there was usually snow upon the ground from Thanksgiving straight through most of January, with temperatures consistently cold enough to keep it there. I am old enough to remember the sound of tire chains chink-a-chinking along the roads and the crisp crunch of snow underfoot as being just normal...the way of our winters. Around the middle of January, the temps would suddenly rise into the high 40's - sometimes even the 50's - and, warmed by the sun, the snow would begin to melt, the little brooks in my neighborhood "burbling" through their melting ice covers, the last of the icicles dripping from roof tops - and, in spite of the fact that in no time we were in a sea of messy slush, there was a lightness about everything. We knew the January thaw wouldn't last more than a couple of days before we'd get another blow and with it another snowstorm - but still, didn't it feel like spring was around the corner?
No matter what the season, my Dad was in charge of Sunday night supper. I so well remember these hearty sandwiches - perfect on a cold winter night. Both are eaten with knife and fork and go well with a green salad on the side. A nice glass of wine wouldn't hurt either.
KENTUCKY HOT BROWN (4 servings)
Created in 1923 by the executive chef of the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. Still a favorite at Kentucky Derby time.
Also a perfect way to use up some of that Thanksgiving leftover turkey.
1-1/2 teaspoons finely chopped onion
1-1/2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups whole milk, warm
a pinch of cayenne
1 tablespoon dry Sherry (optional)
2/3 cup grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese
4 slices of toast
1/2 pound sliced roasted turkey breast
4 thin slices of tomato
8 slices of cooked crisp bacon
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese
In a small saucepan, cook onion in butter over medium low heat, stirring, until it is softened. Stir in the flour and cook the roux, stirring, for 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and add the warm milk in a stream, whisking vigorously until the mixture is thick and smooth. Add the cayenne and salt and pepper to taste, and simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until it is thickened. Off-heat, add the sherry and Gruyere, stirring until sauce is smooth.
Heat broiler to High. Arrange the toasts on a baking sheet and divide the turkey slices among them. Top each sandwich with a tomato slice and 2 slices of bacon. Spoon the cheese sauce evenly over the sandwiches. Sprinkle with Parmesan and broil them about 4 inches from the heat for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the tops are brown and bubbly (watch carefully). Serve immediately.
DAD'S BAKED BEAN SANDWICHES (4 servings)
4 English muffins, split and lightly toasted
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 (16-ounce) can maple cured baked beans, heated
1 medium/small red onion, thinly sliced
2 medium tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices
8 slices bacon, cooked until brown but not crisp
8 sandwich slices sharp Cheddar cheese
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly spread Dijon mustard on each muffin half and arrange them on a baking sheet. Place an equal amount of baked beans on each muffin half. Top each with onion, tomato, 1 slice bacon, cut in half, and the cheese.
Bake 15 minutes. Set oven to broil and continue cooking (watch carefully) until cheese is browned and puffy. Serve immediately.