A Play on the Famous Kentucky Dish, Let’s Try the Not Brown | To taste

I’ve been in the culinary industry since about 2010. As such, a question that often comes up in conversation is about someone having eaten a dish or read a recipe that they felt was beyond their abilities.

I hope to alleviate some of that stress and tension that comes with preparing a fine dining experience for you or your loved ones. I would like to take a few recipes and help you prepare this dish, much like eating an elephant: one bite at a time.

Together we will take a recipe and complete it one step, one process, one segment before the next. Pay attention to the caveats because there are prescribed cooling methods that may be necessary for food safety, or some processes may simply not hold up well over time.

Cooking is a second career for me. I started this career by receiving a proper education. I had a classical culinary arts education at Sullivan University. I attended this fine institution from 2007 to 2010, participating in their evening and weekend program.

At this time, Sullivan operated his own restaurant. Under the supervision of Chef John Castro, the Winston Restaurant served as internships for many of Sullivan’s cooks before graduation. At the time, Winston’s, which unfortunately is no longer in service, offered a dish known as Not Brown. It was Chef Castro’s play on Chef Fred Schmidt of the Brown Hotel’s popular offering, the Kentucky Hot Brown. Yes, this Hot Brown sandwich has a lineage, but I digress.

The Not Brown consists of fried green tomatoes, Mornay sauce, seafood, bacon and spinach. About the only resemblance between the Not Brown and the Hot Brown are inclusions of tomato, bacon, gravy and more tomatoes. Although there are several components of the Not Brown, each segment can be broken down and made manageable.

The recipe I found for the Not Brown was posted on the WDRB website on May 1, 2013, in an article titled “Derby Winning Recipes from Chef John Castro of Restaurant Winston”.

Winston is not brown

2 whole green tomatoes, cut into at least 8 equal slices

1 lb rock shrimp (35-40 shrimp) (salad shrimp will also work well)

3/4 lbs. Dungeness crab (giant crab can be substituted)

4 cups washed and dried baby spinach

12 cherry tomatoes, halved

8 slices of bacon

8 large poached shrimp (optional for garnish)

3 cups of milk

2 cups of cream

2 ounces butter for the roux, plus an additional 2 ounces for cooking

2 ounces flour for the roux, plus an additional 2 cups for the breading

2 cups Gruyere (or Swiss) cheese, grated for Mornay, plus an additional ½ cup for Not Brown

4 beaten eggs for breading station

2 cups panko breadcrumbs

4 cups vegetable oil for frying (see step for frying green tomatoes)

Prepare the green tomatoes

Slice green tomatoes and prepare for the breading process. Be sure to season the tomato slices and each stage of the breading with salt and pepper. If you don’t like the acidity and crunchiness of green tomatoes, find crushed tomatoes. Casseurs are green tomatoes that have just begun the ripening process. They will have streaks of color running from the stem to the tips of the bloom. They are less acidic and slightly sweeter than full on green tomatoes.

Bread the tomatoes

Coat each slice of tomato with seasoned flour, egg wash (eggs diluted with a little water or milk) and breadcrumbs. Reserve the breaded tomato slices. Allowing breaded products to rest before frying increases the likelihood that the breading will not fall out of the products during frying.


Fry, or better yet roast the bacon. Baking bacon in the oven at around 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes will give you more even cooking and less shrinkage. Try. Once the bacon is cooked, let it cool. When it’s cool enough to handle, chop it. Remember that the chopped bacon will be a final step in your presentation. Make beautiful cuts.

Cherry tomatoes

Cut the cherry tomatoes in half, top to bottom, season with a small amount of salt and place them in a colander. Adding salt will not only help flavor the dish, but also draw excess moisture out of the tomato, which will add to your final presentation of the dish.

Make the Mornay sauce

The only really technical part of this dish is the creation of the Mornay sauce. Mornay is a bechamel sauce (a milk sauce thickened with a roux – fat and flour) that is enriched with cream and flavored with cheese, usually Gruyère but Swiss cheese works just as well. Remember that milk burns easily. Stir the sauce constantly. It should come to a boil but heat gently to avoid burning the sauce. Keep the sauce warm, as it will become gelatinous as it cools.

1. Melt two ounces of butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.

2. Add two ounces of all-purpose flour. Cook the flour in the butter until it is slightly white and smells slightly nutty.

3. Add three cups of milk and whisk to combine the milk with the roux. Using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, constantly stir the sauce until it begins to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.

4. Add two cups of cream and the cheese and continue to stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth.

5. Any lumps in the sauce can be removed by straining the sauce through a mesh strainer. Keep the sauce warm. If you chose to refrigerate the sauce, it will set and will need to be reheated before serving. Refrigerated sauce can be kept for a few days.

Create the seafood sauce

1. Melt 2 ounces of butter in a saucepan.

2. Add the rock prawns and cook the prawns gently until almost cooked through.

3. IF USING FRESH CRAB, add crabmeat now. If you are using pasteurized crab, expect this addition.

4. Add a quarter of the prepared Mornay sauce and four cups of fresh baby spinach.

5. Cook until spinach is wilted.

6. If using pasteurized crab, add that meat now.

7. Season the seafood sauce with salt and pepper.

Poach the shrimp

Poach the shrimp to serve as a garnish. Poaching is cooking in hot water, NOT boiling water. Water begins to boil at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Slightly cooler than boiling simmers at around 200 degrees. Poaching bakes at a temperature of about 185-190 degrees. Season the poaching water with salt and lemon. You can probably buy cooked shrimp at your grocery store and eliminate this step, but why?

Fry breaded green tomatoes

1. Using a thermometer, heat the oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan to 350 degrees.

2. Carefully add the prepared green tomatoes, taking care to place the food in the oil in a motion away from you.

3. Fry until golden brown and delicious.

Always be careful with hot grease of any kind. Not only can hot fat burn the cook, it also ignites. Placing food in oil while working away from you limits the risk of oil splashing on your hand. Keep a lid or baking sheet nearby whenever frying, just in case of a grease fire. The lid or the plate acting as a lid will smother a fire. Never use water on a grease fire and never try to move a burning pan. Cover the pan, turn off the heat source, let stand and allow the fat to cool. Dinner isn’t worth burning down your house.

Stack your dish

Using four ovenproof dishes or bowls, place a portion, about 1/8, of the seafood sauce in the bottom of the dish. Place a slice of fried green tomato in the center of the dish over the sauce. Repeat the stacking procedure and divide the remaining sauce among the four Napoleon-style bowls.

Reheat the dish in a hot oven or under the broiler. Be careful with these dishes. They will be hot. Top the stacks with the halved cherry tomatoes and bacon.

Roger Ramsey is the Executive Chef Instructor of the Hardin County Schools Early College and Career Center and host of EC3 Really Cooks on Hardin County Educational and Community Television and YouTube. He can be contacted at [email protected]