Kentucky chef Ouita Michel didn’t invent the Kentucky Hot Brown, but she’s certainly perfected it. From her growing brood of now EIGHT restaurants, we recently chose to stop into the quaint country-store-turned-eatery, Wallace Station in Midway, Kentucky, to enjoy our Derby-time favorite.
Ouita was amazingly generous to share her recipe here for our readers at home, but you really should head out to Wallace Station for the real deal. The drive there follows the Kentucky Scenic Byway along Old Frankfort Pike, which guides you past the rolling hills of prized Thoroughbred farms and the charming hand-built limestone walls that have marked the road for more than a century.
When you pull into Wallace Station you arrive in another time, when life was simpler and everyone knew their neighbors. Walking into the restaurant the staff immediately greeted me like an old friend, and the aroma of fresh-baked Bourbon Pecan Pie and the sound of sizzling bacon welcomed me. The restaurant is awash with history, a detail Ouita proudly preserves in each of her locations. The walls are covered with pictures showcasing the building’s long history in the community. The pride the Michels take in using local-sourced, fresh ingredients is readily apparent, from the jars of farm-made honey lining the shelves to the Winchester-bottled Ale-8 frosting in the cooler.
Their menu is simple but savory, from sandwiches, soups and salads served at lunch to their famous fried chicken dinners that sell out most Monday nights. And while everything I saw made my mouth water, I was on a mission to devour the Inside Out Hot Brown Sandwich. I’ve had my fair share of hot browns all over the state and even in other countries; I’m actually quite partial to the miniature ones you get at catered events, mainly because they are less messy and don’t feel as decadent.
Sometimes when you order a hot brown it’s all you can do to finish a third of it, much less the whole thing. There’s only so much mornay sauce a girl can handle! That’s one of the many things that makes Wallace Station’s sandwich version so crave worthy — you can eat it for lunch and be fulfilled without feeling like you immediately need a nap or perhaps a triple bypass. Ouita strikes the perfect balance here: you get all the richness of the triple layered meat soaked in cheddar mornay, but with the ease and accessibility of a sandwich you can really sink your teeth into.
Order a side of fries, grab a locally brewed beer out of the cooler and take a seat in one of the various booths — and all your cares and worries seem to float away. You’ll soak in the laughter of the delightful locals that pack the place every day for this very reason. And if you can’t make it out to the actual restaurant, be sure to check out the recipe below. We must insist that you track down a cold bottle of Ale-8 to get the full Kentucky experience, no matter where you enjoy this incredible treat!
Thank you so much to Ouita Michel and her team at Wallace Station for sharing this recipe with us and our readers!
The Wallace Station Inside Out Hot Brown Sandwich
Michel’s sandwich is a variation of the original Hot Brown, created at the Brown Hotel in Louisville in 1923 by Chef Fred Schmidt as a late night supper. The Hot Brown has become an iconic dish of Kentucky with every chef tweaking the dish to suit his or her personal taste. Served open-faced, you must eat the original with a knife and fork but you can enjoy this variation in hand as a sandwich.
8 slices white bread
12 ounces thinly sliced roasted turkey
8 ounces thinly sliced city ham
8 slices bacon, cooked until crisp
1 cup White Cheddar Mornay Sauce (recipe follows)
8 tomato slices
Butter-oil blend or margarine for grilling
White Cheddar Mornay Sauce:
3 ounces unsalted butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk, slightly warm
1 cup grated white Cheddar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Cayenne pepper to taste
Making the Mornay
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt butter thoroughly over medium heat, then whisk in flour until smooth. Cook 2 minutes, stirring periodically. Whisk in the milk; stirring constantly to make sure ingredients are well combined. Reduce heat to medium low and bring to a simmer, stirring often, until mixture begins to thicken and bubble. Stir in the grated cheese, salt and cayenne pepper. Remove from heat and continue to whisk until smooth. Makes about 2½ cups.
For each sandwich: Warm 3 ounces turkey, 2 ounces city ham and 2 slices bacon on a grill pan or in a dry skillet. Lay out two slices of bread. Cover both slices with 2 tablespoons White Cheddar Mornay Sauce; then cover one side with two slices tomato, and warmed meats. Close the sandwich. Grill in butter-oil blend over medium heat until golden brown on both sides. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Serve warm. Makes 4 sandwiches.
The only thing left to do is enjoy!