Along with her great cooking, Chef Ouita Michel brings a unique back-story. She was raised in Louisiana and Kentucky, which has been home ever since.
After culinary school in New York, she returned to Bluegrass Country. She is now executive chef and owner of five restaurants, including the popular "Holly Hill Inn," in partnership with her husband, Chris. It being Kentucky, there's a bourbon connection -- she's chef-in-residence at the Woodford Reserve Distillery.
Here are some of Michel's signature dishes:
Grilled peaches wrapped in country ham
Serves 4 to 5
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
4 whole fresh peaches, ripe but not soft, seeded and quartered
Thinly sliced country ham cut in 1/2-inch strips about five inches long
1. Whisk honey, bourbon and lime juice together in a small bowl. Set aside.
2. Heat a grill to 300 to 350 degrees.
3. Oil the grate lightly with a canola oil-soaked towel. Brush peach quarters with glaze and place on grill.
4. After grill marks are seared into the peaches, turn them carefully with a metal spatula.
5. Wrap with country ham strips and secure with a skewer. Brush ham lightly with glaze and serve immediately.
Happy Jack's sweet corn salad
Serves 4 to 6
5 to 6 ears fresh sweet corn in the husk
Crumbled feta cheese
Thinly sliced scallions
Chipotle chill powder
Ingredients for lime aioli
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
zest of 1/2 lime
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
2 teaspoons chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1. For the lime aioli - blend of all ingredients together with a whisk in a small bowl. Chill.
2. Cook the corn -- still in the husk -- by roasting in the oven, boiling in salted water or grilling. Cooking the corn in the husk makes removing the silk and husk much easier.
2. While still warm but cool enough to handle, cut the corn kernels from the cob and place in a large bowl.
3. Toss with the lime aioli and garnish with feta cheese, scallions and chopped cilantro, then dust with chipotle powder.
Black-eyed pea salad
Serves 4 to 6
One 12-ounce bag frozen black-eyed peas
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup minced parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 habanero pepper, seeded and finely minced
6 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 green onions, thinly sliced
1 roasted red bell pepper, diced
1 English cucumber, diced
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
1. Boil black-eyed peas until tender for about 40 minutes. Salt heavily. Let sit for two minutes, then drain and set aside.
2. Combine lime juice, parsley, salt, pepper and habanero in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until well-combined, then process in oil.
3. Combine black-eyed peas, green onions, roasted red bell peppers, cucumbers and grape tomatoes in a bowl and toss with lime and herb mixture. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Bourbon beer bread
Serving size about 10 slices
3 cups all-purpose flour (sifted)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon iodized salt
1/4 cup sugar
One 12-ounce bottle Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale
Two tablespoons Early Times Bourbon
1/4 cup melted butter (1/2 stick)
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Mix all ingredients except melted butter in a medium sized bowl.
3. Pour into a greased loaf pan.
4. Pour melted butter over the top and place in the middle of the preheated oven.
5. Bake 45 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the edges are golden brown. Remove from pan and cool for at least 15 minutes.
*Note: Remember to sift the flour so your bread will not turn into a hard biscuit.
Pork chops Bourbonnais
Serves 4 to 6
Four 12-ounce bone-in pork chops or eight 6-ounce bone-in pork chops
Ingredients for the Bourbon brine
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
10 black peppercorns
5 all-spice berries
3 whole garlic cloves
1/4 cup sorghum or molasses
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 cups water
1 cup early times bourbon
Ingredients for bourbon trail barbecue sauce
1/2 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup ketchup
1 cup cola
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup steak sauce
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup Woodford Reserve
For the brine-
1. Place all ingredients except bourbon in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
2. Add the bourbon and stir well, then pour over chops in a large container. Cover and brine for two to four hours.
For the barbecue sauce-
1. Melt butter in a two-quart heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat.
2. Add the minced garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Whisk in the remaining ingredients and mix well.
3. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. The sauce should be slightly thickened. Set aside.
For the chops -
1. Remove from the brine and drain well.
2. Grill to desired temperature (at least to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit), basting with barbecue sauce when the chops are almost finished.
3. Serve immediately with extra sauce on the side.
Kentucky Bourbon trail berry short cake
Serving size 12
Ingredients for the cake
1/2 pound or 2 sticks butter at room temperature
2 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon Woodford Reserve Bourbon
Zest of 2 lemons
3 cups All Purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk or sour cream
Ingredients for the glaze
4 tablespoons or 1/2 stick butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Woodford Reserve bourbon
Ingredients for the berries
1 quart strawberries, capped and sliced
1 pint blueberries
2 tablespoons sugar
Splash of bourbon
Ingredients for the Woodford whipped cream
1/4 cup of Woodford Reserve Distillers Select Bourbon
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy whipping cream
Whipped cream canister with N2O charger or a good old-fashioned whisk and bowl
For the cake -
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grease a 10" Bundt pan very liberally with butter, then dust with flour.
3. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.
4. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing in between each egg.
5. Fold in the lemon zest and the Woodford Reserve.
6. Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Fold into the butter and sugar alternating with the buttermilk or sugar cream.
7. Bake for 50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
For the glaze-
1. Combine the sugar and Woodford Reserve in a small pan and simmer until sugar has melted. Add the butter and stir together until melted. Add a dash of vanilla.
2. Turn out the cake and soak with the Bourbon butter glaze. Glaze will harden and crystallize.
For the berries -
1. Place strawberries in a medium bowl and sprinkle sugar over the top.
2. Fold the sugar carefully into the berries and let them sit for 5 minutes.
3. Add the blueberries and bourbon and blend together. Set aside.
For the whipped cream -
1. Combine the Woodford and sugar together in a small sauce pan and simmer until sugar is dissolved. Cool the Woodford syrup.
2. Combine with very cold heavy cream. Whip to soft peaks or charge in the whipper. Shake very well before discharging.
Finally to serve, slice the glazed cake, top with some of the berries and Woodford whipped cream.
1.5 ounces Woodford Reserve Distiller's Select
Ginger beer or ginger ale
Lemon or lime for garnish
1. Fix a Collins glass with crushed ice and add Woodford Reserve.
2. Top with ginger beer or ginger ale to taste.
3. Garnish with a lemon or lime wedge.