September 13, 2011

Scalloped Potatoes with Ham

Sunday was hot outside, nearly 90 degrees.  But  I was hungry for food that would be more appropriate for a much cooler day.  I decided Scalloped Potatoes sounded perfect, but I didn't have a recipe. Jeffrey thought scalloped potatoes would make a nice side dish, but I wanted it as the main course, so I decided to add ham.

I didn't have a recipe.  I've tried several over the years, and have been disappointed by all of them. I think it's the onions used in so many of the versions that I just don't care for.  I decided to work up my own recipe without even a trace of onion!  I may have gone a little overboard on the quantities, because usually if I go to the trouble to cook, I want to have lots of leftovers to freeze for work lunches.  Feel free to cut the recipe in half if you like.

Juli's Scalloped Potatoes with Ham

Makes (2) 9 x 13 casseroles

5 pounds potatoes
4 cups cooked ham, diced (about 2 pounds)
1 tablespoon ready to use minced garlic
4 cups shredded extra-sharp cheese- don't buy pre-shredded!
1 1/2 cups butter
1 cup flour
3 cups skim milk
3 cups heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1.  Peel the potatoes and slice as thinly as possible.  This is super-easy (and quick!) to do with a food processor, using a slicing blade.  Just peel the potatoes and cut lengthwise to fit your machine's feed tube.  I used our smaller processor and did two batches.

2.  For the ham, I bought a 2 1/2 pound unsliced packaged ham.  I cut about 3/4 of it into thick slices, and cubed the slices.  I have at least 1/2 a pound left, which I will leave in one big chunk until I decide how I'm going to use it.  Or, if I can't decide, I could cube it and freeze it and use it later for a fall or winter soup.

3.  In a very large mixing bowl mix all the potato slices, 4 cups of cubed ham, and garlic.  Mix well, using a big spoon, and making sure the potato slices are mostly separated.  Place the mixture in (2) 9 x 13 glass baking dishes.

4.  Grate 4 cups of sharp cheddar cheese.  I used Cabots Extra Sharp cheese.  We buy the 2 pound packages and try to always keep them on hand.  You could use a food processor for this, but Jeffrey was helping me out, and he likes to use a box grater.Set grated cheese aside.

4.  In a Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat.  Stir in flour until mixture is smooth.  Gradually add milk and cream, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and bubbles- a silicone whisk is perfect for this.  Add cheese, salt and pepper;  stir until the cheese is fully melted.

5.  Pour about 4 cups of the cheese sauce over each casserole dish.  Stir gently to mix in.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 45-60 minutes.  The potatoes on the top of the casserole will have started to brown very slightly.

For a zippier version, consider adding 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, or a hot sauce, such as Cholula.  I served the scalloped potatoes with cooked green beans from the Knoxville Farmer's market.  The plain boiled green beans, garnished with just a little butter, made a nice contrast to the rich, cheesy potatoes.

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