I volunteered to make ham and scalloped potato casserole to bring to a Father’s Day BBQ last weekend. Actually, my husband had volunteered to bake a ham, but by the time he informed me of this the hostess had already bought ribs for the event AND my husband had already defrosted the ham we stuck in the freezer last month when it went on sale.
We had about 12 people to feed. Armed with all those factoids, I decided a scalloped potato casserole would work, and then I could add some of the leftover ham that we ended up baking the day before Father’s Day instead.
I found a great recipe for this on one of my favorite foodie cook’s site, The Pioneer Woman. Gosh, I don’t even know how many gajilion recipes I’ve made of hers. She makes it look sooo easy and her food photography is great! She calls it Scalloped Potatoes, but with all the cheese it’s really Au Gratin too, so I added that to the title.
However, last time I made a dish with a ton of sliced potatoes (mind you we are feeding a crowd), it took me over 45 minutes to slice the potatoes, and even then, they were haphazardly sliced, at best. I’m terrible at slicing thin potatoes.
I decided to risk life and limb and invest in a food slicer (also known as a mandoline, and no, not the instrument kind.) They now come with hand guards and decided I could make the plunge and invest in one. And heck, it was less than 10 bucks! What was I waiting for???? Those horror stories of old of trips to the emergency room to re-attach a fingertip are long gone with this device.
My new love:
Story: I got the slicer all assembled and cut a potato in half (to have a flat surface to start with). I put it on the gadget and quickly ran it twice up and down to slice. Nothing. Nada. I was like… “Uggh, this thing doesn’t even work! And then I lifted it up, and two beautiful slices were laying underneath it on the cutting board. Really? I thought I would feel some resistance, something, anything! Nooop! That blade is so sharp it was like cutting through soft butter. I had 3 pounds of potatoes sliced perfect-thin in under 10-minutes! WOW! Happy me. :)
The below recipe is how I made it as I didn’t have all the ingredients, but you can find the original recipe link below. And just use whatever cheese you have on hand. I used all my cheddar for another recipe earlier in the week, so ended up used store-bought grated Colby-Jack combined with some fresh-grated Gruyere cheese. Either way it came out great! I didn’t have much to bring home from the BBQ. Now on to the recipe.
Ham and Scalloped Au Gratin Potato Casserole)
Adapted from Ree Drumond, The Pioneer Woman, Scalloped Potatoes and Ham
3 pounds Russet potatoes, washed and scrubbed
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 large sweet onion, diced
3 cups ham, diced
1/2 cup half-and-half (that is all I had, you can use more and reduce the milk for creamier potatoes)
2 cups milk
1/4 cup flour
Black pepper, to taste
1 cup grated Colby Jack cheese (mixture of Colby and Monterey Jack)
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees then butter a large casserole dish. (Mine was 9 x 13 inches.) Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat, add the onions and cook for several minutes until they start to turn translucent. Add the ham and cook for another few minutes until heated through. Remove from heat and set aside.
Combine the half-and-half and milk in a microwave-safe container and cook in the microwave for about a minute, until no longer cold. Whisk in flour and black pepper until combined. Set aside.
Using a vegetable slicer (or a knife if you don’t own one), slice potatoes into 1/8-inch slices. Layer 1/3 of the potato slices in the buttered casserole dish. Sprinkle 1/3 of the ham/onion mixture over that, then 1/3 of the cheese.
Here is where I went astray. I forgot to pour 1/3 of the milk mixture over it until the end, but if you want you can pour on 1/3 of the milk mixture now. It didn’t seem to make a difference.
Repeat this twice more, ending with a sprinkling of cheese and pouring on the rest of the milk mixture (or in my case, all at once). Then grind a bunch more of black pepper over it. Cover the pan with foil and bake for an hour.
Remove the foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes at least, or until bubbly and hot and the potatoes are tender. Check with a fork periodically for doneness.
p.s. (You can make this ahead of time and cook later. I cooked mine to the one hour mark, then brought it to the BBQ. About a half hour before ready to eat, I uncovered it, popped it in a preheated oven and baked until ready, about a half hour more.)