Ham & Potato Casserole

Leftover Ham = Love

Ham is an Easter favorite. The preceding statement is fact, or at least it is in my family! A delicious ham could always be found on Grandma’s Easter table, along with a wide array of funky Jell-O salads and the obligatory Easter Lamb Cake. Mom now carries on the tradition by serving up a ham, in all its juicy glory, alongside a plate of Deviled Eggs, an amazing Asparagus and Cheese Tart, and the classic Easter treat, Hot Cross Buns. Honestly, could things get any better? Well, yes they could, considering the fact that my sister doesn’t share my love of pork. (I know, I don’t get it either.) You know what that means, right? Yep…the leftovers go home with me! And it’s that little bit of good fortune that leads me to today’s recipe – Ham & Potato Casserole. This dish is the perfect way to transform Mom’s leftover Easter ham into a cozy and comforting meal that’s hard not to love!

So let’s start with the ham…You can basically take your pick when it comes to Nature’s Rancher products. Choose from spiral, sliced, or diced…bone in or boneless…Black Forest, Smoked, Peppered, or Paleo (Sugar Free). They offer half hams (6.5 lbs. on average) and mini hams (2.5 lbs. on average) as well as boneless ham steaks for smaller crowds. No matter which you choose, you can feel good knowing all Nature’s Rancher products come from animals raised on ranches certified to Global Animal Partnership’s Standards – raised with no antibiotics, no added hormones, and never any animal products in their feed.

After choosing which ham will be the star of your dish, you’ll want to show a little love to the supporting character. After all, it is Ham AND Potato Casserole! So, next comes the arduous task of deciding which type of spud to use. Personally, I prefer Yukon Golds. They’re a nice all-purpose potato with a medium starch content, making them good for almost any cooking application. Other equally delicious options include Red Bliss or New Potatoes. For this particular recipe, I’d stay away from the classic Idaho or Russet. It’s high in starch, low in moisture, and doesn’t really hold its shape well in dishes like casseroles, gratins, and potato salads. But hey, even mushy potatoes are amazing, so whichever you decide to use, this dish will be a family favorite!

Next…to peel or not to peel? This is really just a personal preference, but I tend to leave the skin on my potatoes for a couple of reasons. 1. I hate peeling them; it seems like a waste of time to me. After all, there are only so many hours in a day.  2. Most of the nutrients are actually found in the skin, and who can’t use more nutrients? Just be sure to wash them really well! Afterwards, slice the potatoes about 1/8th inch thick. I recently got a new mandoline for Christmas, which makes the process that much easier, but if you don’t have one, a sharp kitchen knife will work just fine. 

The rest of this recipe (courtesy of Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond) is pretty self-explanatory, but true to form, I do want to throw in my two cents worth. After slicing the potatoes, you might want to try this handy little trick – parboil them before moving on with the rest of the recipe. Parboiling is a fancy word for partially cooking food in boiling water until it is soft but not cooked all the way through. This simple technique is used to ensure that ingredients that take longer to cook will be soft or completely done. Growing up, Grandma taught me to use parboiling to reduce the total cooking time for many potato dishes, but it can also be useful when cooking other vegetables like carrots and asparagus. To parboil, just place the potato slices in a large pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until tender. Strain and rinse briefly under cold water to stop the cooking process. Allow the potatoes to drain in a colander. 

Another slight variation of this recipe is to use leeks or green onions in addition to yellow onion. Without affecting the flavor, this adjustment adds a bit of color, and I think makes for a prettier dish overall.

Ham & Potato Casserole
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Ingredients
  1. 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, plus extra for greasing dish
  2. 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  3. 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  4. 1 1/2 cups half-and-half
  5. 1 1/2 cups milk
  6. Freshly ground black pepper
  7. 2 pounds russet potatoes, washed thoroughly
  8. 3 cups diced cooked ham
  9. 2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
  10. Chopped fresh parsley, for sprinkling, optional
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Add the butter and onions to a large skillet over medium heat and sauté until starting to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and whisk them together. Continue cooking the onion/flour mixture until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in the half-and-half and milk and whisk around, allowing the mixture to thicken; this will take 3 to 4 minutes. Add some pepper, stir the sauce, reduce the heat and keep warm.
  3. Slice the potatoes really thin using a mandoline or a really sharp knife, the thinner the better. Generously butter a 2-quart baking dish, then add half the sliced potatoes and half the diced ham. Sprinkle on half the cheese then pour on half the sauce from the skillet. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients, ending with a layer of cheese and sauce. Sprinkle extra pepper on top.
  4. Cover the dish with foil and bake it for 40 minutes, then remove the foil and bake until the cheese is golden brown and the sauce is bubbling, an additional 20 to 30 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley if desired and serve it up.
Nature's Rancher http://naturesrancher.com/