CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Scalloped Potatoes And Ham

Leftover ham lends itself to many uses. The simplest is a good old ham sandwich, perhaps made a few hours after the meat was featured as the main course on Easter Sunday. Or maybe fried ham and eggs or a ham and cheese omelet. And, of course, there is bean or split pea soup, depending on your preference.

The entree that might be my favorite, especially after the meal we just had the other night, is scalloped potatoes and ham.

That wasn’t always the case. I couldn’t stand scalloped potatoes and ham as a kid in Crookston, Minn. It didn’t matter if Mom made it at home for supper or we had it for school hot lunch, where my Auntie Helen Tiedeman was the head cook. Just the smell of it made me gag.

I can still recall marching from Cathedral Grade School over to the cafeteria in the basement of Cathedral High School and almost hurling as we walked down the steps to get in line for our food. Auntie Helen could never understand why I didn’t like scalloped potatoes and ham, since there was nothing else that didn’t appeal to me.

And when we had it at home, where everyone else liked it, I was out of luck, usually having to settle for something not very satisfying. It wasn’t until I got a lot older that my appreciation for scalloped potatoes and ham surfaced.

If you were like me, the following aromatic recipe — gleaned from the Betty Crocker website — might make you change your mind.

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham
4  tablespoons butter
1 small onion, finely chopped (¼ cup)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2½ cups milk
6 medium peeled or unpeeled potatoes, thinly sliced (6 cups)
1½ cups cubed fully cooked ham
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2-quart casserole with cooking spray. In 2-quart saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Cook onion in butter about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until smooth and bubbly; remove from heat. Stir in milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Mix potatoes and ham in casserole; gently press down so surface is even. Pour sauce over potato mixture. Cut remaining 1 tablespoon butter into small pieces; sprinkle over potatoes. Cover and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes longer or until potatoes are tender. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving (sauce thickens as it stands).

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