Ham and potato casserole

(food styling/lisa falso; Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff)
February 18, 2009

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Serves 6

Classic scalloped potatoes are the inspiration for this recipe, an updated casserole that starts with thinly sliced onions and potatoes simmered in cream, milk, thyme, garlic, and nutmeg. To slice the potatoes thinly, use a mandoline or another half-held slicing machine (or a good chef's knife). Layer the potatoes with ham and a good quality, sharp cheddar. Starchy russet potatoes thicken the cream mixture. Use leftover ham, a ham steak, or buy a 1/4-inch-thick piece of your favorite ham at the deli counter. Bake the casserole with foil to soften all the layers, then brown the top before serving.

Butter (for the dish)
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Pinch of nutmeg
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8-inch thick
1 large Spanish onion, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound baked ham, sliced 1/4-inch thick, and diced
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1. Set the oven at 375 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

2. In a large flameproof casserole, bring the cream, milk, thyme, garlic, and nutmeg to a boil. Add the potatoes and onions and cook over medium-high heat, stirring gently, for 3 minutes. Cover the pan, turn down the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

3. Spoon half the potato, onion, and cream mixture into the baking dish in an even layer. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Add the ham, sprinkling it evenly, then half of the cheese. Cover with the remaining potato, onion, and cream mixture, then salt and pepper. Top with the remaining cheese.

4. Cover with foil and bake the casserole for 45 minutes or until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife. Remove the foil and bake for 10 to 12 minutes more or until the top is browned.

Christine Merlo