Spicy Scalloped Ham ‘n Cheese Potatoes

Scalloped potato dishes are usually quite heavy.  I lightened this up a bit by using non fat half and half and low-fat cheese. Precooking everything helps to speed up the final cooking process.   You can make this in advance and refrigerate it but you will need to increase the baking time to at least 1/2 hour, possibly up to 40 minutes.

  • 1 ½ pounds red potatoes thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1 ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely minced
  • 1 pound ham steak, cut into small cubes
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 2 cups non-fat half and half
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 ½ cups grated cheese (I used a Mexican blend, you can use a sharp cheddar)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil

Rinse the sliced potatoes to remove surface starch drain well (a salad spinner helps).  Dump the potato slices onto a clean kitchen towel and blot them dry.  Pour them into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 8 minutes.  Stir them every 2 minutes or so to ensure even cooking.

While potatoes are microwaving, heat up oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat Add onions, jalapeno and ham.  Sautee until onions are soft and liquid evaporated.  Turn off heat and set aside. Remove cooked potatoes from the microwave. 

Make the Mornay (cheese sauce).  Put the half and half in a large micro-wave proof measuring bowl and microwave half and half for 2 minutes until warm.  While half and half is microwaving, heat butter in a saucepan over medium high heat. Whisk in flour and stir until the roux is lightly browned.  Slowly whisk in warm half and half.  Add salt, pepper and nutmeg.  When sauce comes to a boil, whisk for one more minute and then stir in 1 cup of the grated cheese.  Remove from heat but keep sauce warm.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a 1 ½ quart oven-proof casserole dish with nonstick spray.  Pour ½ cup sauce into the bottom of the dish and spread it evenly over the bottom.  Put one third of the potatoes in a layer on top of the sauce.  Top with half the ham mixture.  Spread ¾ cup sauce evenly over the potatoes/and ham.  Layer ½  of the remaining potatoes on top, top with the rest of the ham mixture.  Spread with another ¾ cup of sauce.  Layer the remaining potatoes on top and spread the remaining sauce on top.  Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup cheese evenly on top.  Put the casserole in the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until bubbly.  Switch oven setting to broil and transfer the casserole dish to the shelf directly under the broiler. Broil 2-3 minutes or until the top is nicely browned.  Remove the casserole from the oven and let it rest for ten minutes.  Scoop out scalloped potatoes onto warm plates.  Sprinkle parsley/basil mix over each serving.  Accompany with a green salad.  Makes 4 servings.

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