In the last two weeks, we have been enjoying more comfort food than normal. When I say comfort food I am talking about rich and flavorful meals that tend to include carbs or cheese or both. This recipe for comforting ham potato casserole includes all of these things as well as leftover ham from Easter. It is cheesy, flavorful and comforting.
We have a fantastic butcher in our area who makes these amazing smoked hams during Easter. We have only been able to enjoy twice since discovering and when we knew were going to be in lockdown this holiday I placed an order. His hams are lightly smoked, not sweet or rubbery; just really great pork with so much flavor. Every time we have had one we keep dreaming about when we can enjoy it again. Definitely a springtime food treat.
This year I wanted to be sure to use some of the leftovers in this casserole which I usually use leftover roasted chicken in. It came out really well with the smoked ham with even more flavor than expected. I usually do not add peas but had some leftover in the freezer and last minute decided they might be a great addition and they were. When I use frozen peas in a recipe I like to defrost them and let sit to dry out and remove some moisture. If they dry a little then the sauce sticks to them better; the same goes for the par-boiled potatoes.
I realize this recipe maybe a day or two late but if you do not have ham and want to try it out as I said it goes really well with leftover roasted chicken. Lenny was even thinking tuna may be fantastic instead of ham or chicken.
Comforting Ham Potato Casserole
** serves 4
2 1/2 cups ham cubed into bite-sized pieces
2 1/4 cups peas, I use frozen that I have defrosted and let dry for about 30 minutes. You Can use fresh too.
2 large russet potatoes (mine were 12 ounces each), peeled and cubed into bite-sized pieces
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
10 ounces white cheddar cheese, grated
2/3 cup panko
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small garlic clove, finely minced
kosher salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 350.
Lightly butter a casserole dish that will hold about 8 cups of ingredients. Set aside.
Par-boil the potatoes by bringing a large pot of water to a boil and then cook the potatoes for about 5 – 8 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes. Immediately pour into a colander and let them dry a bit. I like to add the peas to the colander as well and have everything dry for about 30 minutes.
Place the ham, peas, and potatoes into a large mixing bowl.
In a large saucepan heat the butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for a minute or so – do not let it develop any color. Gradually whisk in the milk – do this step slowly. DO NOT just dump in the milk otherwise it will lump up. I like to lower the heat a bit as well. Continue whisking until it is smooth and starts to thicken. Then season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese until melted.
Pour over the ham potato mixture and gently fold together. Place into the casserole dish and then slide into the oven. Bake for about 20 – 30 minutes until bubbly.
While the casserole is baking heat the 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a large frying pan and add the garlic along with the panko. Stir over medium-low heat until lightly golden. About ten minutes before the casserole is finished scatter the breadcrumbs over the top and then continue to bake until the crumbs are golden and the casserole is bubbly.
Let sit about 10 minutes before serving.