Scalloped potatoes have always been a favorite of mine, and as is with most foods, they are much better when made from scratch. The box just doesn’t cut it. I’ll bet you don’t know the secret ingredient to giving your scalloped potatoes that pop of flavor. It’s none other than dried mustard powder, and you’d never know it’s in there. Give this easy recipe a try and taste the difference, with or without the ham. These cheesy scalloped potatoes are great as a side dish or main dish.
You probably know that potatoes will darken once peeled if you take too long to get them cooked. This is a common problem that I’ve addressed for many novice cooks who wing it with a homemade version using raw potatoes. The simple solution is to parboil the potatoes, which also cuts the baking time. It’s a win-win. You’ll need to plan ahead a bit (or even a day in advance), but it will be so worth it.
As a bonus, save this recipe for the cheese sauce, which may be used as a fondue dip on its own.
Don’t skip that mustard powder! It really makes a difference without impartng any mustard flavor.
Scalloped Potatoes with Ham Recipe
3 pounds red potatoes (substitute Yukon Gold or other waxy potato variety)
1 pound ham steak (see Notes)
1 cup finely-diced sweet onions
3 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste (see Notes)
2 cups fine-shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, divided use
1/4 cup unseasoned panko bread crumbs or homemade bread crumbs
Hungarian sweet paprika
Chopped chives for garnish, optional
Cover whole, unpeeled red potatoes with salted water. Bring to a low boil and cook until you can barely pierce them with a skewer. Drain and cool. (This may be done a day in advance, but don’t peel until you are ready to use them.) Use a butter knife to scrape the peels.
Slice the ham steak into slivers about 2 inches wide and 1/4-inch thick.
Spray a 4-quart ceramic casserole dish or Dutch oven with butter-flavored oil. Preheat oven to 400 F.
Cut the potatoes into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Layer potatoes and ham slivers in the buttered casserole, ending with a layer of potatoes on top. You should have about 4 layers, depending upon the shape of your casserole dish. Set aside while you make the sauce.
Place a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onions in the butter until they soften and turn translucent. Sprinkle with the flour and stir constantly for 1 minute to cook out the rawness of the flour. Whisk in the chicken broth and stir until the sauce thickens. Whisk in the milk, dry mustard powder, thyme leaves, and salt. Bring to a simmer, stirring often. Remove from heat and stir in 1-1/2 cups of the shredded Cheddar cheese until melted.
Pour the sauce over the layered potatoes and ham. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup Cheddar cheese and panko bread crumbs. Top with a light dusting of Hungarian sweet paprika.
Bake, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes. If you like a crunchy top (I do!), place the casserole under the broiler to brown, but watch it closely so it doesn’t burn.
Let cool for 10 minutes, then garnish with chives to serve.
Yield: 8 servings as a side dish or 4 servings as a main dish
• I use a ham steak for this recipe because I like long slivers, and it’s not too wet like some cheap hams. However, you may use ham chunks. Another option is to buy thick slices of ham from the deli to chop up, but choose a ham that is not too watery.
• Go easy on the salt in the sauce. The ham is plenty salty and will leach into the overall dish.
• Red waxy potatoes are best for this recipe because they won’t disintegrate like russets or Idahos. Use any variety of waxy potatoes.