Ham and Potato Bake

by Elizabeth Dengler, The Huckleberry Home

If you have leftover ham from Easter dinner or from some other dinner, have I got a recipe for you! This dish will make enough to feed any leftover holiday guests too. I created this casserole after I made a Hills ham for my birthday dinner and was overwhelmed by how much ham I had left. Even after making 24 ham & cheese sliders and breakfast casserole, there was just so much yummy ham remaining I had to do something. Casseroles are always a hit at my dinner table and they make easy leftovers. However, I didn’t want to use canned soups, so I started to think what I needed to bring the casserole together. Now, I hadn’t put together a homemade cheese sauce in years, but I found it’s just like riding a bike, only less sweaty and it’s exactly what I needed. If you’ve never made a homemade cheese sauce, this is the recipe you want to take on simply because the casserole is going to be rather forgiving of any missteps. As with any new recipe, I will tweak things here and there over time to really get the flavors where I want them. The inspiration flavor for this dish was mustard. I picked the cheese and the pretzels that would best support that flavor. So, if you’re inspired to add more or less or take the flavor profile in another direction, do it! And let me know what you did and how it turned out. Introducing, Ham and Potato Bake:

1 bag of frozen Mr Dells Southern Style hash brown potatoes (these are more akin to home fries than shredded hashbrowns)
1 medium yellow onion finely chopped
3 C cubed ham
1 stick butter
2 T cornstarch
2 C milk, room temperature
1 T yellow mustard
1 heaping T stone ground Dijon mustard
2 C shredded Tillamook medium cheddar cheese
For the topping:
3 handfuls of mini pretzels, roughly smashed (makes about a cup)
2 T melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13 casserole dish with no stick spray.

Throw your chopped onion in with your frozen hashbrowns and cook according to the package directions, I do this in my big electric, non-stick skillet. While the potatoes and onion are doing their thing we’re going to make a béchamel for our homemade cheese sauce.

Add butter and cornstarch (if you don’t have cornstarch you can substitute 4 T flour) to a sauce pan over medium high heat. Once butter has completely melted and begins to bubble, cook for 2 minutes while constantly stirring. If it’s starting to brown, turn down your heat to medium, you want it to bubble, not burn. Then, slowly whisk in your milk, continue to stir until your sauce is smooth and thickened. Turn heat to medium low, stir in your mustards and shredded cheese until melted, remove pan from heat.

Head back to your potatoes. After you’ve flipped your hashbrowns, sprinkle the potatoes on top of your cubed ham. Once your hash browns are almost finished cooking, turn of your skillet, give the potatoes, onion and ham a good toss with your spatula.

Now, I do this next step in my electric skillet but if that will be too challenging to move all the ingredients from your skillet to your casserole dish, then do the following in large mixing bowl: add your cheese sauce to your potato mix and use a spatula to gently fold and coat all the bits. Don’t go too hard with the stirring, we want to preserve the integrity of the potatoes. Spoon the mixture into your prepared casserole dish. For the topping, mix your smashed up pretzels and butter in a small bowl and sprinkle the mixture evenly over your casserole. Bake uncovered for 35 minutes.

Let rest for 10 minutes then serve.

Some tips:
For your béchamel sauce, be sure to have your milk pre-measured and ready to go and room temp milk is best.
If you don’t plan to eat all the casserole in one sitting, only coat half the casserole with the pretzel mixture. That way when you heat leftovers you won’t have soggy pretzels to deal with.
You can use Ritz crackers instead of pretzels for the topping. Same tip above applies for crackers.
The leftover casserole makes a yummy breakfast! Scoop a cup of the leftover casserole into a bowl and reheat in the microwave, cook 2 fried eggs over easy and slide on top of your warmed up casserole.

What are some of your go-to leftover recipes? Send them to elizabeth@huckleberrypress.com for a chance to be published in an upcoming issue.