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And guess what?  It was updating this blog.  (See previous post about looming deadlines and encroaching tunnel vision.)

By way of apology . . . a recipe.  Not as mindless as some of my deadline standbys, but simple enough, and filling.

Scalloped Potatoes with Ham and Cheese

You need:

  • 8 potatoes, peeled and sliced thin (I used russets, because they were on sale, but I expect that any kind would do.)
  • 1 pound, more or less, sliced ham (enough to make one layer in a 13×9 serving dish, anyhow.  I used leftovers from a spiral-sliced cooked ham that was also on sale, but you could just go up to the deli counter and ask for a pound of Virginia ham, sliced thick.  No one says you have to put it all into sandwiches.)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • bread crumbs

Also:
2 cups of cream sauce, made thusly:

  •     4 T (1/2 stick) butter
  •     4 T flour
  •     1 cup chicken stock (I usually make it up from a jar of chicken stock base that I keep handy, but this time I happened to have one of those plastic boxes of ready-to-go stock in the refrigerator)
  •     1 cup cream or half-and-half (or milk, if that’s what you’ve got)
  •     pinch of salt (if the stock you have on hand is of the low-sodium variety)
  •     dash of white pepper (or regular pepper, if you don’t have white pepper and don’t mind pepper flecks in your cream sauce)
  •     dash of nutmeg

Melt the butter in a largish frying pan.  Add the flour.  Stir it around over medium heat until blended; don’t let it get brown.
Add the chicken stock gradually, stirring to keep the mixture from getting lumpy.
Add the dairy liquid, and keep on stirring.
Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
When the mixture starts to thicken, it’s ready to go.  (If you have to give it a scrape to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan, it’s thickened.)

The first things you do:

Cut the ham slices off the ham.  This job can be outsourced to somebody in the household who likes playing with knives, in return for letting them have some of the ham to eat right then.  (Your cats would love to help with this, but as yet — thankfully — they don’t have the necessary knife-wielding skills.)

Peel and slice all those potatoes.  You’re not as likely to be able to outsource this bit, unfortunately.

Make certain you’ve got the shredded cheese you remembered buying at the grocery store.  (If you don’t have the cheese, don’t fret.  The recipe is of sufficient goodness even without it.)  Also, do you have breadcrumbs?  If you don’t, you can make some right now in the food processor, if you’ve got a food processor — about 3 slices of bread should do the trick.

The next things you do:

Preheat the oven to 375 Fahrenheit and prep your 13×9 inch pan.  Grease it up with butter or Crisco, or use one of the cooking sprays, your choice.  Make sure you’ve got enough aluminum foil handy to cover the pan when the time comes.

Put your sliced potatoes in a layer (or a couple of overlapping layers, for best coverage) in the bottom of the 13×9 pan.  Put the sliced ham in a single layer on top of the potatoes.  Sprinkle the cup of shredded cheese on top of the ham.

Make the cream sauce, as described above.  When it’s thickened, pour it over the potatoes-ham-cheese layers.

And then:

Cover the 13×9 pan with aluminum foil.  (If it’s got its own lid, you don’t have to do this.)  Put the pan into the preheated oven and cook, covered, for an hour.

Then:

Remove the aluminum foil.  Sprinkle the dish with enough breadcrumbs to make a crust on top.  Put it back into the oven and cook uncovered for another 15-20 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs have gotten golden-brown and crispy.

And serve it forth.

(A further note:  The cream sauce recipe here is a good basic one, useful for making the creamed part of creamed onions, or for the gravy portion of biscuits-and-sausage-gravy (substituting fat from the cooked sausage for all or part of the butter), or for anything else that calls for a standard white sauce.)