Dinner :: Ham and Potato Casserole

My love affair with casseroles began when my mom started including it in every holiday family dinner. But before that, casseroles were a major part of my life. Growing up in the midwest, we had as many types of casseroles as eskimos have words for snow. There was broccoli and cheese casserole, tuna casserole, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, chicken tettrazini casserole, spaghetti casserole, pepperoni pizza casserole, chicken and rice casserole, Mexican Frito casserole, hash brown casserole, tator tot casserole... I'm sure there are more, but I only wanted to list casseroles that came from my family's vault. We midwesterners pass down casserole recipes like heirlooms.

The beautiful thing about casseroles isn't actually in the taste, but in the way they make you feel. Casseroles were what you gave to people during major landmarks in their lives - holidays, yes, but also birthdays, deaths, anniversaries, divorce, graduation, as a "welcome to the neighborhood", when a loved one is sick, or loses a job, or gets a promotion. All of these things are acknowledged with a big dish of steaming love and compassion, evidenced by the energy and thought that went into making it. And now, when I make a casserole for my husband and myself on a normal weekday night, I still find comfort in it, and feel closer to home.

I don't think people in New England make enough casseroles. There's this strange aversion to mixing one's entire meal into a singular dish and baking it all together. When my good friend Anne invited us to her family's home for my first Thanksgiving away from family, I introduced corn casserole to their holiday spread. It was initially met with severe cynicism. (Really? This is comprised of a box of cornbread, 2 cans of corn, a stick of butter and cheese - and you want me to eat it?) But after one bite, I had made converts of every single one of them, and now they have it at every holiday meal.

No, this blog does not feature a recipe for my favorite of all casseroles - instead, it's a ham and potato casserole we ate earlier this week for dinner, which yielded enough leftovers for 4 lunches. However, if you're ever down on your luck, or on cloud nine, there's a good chance I'll be at your doorstep with my Pyrex dish, full of the best way I know how to share love - cheesy, sweet, hot corn. And I'll maybe even throw in the recipe for free...

Ham and Potato Casserole
Recipe courtesy of The Big Book of Easy Suppers by Maryana Vollstedt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a lightly sprayed 8x10" glass baking dish, layer 2 Russet potatoes, peeled and sliced. Sprinkle with 1 T. flour and salt and pepper to taste. Layer on 1 lb. cubed cooked ham, half of a sliced onion (you'll use the other half later), and 2 C. grated Cheddar cheese. Add 2 more sliced potatoes, and season again with salt and pepper. Add remaining sliced onion half and top with another C. grated Cheddar. Pour 3/4 C. milk over all, cover with aluminum foil, and bake until bubbly and potatoes are tender, about 1 hour. Remove foil and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.


5 comments:

  1. Great post, Em! Casseroles make me feel at home too. Thanks for the recipe!

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  2. I love casseroles! They are not a typical thing in Latino or Spanish cooking, but my mother and I do make a spinach-potato casserole every year for Christmas Eve dinner that is fantastic! It's creamy, salty, cheesy goodness. And it's kind of fun to have a very American dish on a table with traditional Cuban dishes: lechon, mojo, yucca, and frijoles con arroz. And then there's that casserole, nudging up against all that Cuban garlic-soaked goodness on our plates. It's fantastic. Three cheers for the mighty casserole!

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  3. Oh, and PS, a blog ALL ABOUT CASSEROLES. I think you're on to something! :) www.casseroleheaven.blogspot.com? Yes please!

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  4. Crap, that URL is taken already, but the blog hasn't been updated in three years and only has ONE post. Bitch, give it up! We have some serious magic to do here! (Sorry, will stop monopolizing your comments!)

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  5. who would get dibs on such a great blogger site, then ABANDON it??? do you think if we start leaving incessant comments, the author will resurrect it?

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