I love comfort food. I would eat mashed potatoes with gravy and meatloaf every day for dinner for weeks on end if the rest of the family would let me. The rest of my family are dessert eaters. I hardly ever eat ice cream or cookies. I would far prefer a side of corn casserole or macaroni and cheese to dessert any day.
I keep repeating my mantra, “Only 5 1/2 more days of school left.” That is usually followed by, “I think I can. I think I can….” I can’t wait for long days spent at the beach, library or walking downtown. Sunsets after 9:45 pm. We eat dinner at 8 or 9 at night when the day has cooled off. Life slows down to a snail’s pace and we can breathe again.
My daughter looked at me and asked me, “Are we really having potatoes again?” I rarely now serve regular potatoes. But, I had a bag I needed to use up before they went bad so the answer was a big , “Yes!”
This was just like my mother used to make when we were kids. I was not an adventurous eater when I was young. I never even tried broccoli or Chinese food until I was in college. Hot dogs, cheeseburgers, pizza and spaghetti were the staples of my world. Vegetables? Nothing beyond corn or potatoes would I even consider even though they are not vegetables.
But, this one dish I loved. We would have it about once a month or so and it was always my favorite night. Tonight when I served it my kids looked at it skeptically. The sauce was a bit runny but the flavor? Perfect. We even looked at the kids and told them tonight they had permission to lick their plates clean and boy did they!
- 4 large russet potatoes, sliced VERY thinly
- 1/2 large onion, diced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 lb ham steak, cut into small cubes
- 2 TBSP butter
- 3 TBSP flour
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 cups fat-free half and half
- 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a casserole dish with non-stick spray.
- Layer 1/2 of potatoes, all of the onion and ham in the bottom of the casserole dish.
- Sprinkle all with salt and pepper.
- Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan.
- Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter and whisk until smooth. Continue stirring while the mixture cooks for 1-2 minutes.
- Add about 1/2 cup of the fat-free half and half and continue to whisk until mixture is smooth and there are no lumps.
- Add the rest of the half and half to the pan. Stir continuously until mixture starts to thicken may take 5-10 minutes. DO NOT BOIL! If mixture starts to bubble remove from heat immediately.
- Once mixture has thickened remove from heat and stir in cheese. (TIP: Do not use per-shredded cheese from a package. It is coated with powder to avoid clumping and may make your cheese sauce grainy.)
- Pour 1/2 of cheese sauce mixture over potatoes in casserole dish. Use a fork to gently stir and separate potatoes so sauce gets through all the layers.
- Add remaining 1/2 of potatoes to casserole dish.
- Pour remaining cheese sauce over the top of the potatoes. Gently stir and separate.
- Place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack below the potatoes in case any sauce boils over.
- Place potatoes, covered with aluminum foil, in oven for 45 minutes.
- Remove potatoes from oven and remove the aluminum foil from dish.
- Return potatoes to oven and cook for 20 more minutes until dish is browning on top and potatoes are fork tender.
- Remove pan from oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.