As our kids get older and busier, I have been really focusing on establishing the tradition my mom had which was our Sunday dinner served in the early afternoon so we can spend at least a little time together in an unhurried, enjoyable meal.
This week I had a ham bone with a lot of meat left on it so it was time to make one of my favorite winter comfort food dinners. It is from a dogeared copy of Julia Child’s The Way to Cook, which I received as a wedding shower gift from my husband’s aunt. (Thanks Alice! I still have it, love it and use it after 17 years!)
It is a wonderful casserole of au gratin potatoes and chunks of ham baked together until it is bubbly and browned on top! It takes a few pots and pans (most of Julia’s recipes do..) and a little time, but it is so worth it! Add a salad and a piece of crusty bread and viola! Dinner is served!
Here is the recipe as it is written in the cookbook. I make a half batch and it is enough for 10-12 people to have generous servings.
Granny’s Ham and Potato Gratin for a Crowd
10 lbs. white potatoes
Garlic and mustard sauce
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter
1 c flour
6 1/2 c. hot milk
salt, pepper, a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 c dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. dried thyme or sage
4 c. coarsely grated Swiss cheese, or a combination of Swiss, Cheddar, and mozzarella
6-8 c of cooked ham, diced, sliced or ground (I like largish chunks.)
For the potatoes, peel them and slice them thinly (a food processor makes fast work of them). Put them in a pot of cold water and heat it to boiling. Gently boil the potatoes for about 3-4 minutes until they are tender but not cooked entirely. Drain them and set aside.
While you are cooking the potatoes, make the garlic and mustard sauce.
Melt the butter over med-high heat in a large pot (that can hold 6 1/2 c of milk). Once it’s melted, sprinkle the flour on and whisk together. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes, don’t let it get brown though. Add half of the hot milk and whisk until blended and then add the rest of the milk in a steady stream. Continue to whisk until combined and thickened. Add the seasoning, garlic and mustard and continue to simmer for 3 minutes. Taste for seasoning.
Now it’s time to assemble!
Set aside 3 c. of sauce and 1 c of cheese for the topping.
In a large buttered casserole pan spoon a light layer of the sauce, then arrange everything in 3-4 layers. Start with potatoes, then ham, then sauce and cheese, repeat and the final layer should be the 3 c. of sauce to cover the potatoes completely and sprinkle with cheese.
*You can assemble this ahead a day in advance and then just bake it off.
Bake at 375º for 45 minutes until hot and browned.