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Winter Warmers: Ad Hoc Scalloped Potatoes

potato2A lot of my recipes are those I’ve sort of made up through goofing around in the kitchen, not really having the ingredients I’m supposed to have to make the recipe I’ve got in mind to cook. So what starts out to be something out of a cookbook turns out to be a variation on a theme. My scalloped potatoes is one of those recipes.

You can make this in a deep baking dish (which I usually do) or in a lasagna-type pan (which I’ve done when the baking dishes aren’t washed and I’m too lazy to wash one by hand).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

6-8 potatoes washed and sliced into about 1/4″ pieces (I leave the skins on since I heard that skins are good for you, but you don’t have to)

large onion or a bunch of green onions cut into bite-sized pieces

ham slice cut into bite-sized pieces (I usually use ham and about a third of a summer sausage cut into bite-sized pieces because the summer sausage adds some of its own spice, but this isn’t absolutely needed)

dill or another spice either fresh or dried, to taste

2 cups milk (I’ve used whole, 2 percent, and skim at one time or another; all work)

1/4 cup flour

1/4 butter or margarine

non-stick spray like Pam


Using the milk, flour and milk make a white sauce. If you’ve never done this, the easiest way is to melt the butter/margarine, then sprinkle the flour over the melted butter/margarine. Stir off the heat until the flour is blended into the butter/margarine. Get it as smooth as you can. Still off the heat, stir in the milk. Now put the mixture on the stove and heat–stirring constantly (very important)–until a white sauce forms (the mixture thickens).

Spray the bottom and sides of the dish or pan with a non-stick spray.

Spoon in a few dollops of the white sauce into the dish/pan. Spread the dollops around the bottom of the pan.

Layer rounds of potatoes at the bottom of the dish/pan on top of the white sauce.

Sprinkle a handful of onions, ham, and spice on top of the potatoes.

Spoon white sauce on top of the onions, ham, and spice.

If you’re using a deep dish, apportion ingredients so you have three or four layers of potatoes, ham, onions, and spice, ending with a layer of potatoes and white sauce. If you’re using a shallow pan, apportion ingredients so you have a couple of layers of potatoes, ham, onions, and spice, ending with a layer of potatoes and white sauce. Make sure the last layer of white sauce covers the potatoes. (If you don’t have enough white sauce, you might have to make more. Be a little stingy with the white sauce in the layers. You want some white sauce there so that the layers don’t glue themselves together, but not so much that they are swimming.)

Cook covered with foil or lid for one hour. When you can stick a knife or fork easily through the layers, the dish is done.

Like I said, this is a basic recipe that can easily accommodate any additions you think might be good, like peas, corn, or other veggies that go with ham and potatoes. Also, we’ve cut as much salt out of our diet as we can, so I rarely add salt to recipes. If you’re a salt and pepper person, add these to each layer also. (My dad who loved this recipe would add ground pepper to each layer. He was like a soloist in a band who would push me out of the way to do his thing as I layered the ingredients.)

Whatever you do, have fun with the recipe. Remember that the cookbook recipe is a bland white mixture of potatoes, leftover ham, and white sauce. But you don’t have to do anything the cookbook way. Do it your way instead.

–Pat Henshaw


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10/04/2013 9:07 am

How come no one has ever told me to put the white sauce down first? The bottom of mine has always come out dry and now I know why. Thanks Pat.

maggie b
maggie b
10/04/2013 8:08 am

These sound really good. I have been looking for some good potato recipes – it’s not something we ate a lot of as children.

10/03/2013 1:49 pm

I also like to experiment in the kitchen. Usually I find a recipe and there is something I don’t like with it. Today example I made a mushroom dish and the original recipe included cream. I wanted to make a healthier version so I used mild and cream fraiche. It tasted great.

Jeanne Neeper
Jeanne Neeper
10/03/2013 10:46 am

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10/03/2013 8:26 am

Another addition would be to add medium sharp cheddar cheese into the sauce and then they become cheesy potatoes. One package of shredded cheese works well, but use as much as you’d like. This is a dish I usually make for Christmas dinner and it’s so easy. Also, if you take the cover off for about 15 minutes or so at the end of baking, the top becomes a bit more crispy and wonderful looking.

Reply to  Tee
10/03/2013 11:28 am

My husband would love this, Tee, but since I’m not a cheese person (I know, I know, it’s shameful!), I would never add cheese. Thanks for these additions!