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Frugal Recipe: Potato & Ham Gratin

By Helen Chin Lui of The Healing Place in Medfield, MA 
At our last holiday meal we made a big ham for our dinner.  Everyone enjoyed the ham but we had too much left over.  What do you do with all that left over ham?  We developed two recipes for the leftover, Bean Soup with Ham  (recipe coming soon) and a Potato and Ham Gratin.  Both recipes turned out very good and the family finished everything.  The Potato and Ham Gratin can easily be made into a vegetarian dish by not adding the ham.  

There are two steps making Potato and Ham Gratin; slice potatoes and ham and make a sauce to pour between potato layers and to top.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes in oven or until potatoes are tender
Serves: 6 side dishes (recipe can be divided or doubled.)

6 large, thinly sliced cooking potato (any potato except a baking potato like Idaho)
1 large, thinly sliced, peeled onion
1-2 cups of chopped ham (depending on how much you have left over)                                                                                                                   
2 cups of cheddar cheese (regular or low fat)

Start the recipe with making a roux.  In a small sauce pan, over low to medium heat, melt ¼ cup (half of stick) of butter or margarine with ¼ cup of flour. Stir constantly.  Cook flour until lightly brown.

Add to roux mixture:
2.5 cups of either regular, low fat, skim, soy, or plain almond milk
½ teaspoon of garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon of pepper flake (optional)
Turn heat to medium and stir constantly until the mixture has thicken (about 6-8 minutes.)
  Note: If the sauce is too thick add more milk or water to thin out to the consistency you like.
  If it is too thin, mix 1 teaspoon of flour or cornstarch with ¼ cup water. Slowly pour some flour   mixture into the sauce over medium heat, constantly stirring until the sauce has thickened to your desire.  (You may not need to use all of the flour mixture.)  

Assemble: (9×14 roasting pan or whatever size pan you have or you can use two small pans.)  This is a good time to turn the oven on to 350 degrees.
In the pan, place one layer of potato (you can shingle the potatoes,) then a layer of onion, ham and cheese and top with a layer of some of the sauce.  Repeat until you have run out of everything and end with a layer of sauce.

Cover top with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes.  Take aluminum foil off and turn heat to broil and broil until the top is golden brown for about 5 minutes.  Keep your eyes on it otherwise golden brown will turn into dingy black very quickly. You will know the potato is done when you can easily insert a knife into the center of the gratin.This dish is wonderful accompaniment to steak, pork chops and even seafood.

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