Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Ham and Cheese Hash Brown Casserole With Fresh Potatoes

Two things I always see in hash brown casserole is pre-packaged frozen hash browns that are thawed and canned soup. It is easy enough to make them with fresh potatoes and no cans with a little extra time (really not any more than "thawing time") and not too terribly much extra work.
This can be pre-made up to the baking point and refrigerated until ready to use(up to 12 hours). Pull it out about 30 minutes before you plan to bake.

2 lbs russet potatoes, scrubbed (peeled if you like)
1 tsp salt, divided
1 tsp lemon juice
cold water

 2-3 cups ham, cubed

2 TB butter
1/2 cup sweet onion, minced
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup bell pepper, any color, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 TB corn, potato or tapioca starch
1 cup cold milk
2 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp basil
salt and pepper to taste
1 generous cup sour cream(ever try homemade?? Click HERE) plus or minus to taste

1 cup crushed "Ritz" Style Crackers ( excellent GF recipe HERE)
1/2 cup french fried onions
1 TB butter, melted
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup chopped green onions

Shredded Cheese to Taste, I used pepper jack, you can use Cheddar, Provolone, Swiss, Monterrey Jack, Colby, much or as little as you like! Whatever floats your goat...

Shred your potatoes as you see fit, I put mine through my Spirilazer(large blade) , then chopped them roughly so they weren't too long. You can use a hand grater or food processor if you like.

Place shredded potatoes in a large stock pot, and cover with cold water by 1 inch add 1/2 the salt. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to a gently boil,  cook for 2 minutes.

Remove from heat, drain rinse in cold water to stop cooking process then return to pot.

 Cover with cold water again add remaining salt and lemon juice and place in fridge and soak for at least an hour. Can be left longer if needed.

After soaking drain completely and either run them through a salad spinner OR you can pour them out on a large towel and roll them up pressing out any excess water. They need to be REALLY dry.

In a greased 9 x 13 casserole dish toss the potatoes with the cubed ham.

In a large sauce pan melt butter and add onions, celery, pepper and garlic.

Cook until the veggies are tender-crisp and fragrant. Don't over cook, we don't want them mushy in the casserole. Add chicken broth

Whisk starch into cold milk, then add milk to veggie mix, cook and stir until thickened. Add seasonings.

Remove from heat and stir in sour cream.

Gently combine the sauce with the potatoes and ham, tossing to coat everything.

Cover with foil and bake in 375 degree oven for 1 hour

Mix the crushed crackers, french fried onions and butter. Season with garlic powder.

Remove foil from casserole, evenly sprinkle the cracker mixture over the top and cheese it up as much as you like

Bake uncovered 15  minutes more until evenly browned and the potatoes are tender.

Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes or so before digging in.

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