Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes ...and Ham with an Apple-Cherry-Maple Glaze

Val told me that her "ideal Easter menu would be ham and scalloped potatoes."  (I'm going to have to agree with you, BBFF.)  Since we just stayed home and had a quiet Easter meal this year, I wound up simplifying the menu a bit more than I'd originally planned. What resulted was the perfect balance and a meal that made everybody happy and content.
Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes
makes ~6-8 svgs.

2 Tbs. butter, cut into small bits + more for pan
⅓ c. sharp Cheddar, shredded
⅓ c. Mozzarella cheese, shredded
⅓ c. garlic & fines herb Boursin, crumbled
2 lbs. Idaho Russet Potatoes
1½ tsp. fine sea salt
1 tsp. ground white pepper
2 c. heavy cream
 freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
4 fresh bay leaves
½ c. Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 425° F.  Use a bit of softened butter to coat the inside of a 12" cast-iron (or other nonstick, oven-proof) skillet lightly.  Combine cheddar, mozzarella, and boursin in a bowl; toss and set aside.  

Set the prepared skillet over medium heat while you peel & thinly slice (~⅛"-¼" slices) the potatoes.  Do not rinse the potatoes once they have been sliced because you want to keep the natural starch on them.  Working quickly, layer half of the potatoes on the bottom of the skillet.
Sprinkle with half of the salt, half of the pepper, half of the butter, and half of the cheese mixture.  Layer the other half of the potatoes on top of that, then sprinkle with the remaining salt and pepper.  Pour the cream evenly over this layer.  Grate a bit of fresh nutmeg evenly over the top, dot with remaining butter and set the bay leaves in.  Bring to a simmer for ~3 minutes.
Once this has simmered for ~3 minutes, sprinkle with the remaining cheese blend and top with the parmesan. 
Slide into the oven and bake for ~25 minutes, until top is golden and a bit bubbly.  Let sit a bit before serving.  I think the bay leaves make for a gorgeous presentation, and you can serve them, but just be sure to tell everybody to pick them off before eating.  That's one favorite bonus of mine...grabbing the bay leaf and carefully peeling the melty, chewy, salty, thin layer of cheese from the top and popping that in my mouth.  I'm such a cheeseslut.
As far as I'm concerned, if this were the only thing on my plate at any given meal, I'd be happier than a pig in mud.  You may even hear the leftover calling your name from the fridge...so give in and try some cold.  I'm actually sitting here wishing that they were not long gone already.
And while I said that they were fantastic all alone, and I'd be satisfied with just a big plate full...you may want to serve them along side a gorgeous ham.  If you do, might I recommend using a fantastic Apple-Cherry-Maple Glaze?

Apple-Cherry-Maple Glazed Ham
makes one 8 lb. ham

8 lb. smoked (fully-cooked) Ham, shank end
whole cloves
½ c. apple cherry juice concentrate
½ c. maple syrup
¼ c. chunky apple preserves
¼ c. chunky cherry preserves
¼ c. Belgian mustard
½ tsp. ground allspice
freshly ground nutmeg, to taste

Preheat oven to 325° F.  Cut the skin off of the ham and score the fat in diamond shapes.  Stud the intersection of each cut with a clove.  Place ham on a rack inside of a roasting pan that has been lined with foil (or not...your choice...just makes for easier clean-up), cut side down.  Add a bit of water to the bottom of the pan (a few tablespoons).  Roast for ~2 hours (~15 minutes/lb.)

While the ham is cooking, bring the juice concentrate, maple syrup and both preserves to a bowl, lower and simmer for about a minute or so.  Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients.  Set aside.

After 2 hours, crank the heat up to 425° F.  Brush about half of the glaze all over the ham and shut the oven door.  Cook for ~45 minutes more, brushing with the remaining glaze every fifteen minutes.  The skin should be shiny and browned when finished.
While these were our "perfect" meal this Easter, don't wait a whole 'nother year if you want to try them. These potatoes will make regular appearances at our table...and the flavors on the ham are brilliant.  Every once in a while, I'll make my own ham and slice it thin for sandwiches (or dice/shred it for salads or casseroles, etc.) throughout the next couple of weeks.  You can also use a butt end ham for this purpose to make for more useable meat (the shank is just slightly easier for presentation/slicing).

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