In my quest to get to the bottom of our freezer, I found a plastic bag containing four thick ham slices separated by waxed paper. I managed to break one of them free and decided to make a gratin of potatoes, onions, and ham. One of our family favorites is Julia Child’s râpée morv andelle (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, volume 1, page 153). In that recipe, though, you are supposed to grate the potatoes and finely dice the ham. The ham steak from the freezer seemed too big and thick to suffer the indignity of fine dicing.
I was reminded of a wonderful dish that a Swedish friend of ours always prepared for her Christmas smörgåsbord: Jansson’s frestelse (Jansson’s Temptation). Potatoes and anchovy filets were arranged in alternating rows and then topped with onions, cheese, cream, and eggs. The casserole was baked until the mixture was puffed and golden. I decided to try that same thing, substituting thinly sliced potato for the grated potatoes and ham cut into bâtonett instead of dice. Scallions would serve as the onion representative.
Ham, Potato, and Onion Gratin
1 medium russet potato, unpeeled
- 1 ham steak, ½ inch thick and about 8 ounces
- 3 scallions including green tops, cut into ¼ inch rings
- 4 ounces Swiss (Emmental) cheese, grated
- 3 extra-large eggs, beaten
- 1 cup heavy cream
Using a mandoline, slice the unpeeled potato crosswise into 1/16 inch thick rounds. Soak in water until ready to assemble the casserole.
- Remove any fat and bone from the ham steak and cut into strips ½ inch x ½ inch x 2 inches. Set aside until ready to assemble the casserole.
- Combine the beaten eggs with the cream and season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
- In a well-greased 8 x 8 x 2 inch ovenproof glass pan, arrange an overlapping row of potato slices that have been drained and patted dry.
- Next to the row of potatoes, arrange a row of the ham slices. Then begin a second row of potatoes, another row of ham pieces, and finish with another row of potato slices.
- Sprinkle the top with half of the cut-up scallions, half of the grated cheese, and cover with half of the egg and cream mixture.
- Make a second layer of alternating potato and ham slices, using all of both. Sprinkle with the remaining scallions and grated cheese. Cover with the remaining egg and cream mixture
- Bake in the middle of a pre-heated oven at 350° (175°C) for 1 hour and 15 minutes. If the top becomes too brown, cover with aluminum foil.
- When the casserole is golden brown and the potatoes are tender (test with a small knife), remove from the oven, let rest for 5 minutes to set up a bit, and serve immediately while still warm.