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~Cheesy Ham, Green Bean & Hash Brown Casserole~

IMG_0811After our Easter feast, before we even washed the dishes, mom would put together a casserole from three of the leftovers.  It wasn't rocket science, but, it was made from high-quality scratch-made ingredients.  About three cups of cubed baked ham and two cups of buttery green (string) beans got stirred into the remaining cheesy scalloped potatoes.  The following night, upon reheat, no one had to be called twice to the dinner table -- we four loved this meal.

This is not that recipe.  This is similar dish, made from pantry and freezer staples, for those times when you don't have leftovers from a traditional Easter feast, but are craving those familiar flavors.  I'd refer to it as a "desperate times call for desperate measures" casserole, but, it's not. It's downright delicious (and, uh, yes, I do approve of using the word delicious to describe delicious food, so, to all recipe critics and editors: get over yourselves and move along).

All the familiar flavors of Easter without the work.

IMG_0749For the cheese sauce:

4  tablespoons salted butter

1  cup diced yellow or sweet onion

1  teaspoon garlic powder

1  teaspoon onion powder

1  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

3  packets granulated vegetable bouillon

1/4 cup Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour for Sauce and Gravy

3 cups whole milk

8  ounces shredded finely-shredded Colby-Jack cheese (2 cups)

For the add-ins:

3  cups diced, cooked ham

2 cups cooked (steam-in-bag, stovetop simmered or microwaved) cut green beans, well-drained and snipped or sliced into 1/2" lengths

1  30-ounce bag frozen shredded hash browns

IMG_0754 IMG_0754 IMG_0754Step 1.  In an 8-quart stockpot over low heat, melt the butter.  Add the onion.  Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring almost constantly with a large spoon until onion has softened, without browning, 3-4 minutes.

IMG_0766 IMG_0766 IMG_0766 IMG_0766 IMG_0766 IMG_0766~Step 2.  Add and stir in the dry spices:  the onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper and contents from bouillon packets.  Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until a dry, foamy, pasty mess forms in the bottom of the pot, about 30-60 seconds. Stirring constantly, slowly and in a thin stream, add the milk.  Adjust heat to a very gentle simmer and continue to cook, stirring almost constantly, until mixture is nicely-thickened.  Turn the heat off and stir in the cheese.  It will melt almost instantly and the cheese sauce will be finished.

IMG_0785 IMG_0785 IMG_0785 IMG_0785~Step 3.  Add and stir in the diced ham and green beans.  Before opening the bag of frozen hash browns, use your hands to "crunch" the bag in several spots, to loosen them up a bit.  Add the frozen hash browns and stir until they are enrobed in the cheese sauce.  Remove from heat.

IMG_0798 IMG_0798~ Step 4.  Transfer the casserole mixture to the casserole dish.  Bake on center rack of preheated 375° oven, 40-45 minutes.  Casserole will be bubbling around the edges, slightly bubbling in the center, and lightly but nicely browned on the top.  Remove from oven and allow casserole to rest 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Cheesy potatoes with ham & green beans?  Oh yum!

IMG_0823Perfect for any day-after-Easter brunch or lunch:

IMG_0833Cheesy Ham, Green Bean & Has Brown Casserole:  Recipe yields 8-12 hearty, main-dish servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 1-quart measuring container; 8-quart stockpot; large spoon; 13" x 9" x 2"/3-quart casserole

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4aa4853200bCook's Note:  Perhaps it's ham and asparagus you have leftover from your Easter feast. Every once in a while (not often, but it does happen) you'll come across a recipe that goes from ordinary to extraordinary by using a store-bought, instead of a scratch-made, dry sauce or seasoning packet.  While it is next-to-impossible to make a quiche using scratch-made hollandaise or béarnaise sauce (in place of the typical whisked cream and egg mixture), because either will breakdown in a hearts-beat or three, it is possible to add a dry, high-quality, store-bought, hollandaise or or béarnaise sauce-mix to season and enrich the cream and egg mixture.  In fact, it propels the end product into the stratosphere.  You gotta try my ~ Smoked Ham and Asparagus in a Béarnaise Quiche ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)


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