This dish is what I call classic comfort food! Back in the day when my children were young, I used to make this for dinner when I needed a little “comforting” after a wild and hectic day. Now, I make it just because it tastes oh-so-so good, especially when it’s cold and blustery outside!
5 cups Idaho potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into small cubes (I like to leave the skins on, however, if you want to peel the potatoes, that will be ok)
1 pound ham, cut into chunks or skinless smoked sausage (I use Eckrich)
1 small onion, diced
4 green onions, sliced
1 bell pepper, (red, yellow, green or orange), diced
2 cups sharp or mild shredded cheddar cheese, Colby Jack
1/8 teaspoon paprika, smoked or regular
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with non-vegetable spray (Pam). In a medium saucepan, boil cubed potatoes until almost done when pricked with a fork. Drain well and add potatoes to the prepared baking dish. Set aside.
In a large frying pan, heat vegetable oil on low heat. Add ham or sausage, onion, and bell pepper. Sauté for about 15 minutes, turning frequently. Add meat mixture on top of potatoes. Set aside for a few minutes.
If using broccoli florets, follow directions on package for cooking in microwave or on top of stove. Drain really well and spread on top of meat mixture. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Blend flour into the melted butter. Add salt and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly. (Note: Cooking for this length of time will minimize “flour” taste.) Slowly add milk, again stirring constantly. Add 1 cup of cheese and continue cooking slowly until cheese has melted and the mixture is smooth and thickened.
Pour cheese sauce over potatoes, meat mixture and broccoli, if using. Sprinkle shredded sharp cheddar cheese on top, and then sprinkle paprika lightly and evenly over the cheese. Cover with foil and bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes. Remove foil for last five minutes until cheese a golden brown on top. Let sit for about 5-10 minutes.
Serves 4 to 6.
Note: If using smoked sausage instead of ham, cut sausage in half, lengthwise, and then slice into 1/2 inch "half-moon" cuts. In a large frying pan, sauté’ sausage, onion, and bell pepper in vegetable oil for about 15 minutes, turning frequently to slightly brown.
Note: You can substitute: ½ pound hot dogs, sliced into 1/2 inch slices or a 12 ounce can of Spam diced into 1/2-inch dices, instead of ham, hot dogs or smoked sausage. Also, you can add fresh spinach or kale, instead of broccoli. Also, shredded hash brown potatoes can be substituted for the Idaho potatoes.
Note: For a spicier casserole, add diced jalapenos to taste.
Note: For a less creamy sauce, use only 2 tablespoons of butter and flour and 1 cup milk and 1 cup of cheese.