Scalloped Potatoes and Ham with Panko Crumb Crust

Our holiday ham this year was terrific, but it was big and that means leftovers. There’s a limit to the number of meals using leftover ham I can eat over a short period of time. When I hit that ham wall I like to put the leftover ham, bone and all, in my pressure cooker and freeze the leftover ham and broth for later. Ham doesn’t freeze especially well by itself, but I’ve found that if a bit of the broth is added to the freezer bag, the thawed ham has a better texture that’s perfect for casseroles like this one.

That said, the real star of this cheesy ham and potato casserole is my current favorite ingredient when I want to add a crisp crumb topping to a dish, Japanese panko crumbs. There’s nothing better for putting a crispy coating on fried shrimp or boneless pork and chicken cutlets but it also makes a superb buttery crumb crust for baked casseroles, including baked mac and cheese.

Japanese style panko crumbs have become so popular I see them now in every supermarket on the shelf next to the regular style breadcrumbs (Progresso and Kikkoman brands are the most common brands I see). I use them so often in my cooking that I buy my panko in five pound bags at any of the Asian markets here in Las Vegas for a fraction of the cost.

I prefer the Asian brands of panko over the American brands because the crumbs tend to be smaller and make a finer breading for smaller foods like shrimp and scallops. However, when the American brands are all I have on hand, I just give them a quick pulse or two in my food processor to break them up a bit and they work just fine. For this ham and potato casserole, the size of the crumbs doesn’t matter and an American brand works beautifully.

If you haven’t given panko breadcrumbs a try yet, you’re in for a treat. When used to coat foods before frying, the crust stays crisp, even when leftovers are refrigerated and eaten cold the next day. When used as I have here, the result is a crispy, buttery crumb crust that is superior to a topping made with regular breadcrumbs, which tends to become soggy shortly after the casserole comes out of the oven.

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham with Panko Crumb Crust

4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
¼ cup dehydrated minced onion
6 medium red potatoes, boiled and cooled
1 – 2 cups shredded baked ham
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
Salt & pepper to taste
1 cup Japanese panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a baking dish (or use non-stick cooking spray). In a saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium high heat. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Remove saucepan from heat and whisk in milk and onions. Return pan to heat and bring to a simmer while stirring. When sauce has thickened remove from heat, add the cheese and stir until the cheese has melted and sauce is creamy. Remove from the heat and stir in the ham.

Taste for salt (some ham will have enough salt and no additional will be needed). Peel and slice the potatoes and add half of the potatoes to the buttered casserole dish. Evenly pour half of the cheese and ham mixture over the potatoes. Add the remainder of the sliced potatoes and finish with the rest of the sauce, making sure to distribute it evenly. Season with black pepper over the top.

Melt the remaining butter in a small non-stick skillet and add the panko crumbs. Sauté just until the crumbs begin to brown and remove from the heat. Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the potatoes and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees or until golden brown and bubbly.

Serves 4-6

    • Helen
    • February 18th, 2012

    Yummmmmmy goo-i-ness!

  1. oh yeah, love panko, and I love all that cheese with the ham & potatoes… yum

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