Old Dominion Scalloped Potatoes with Country Ham

Scalloped potatoes with lots of butter and cheese have been a staple in Southern homes for centuries, but only in Virginia have I encountered the dish made with the state's incomparable country-cured ham -- simply called "Virginia ham" in the Old Dominion. Do remember that you need to use dry russet potatoes for any gratin, and if the potatoes seem to be drying out after 35 or 40 minutes, just add a little whole milk, basting them slightly to produce a golden crust.

Click here to download a PDF of the full recipe. Makes 6 servings

4 medium russet potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 cup finely diced cooked country ham
1/2 cup chopped fresh chives
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1 cup half-and-half

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Butter a 1 1/2 to 2-quart gratin or baking dish and arrange alternate layers of overlapping potato slices and ham, sprinkling a few chives over each layer and seasoning with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the cheese over the top, dot with the butter, pour the half-and-half over the top, and bake till the potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes, basting from time to time with the liquid. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and bake till golden brown, about 10 minutes longer.

3. Serve piping hot directly from the dish.

Wine Pairing: This creamy, smokey side dish really is ideal for a nice Syrah -- for my palate, one from France would be ideal, but as long as the oak treatment isn’t too intense, and the wine has enough acidity to parry the richness of this dish, your favorite Syrah should work just fine. Another option here is to go with a big, structured white from Alsace. I can see this dish working exceptionally well with either a Riesling or luscious Pinot Gris.

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