Crispy ham, browned bits of potato with sweet onions and tender brussels sprouts.
This was my favorite meal as a kid (well, minus the sprouts!). My grandma and mom both made this and it was so delicious. I’m still envious of the way they can get everything perfectly browned and get all of those fabulous little blackened bits on the bottom.
One of the best things about this is that, even though it’s a childhood favorite, it’s a healthy grain-free meal that I can enjoy today.
This meal is a variation of an English dish called bubble and squeak, I assume because of the sounds it makes while cooking. Bubble and Squeak (although it sounds like a superhero mouse duo) is basically just skillet fried potatoes and cooked vegetables. This is it’s Appalachian descendant. 😉
There’s practically no wrong way to make this; you can add different things, prepare it different ways, mess it up, and it doesn’t really matter much. It all ends up in a big messy pile, anyway.
When I was a kid, we made this with only ham, potatoes, and onions. Since I’ve started consciously adding more vegetables into my diet, I tried it with brussels sprouts and now I don’t want it any other way! It’s so good. Cooked cabbage is also a delicious addition, but the brussels sprouts crisp and flake so much more nicely than cabbage does.
Prep Ahead (or Not)
The best way to make this meal is to boil your potatoes the day before and then refrigerate them overnight. Starting with cold cooked potatoes helps them stay together a bit. (They also don’t burn your fingers when you’re trying to cut them. 🙂 )
However, I hardly ever remember to do something for a meal the night before. Even if I have a menu plan, it often just doesn’t happen.
So, the next best option is to microwave cook the potatoes. I poke a few holes in them, stick them in the microwave and cook them on high for approximately 5 minutes per 3-4 small potatoes. Basically, my goal is to cook them until they’re tender, but not quite falling apart yet. Depending on your microwave or potatoes, it might be longer.
Once they’re cool enough to handle, I cut them up into half inch slices.
Now, slice up (or quarter) your brussels sprouts, slice up a few onions, dice/slice/chunk your ham, and you’re ready to go!
Here’s where you can go a few different ways with this: I prefer my potatoes to get a good crisp to them, so I opt to fry them on a cast iron griddle with just a bit of oil. When I heat the cast iron up to medium heat, I don’t need a ton of oil to get them to get a nice brown crisp when I lay them all out on the griddle.
Then I throw the onions in a cast iron Dutch oven. I toss them with some olive oil and keep them cooking over medium low heat until they’re tender. I throw in the brussels sprouts and keep it all cooking until the sprouts are almost tender and the onions are starting to caramelize.
Once the onions and sprouts have been cooking for a while, I add the ham. I let it all continue to cook until the ham is heated through and some pieces have gotten a little crispy and brown.
Lastly, I throw in the fried potato pieces (I cook it all together for a while just to get the flavors mixed a bit) and toss in some salt and pepper.
If you just read all that and said “Seriously? Ain’t nobody got time for that,” then this next method is for you. 😉 This is the way my mom and grandma always make it, but I’ve never been able to get it quite right.
Cut everything up: your cooked potatoes, your ham, onion, and brussels sprouts (you may want to cook these a bit in the microwave ahead of time, too).
Heat up some olive oil in a skillet.
Throw everything in.
Stir and cook. Salt and pepper. Stir and cook.
I have two problems with this method (that are probably just personal culinary failings, so hopefully you can overcome them and use this simpler method).
My first problem is that I always seem to either overcook my potatoes or under cook them. They turn to mush, stick to the pan, and make ham and onion mashed potatoes OR I have hard little bits of uncooked potato scattered throughout my dish.
My second problem is that I don’t have a big enough skillet. I love to make enough of this meal that I have some leftovers. I can’t seem to fit all that together in a pan and get everything sufficiently and evenly cooked. Also, I find that I have to add gobs and gobs of oil to keep it from sticking and to get it to brown.
But, like I said, that’s my hangup. If you make a smaller meal or have the skills, go for it.
Serve this up for dinner, make it for breakfast and throw a fried egg on top—whatever you want!
Whichever way you choose to make this, I hope you enjoy it! This is my favorite comfort food, and I think it could quickly become yours, too. 😉
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