Scalloped Potatoes with Ham, the French exam

My mother made scalloped potatoes as a main course often in winter when I was growing up. Occasionally she would use leftover baked ham, but more often she would use Spam.

Yep, you read that correctly.


There were thick slices of Spam layered in the potatoes.

I loved it.. (I also loved Spam and Miracle Whip sandwiches.)

She always topped her scalloped potatoes with a layer of bacon that would get very crisp and brown on the top side and stay soft on the under, potato side.

And she used cream…. Lot’s of cream.

My mother’s scalloped potatoes were probably not the healthiest dish she served but they were darn good.

I used leftover holiday ham. (Although, believe it or not, I can get Spam here…. Little tiny tins of it for rather a lot of money.)

This will serve 3 – 4.

Scalloped Potatoes

Scalloped Potatoes with Ham

Total time: 1 hour 45 minutes


  • 4 medium potatoes, app. 20oz (600gr), thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 8oz (240gr) ham, cut into squares 1″ squares
  • 3oz (90gr) Gruyère, sliced
  • 2oz (60gr) white Cheddar, shredded
  • 1 1/4 cup (10oz, 300ml) milk, divided
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 2 tbs flour
  • 1 tbs parsley
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp celery salt
  • pinch of nutmeg

Scalloped Potatoes with Ham


  • Heat butter and oil in a medium skillet. Add onions and sauté until soft.
  • Add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute
  • Add 1 cup milk and continue stirring until thick.
  • Remove from heat and stir in parsley, celery salt, nutmeg and mustard.
  • To assemble:
  • Layer 1/2 of the potatoes in the bottom of baking dish
  • Spoon all of the onion / milk mixture over the potatoes.
  • Add the ham in a single layer, if possible.
  • Top with the  Gruyère.
  • Spread the remaining potatoes evenly on top.
  • Pour the remaining 1/4 cup of milk over all.
  • Cover with foil and bake (375F, 185C) for 75 minutes.
  • Uncover and sprinkle white Cheddar over the top
  • Bake 15 minutes  longer, until nicely browned.
  • Remove, let rest for 5 or 10 minutes, and serve.

Print Recipe

Back to my Bad Day, Part I.

I have no idea how the free physical exam program works.

This is what I do know:

Every 5 years I’m notified that I need to appear for a free ‘health’ exam.

Mon mari was included the first time but not this time. We assume it’s because all of his medical care is already free since he has an ‘on-going condition’ (diabetes). If he had a hang-nail he could have a medical taxi pick him up and drive him to the doctor at no cost to him. I can’t do that.

I digress….

I few weeks ago I got the notice that I was due for the exam and please tell them which day would be best.

I sent back the form picking Wednesday.

Two days later I got a letter giving me my appointment date, along with a 6 page form to fill out and a hand-drawn map to the ‘Center for Health Exams’.

Yes, there is a building devoted to health exams. While I was there, sitting in various chairs, I tried to figure out how it all worked. There were around 35 people there, ranging in age from about 8 to 70. So that’s 35 people X 5 days X 50 weeks X 5 years or 43,750 people.

That’s a lot of free physical exams but I don’t think it covers the whole population of the area. I have no idea what the criteria is – there were young girls, teenage boys, young men and women, old men and women….

Digressing again.

We left long before sunrise, armed with the map they sent and maps I printed off the internet. We got to the area 30 minutes before the appointed time. It’s in a big industrial complex. I had all the street names – should have been easy, right?

Except the French have a bad habit of not putting up street signs. None of the streets had signs.

An hour later we finally saw a directional sign that said Centre d’Examen et de Sante with an arrow pointing us down a road. We found the building in an area that, had we not seen the sign we never even would have driven into.

I walked in, the person in charge didn’t comment on my being late, just greeted me, took my form and told me to have a seat.

And so it started….

The young woman with the clipboard directed every person through their entire physical exam, keeping everyone on track and every thing running smoothly.

This is how mine went:

After waiting a few minutes I was called by one of the secretaries to register. After a brief interview I was handed a few documents and told to go to the ‘young woman in charge’.

I was led to a row of chairs and told to sit. A door would open, a doc pop out and say ‘next’. The person at the end of the row would get up and go in. The entire row of people then stands and moves down one chair.

After much chair shuffling and about 10 minutes, it’s my turn. I go in for the blood draw and urine sample. They will do a complete blood profile and every test imaginable.

When I come out the young woman comes up and directs me into another little room and tells me to strip. I do. A few minutes later the door opposite the one I came in opens up and I’m escorted to a room for height, weight and body measurements followed by an electrocardiogram.

When done I get dressed and go back out to the main room. The young woman comes to me and directs me to another row of chairs and tells me to sit.

And so it goes for the entire morning.

I have a long appointment with a doctor doing a very thorough history and ‘life-style analysis, as well as a regular physical exam, check for osteoporosis, etc.

There’s an eye exam, a hearing test, and a dental check check-up.

There are rooms I don’t go into. Some of the tests / exams are likely age-related, job-related and gender-related. I had a breast exam, for example and I saw 2 of the young men go in for a respiratory exam that I didn’t have (smokers?).

Four hours later everyone is done and the building empties.

The health exams are in the morning as one cannot have breakfast first.

Next week I’ll get a 15 page report in the mail with the results of all the tests. My local doctor will get a copy of it and if there’s a problem he’ll call me in.

And I’ll do it all again in 5 years.

That was the good part of the day – other than the hour spent driving in circles and calmly discussing street options with mon mari.

Tomorrow’s post – flat tire fun.


Last update on January 22, 2015

9 thoughts on “Scalloped Potatoes with Ham, the French exam”

  1. I love, love, love scalloped potatoes and ham! My mother never made it so, through trial and error, I came up with something I devour however…I do not use cheese! So I’m definitely going to try this. I have to say though Gruyere is ridiculously expensive here. I don’t know why, but by ridiculously I mean around $9 a pound. That’s a lot for cheese!

    It sounds like they have their health exams down to an assembly line but if they’re really thorough, more power to them. Some days, I would take me that long just for a 15 minute visit with my doctor…

  2. After no breakfast and then a day like that I would have rewarded myself with a feast of comfort foods not including Spam though !!!

  3. I’m amazed at your description of the medical exam half day, but à chacun son gout, n’est-ce pas? When I have a checkup, it entails perhaps 15 minutes with the doc and a blood draw in the lab, but I’m pretty healthy so he doesn’t need much time to tell me to keep taking my hypertension pills and to lose some weight. 🙂 Of course, the dentist and the eye doc are separate, so perhaps I spent in total about the same amount of time as you did…

    Must make some scalloped potatoes soon – I have some rosemary ham that would make great ones!

  4. Tanna, there was always a can of Spam in my mother’s pantry. I wonder if I would still like it….

    nightsmusic, my mother never used cheese either – but I love cheese. It’s definitely and assembly line.

    Kate, I had no energy. I did have some good sausages, though LOL

    Zoomie, I skipped the dentist as I go regularly, anyway, but the blood work is really extensive and the EKG is good. And it’s only every 5 years.

  5. Katie your scalloped potatoes and ham look delicious. I grew up on this very dish – so tasty! Wow, I must say your medical exam is much more thorough than what we would receive in Canada. Eye and Dental exams are separate and costly!

  6. J’adore scalloped potatoes! We used to go often to a restaurant that always served a wedge of scalloped potatoes with melted cheddar. I loved it so much that they automatically served me an extra helping whenever we dined there.

    I suspect I would not have liked it so much if it had had spam (brrrrr) in it. Ham works though!

  7. Finally, someone else who likes spam. Haha! Though I do have to disclose that I lived in Hawaii for a while so it grew on me. This recipe is right up my alley, and I’ll be trying it soon. My spam favorite was diced span mixed with scrambled eggs my mom used to make.

  8. Ina, I still do regular dental and eye exams, but they’re covered anyway under the health care system. This is only every 5 years.It’s all the blood work that I really like having done.

    Elizabeth, Spam is an acquired taste from childhood LOL. But I was very happy with this ham version….

    Clair, I think the majority of Spam sold is in Hawaii…. I can buy little tiny cans here for a lot of money. I just might one of these days.

Comments are closed.

Share via
Copy link