Monday, October 14, 2013

Pommes Anna: Crisp, Golden & Buttery Perfection

Pommes Anna is a grand name for what is essentially a dish of sliced potatoes baked in a very large amount of melted butter. Four ingredients are all that is required — potatoes, butter, salt and pepper. This very simple classic French recipe is all in the preparation and presentation, and the use of very, very thinly sliced potatoes. And since the dish is inverted, it's important that the first layer of potatoes be attractively arranged.

A simple, elegant, decadent and outrageously delicious side dish, Pommes Anna was created in 19th-century Paris when Adolphe Dugléré, chef of the Café Anglais, created it for his favorite customer, the celebrated courtesan Anna Deslions. The legendary allure of Pommes Anna is a buttery, soft potato cake on the inside, and a crisp, golden buttery crust on the exterior. I find that two simple tricks help to achieve the perfect Pommes Anna — a nonstick ovenproof skillet ensures easy release every time, and a mandoline saves an awful lot of time. This classic French dish is sinfully delicious, quite addictive, and never fails to impress as the buttery golden potato cake literally melts in your mouth.

Pommes Anna
Serves 8

6 medium russet potatoes, peeled - about 2 3/4 lb
6 tbsp butter, melted (I use ghee, which is a clarified butter)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
fresh thyme 

Preheat oven to 450°F. Using a sharp knife or mandoline, slice potatoes as thinly as possible. Don't place the sliced potatoes in water, as the starch is needed to bind the layers. 

Brush the bottom of an 8-inch cast-iron, or non-stick oven-proof skillet, with 1 1/2 tablespoons of melted butter. Starting in the centre of the pan, arrange the potato slices in a circular pattern, overlapping the edges and leaving no spaces. Evenly brush with another 1 1/2 tablespoons of melted butter and season well with salt, pepper and fresh thyme if you wish. Repeat the layering process until all the potato slices have been used, then drizzle the remaining butter overtop. Be sure to press down firmly after each layer to pack the layers together.

Place the skillet over medium-high heat until the edges of the potatoes begin to brown, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to the oven, cover and bake for 25 minutes, then uncover and bake an additional 35-45 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork-tender, and the top is crispy and golden brown. Remove from the oven, pour off any excess butter, and let stand for 5 minutes. Using a small spatula, separate the potato edges from sides of pan. Then shake the pan and slide a spatula along the bottom to loosen the potatoes. Carefully invert the Pommes Anna onto a warm flat serving platter, garnish with fresh thyme or chopped parsley, and using a sharp knife, serve sliced into wedges. 

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