(Jan. 25, 2019) The most common mistake when entertaining is to become predictable. The essence of distinction is based on one’s willingness to forgo mediocracy.
Uniqueness is your true potential and keeps guests coming back for more. With that thought in mind, let us explore a dish called Pommes Anna.
Pommes Anna was created in the mid-19th century by Adolphe Duglere. He was the head chef at the Café Anglais and made this dish in honor of Anna Deslions, an actress and socialite.
This French dish consists of thinly sliced potatoes that are carefully arranged to look like a cake.
Although classic Pommes Anna only contains three ingredients: potatoes, butter and salt, it is one of the most challenging potato dishes to prepare properly.
One needs a thorough understanding of the principals that make this dish so unique. These details may seem insignificant but are essential to the dish’s success.
The star of Pommes Anna is the potatoes. You can ether chose waxy boiling potatoes or starchy baking potatoes, depending on the texture you want to achieve.
Low-starch potatoes such as red potatoes or Yukon golds are harder to work with as far as unmolding the dish, but the buttery flavor makes up for the inconsistency.
On the other hand, Russet potatoes make for a more compact cake. The starchy potato slices adhere better and is easier to work with.
You can make Pommes Anna with regular butter, but clarified butter is the preferred choice. Clarified butter is often referred to as “liquid gold.”
Butter is made up of three components: butterfat, water and milk solids. When you clarify butter, you remove the water and milk solids, leaving only the butterfat. This creates a higher smoke point, which makes clarified butter ideal for sautéing.
Unless you have impeccable knife skills, a mandoline is a must. The potatoes need to be sliced thinly and uniformly in size. The beauty of a mandoline is that it gives you both of these tasks in a very short time.
When overlapping the potatoes, try to make them as visually appealing as you can. The presentation of the cake depends on the stunning display of individual potato slices. Remember, the bottom of the cake will end up being the top.
When unmolding the cake, try to get the spatula under the potatoes, making sure they are not stuck to the bottom of the pan. Once you feel confident the potatoes can unmold, place a serving plate over the pan and quickly flip it. Make sure you use oven mitts; the pan will be hot.
Pommes Anna is an artistic way to showcase the delicious potato. The crunchiness of the top layer is one-of-a-kind. Combine this with the creamy interior and you have a delectable dish. Enjoy!
6 pounds Russet potatoes
2 ½ cups clarified butter
1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
1 ½ teaspoons onion powder
1 ½ teaspoons Herbs de Province
1 ½ teaspoons dried crushed rosemary
kosher salt to taste
fresh rosemary as a garnish
1. In a small pot, melt butter over low heat until bubbly. Remove from heat and skim off the foam that has gathered on top. Add garlic powder, onion powder, Herbs de Province and rosemary. Stir until all ingredients mixed.
2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a rack in the middle and set a rimmed baking sheet on top of it.
3. Peel potatoes and remove ends for a more uniform shape. Rinse the potatoes and then dry with paper towels. Using a mandoline, slice into 1/8-inch slices. As you slice the potatoes, place them in layers of paper towels.
4. In a heavy 10-inch cast iron skillet, heat 3 tablespoons clarified butter over medium heat. When hot, carefully and meticulously, place 1 potato slice in the middle, then quickly place the slices around it, overlapping them clockwise to make a ring.
Place a second ring to surround the first, going counterclockwise. Continue to the edge of the pan, alternating the direction in which the potato rings overlap. Sprinkle generously with salt and drizzle with 3 tablespoons butter.
5. Create a second layer of potatoes, just as you did for the first layer. Season with salt and drizzle of butter.
6. Continue layering potatoes, salt, and butter until skillet is full.
7. Butter the bottom of a 9-inch pan and one side of aluminum foil. Push the pan down firmly on top of the potatoes. Remove the pan, cover potatoes with the foil, buttered side down. Set skillet on the baking sheet and cook in oven for 20 minutes.
8. Remove skillet from oven, remove foil and again press potatoes firmly with the 9-inch pan. Add butter to the bottom of the skillet if necessary. Return to oven and bake uncovered until potatoes are tender and sides are dark brown when lifted away from skillet, 25 to 30 minutes.
9. Remove skillet from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Run a thin spatula around the edge and bottom of the skillet to loosen any slices stuck to the pan. Carefully place a serving plate over the skillet and invert it so the bottom of the Pommes Anna is on top. Garnish with fresh rosemary and serve immediately.
Secret Ingredient – Predictability. “If life were predictable it would cease to be life, and be without flavor.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt