A Perfect Pommes Anna is Awesomely Delicious

A beautiful and delicious classic French potato presentation.

My torrid love affair with potatoes continues. I’ve been revisiting all my favorite potato recipes lately and so far I’ve blogged about homemade tater tots, homemade potato chips, crispy pommes frites fried in duck fat, and delicious potato wedges. The classic French dish of pommes Anna is one of my favorite potato dishes. If done correctly it’s a perfect synthesis of crisp potato and soft, tender potato in one delightful dish. I’m not sure who the lovely Anna was who inspired this dish, but she was obviously one helluva woman! This is a gorgeous, perfectly-conceived side dish; in a way it’s very French — simple, earthy, rich, and pretty. It’s not very hard to make, but it requires a little time, a little care, and fair amount of butter.

A few tips: don’t peel the potatoes until you’re absolutely ready to form the potato cake. Russets oxidize quickly and will turn a “russet” color. Also, when forming the cake work quickly. Only the first layer requires precision to look nice. And the best pan to use is a non-stick saute pan. You really need two of the same size. One to brown the first layer and one to flip the mostly-cooked cake into. Finally, this recipe will feed only two to four people as a side dish. You can make two small pommes anna for more people or a large one in a larger pan. However, keep in mind that larger pommes anna will be much harder to flip to brown both sides

Slice the potatoes very thin. I used an inexpensive Japanese mandolin.

You will need:

1 & 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
1/4 – 1/3 cup melted unsalted butter, preferably French
salt and pepper

Now do this:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Peel the potatoes and slice very thinly on a mandolin. Put an 8-inch ovenproof saute pan on the stove and turn the heat on low. Brush about a tablespoon of melted butter in the bottom of the pan.

Add a layer of potatoes in an over-lapping “rosette” pattern by laying one slice down, adding another halfway over the top of the first, and continuing this in a circle following the edge of the pan. When the last slice meets the first, tuck the leading edge under the first slice. Put a slice or two in the middle to fill in the gap created by the circle. Brush this layer with melted butter and sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt and cracked black pepper.

Continue layering potatoes, butter, salt, and pepper until you’ve used all the slices.

It’s important to make the first layer of potatoes pretty. This will end up being the top of the cake!

Now, turn the heat up to medium-high and brown the bottom for about six to eight minutes. Using a spatula, gently press the potatoes from the top to compress the cake. Add a final sprinkle of salt and pop the pan in the oven. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a skewer is easily inserted through the entire potato cake.

Your pommes anna is oven-bound.

Now comes the tricky part. Gently shake the pan to make sure the pommes anna isn’t sticking at all.  Take another pan of the same dimensions and place over the top of the first pan. Using pot holders or a couple of kitchen towels, carefully and firmly grasp the pan in both hands and flip the whole thing upside down, so that the potatoes are now in the clean pan with the browned side up.

Alternately, you can try to slide the pommes anna onto a plate, invert the hot pan over the plate, and flip the whole thing until the plate is on top and potatoes are upside-down in the original cooking pan. I find the first method easier, but you’ll have to try the second technique if you don’t have two identical pans.

Either way, place the pan with the potatoes on the stove-top and brown the uncooked side over medium-high heat for about six to eight minutes until crispy. At this point you can let the potatoes sit out at room temperature until ready to serve. Heat it up at 375 degrees for five to ten minutes right before dinner.

This is actually double the recipe. I made two 8-inch pommes anna the other night.

Cut into wedges and serve on a platter. It’s a great side dish with roasts of all kinds — beef, chicken, or pork. Leftover pommes anna makes a killer hash-brown-type breakfast potato.

Make this classic potato dish immediately! I bet you have the ingredients in your pantry right now.

See also:
Potato Wedges:
http://www.spencerhgray.com/2011/09/crispy-potato-wedges.html
French Fries:
http://www.spencerhgray.com/2011/09/pommes-frites-french-for-french-fries.html
Potato Chips:
http://www.spencerhgray.com/2011/09/light-crispy-homemade-potato-chips.html
Tater Tots:
http://www.spencerhgray.com/2011/08/homemade-tater-tots-yep.html
Garlic & Lemongrass Home Fries:
http://www.spencerhgray.com/2011/06/crispy-garlic-lemongrass-home-fries.html
Baked Mashed Potato Casserole:
http://www.spencerhgray.com/2011/04/pommes-regina.html

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