Thursday, September 23, 2010
Not as Nice as My Mother's Pommes Anna
When I was little, my mother would only make Pommes Anna for special occasions. It's this heavenly melt-in-your mouth conglomeration of potatoes and butter with a crispy crust. Amazing. But you had to wait for it. Maybe it would appear along side the roast beef at Christmas. Or perhaps if a special guest were in town. Because Pommes Anna was a lot of work. At least when I was little it was. Because back then, we had no fancy slicers. The potatoes had to be sliced by hand. And for a Pommes Anna, they have to be uniform thickness. Basically, a huge pain in the you-know-what. And then, they take a long time to cook. The potatoes must be allowed to reach that beautiful, melty state.
So, I don't have a lot of time. I have almost no special occasions. What I do have is a desperate need to eat Pommes Anna. And so I learned to adapt. I use my mandoline slicer to make quick work of the potatoes. I use my baby 6" cast iron to make a Pommes Anna that is just right for two people (yes it could go for four in a pinch, but people will want seconds). I start it on the stove to hasten cook time. And while the result is not as perfect as my mother's, it's still plenty delicious, and more weekday friendly.
for two to four people
Do not attempt without a cast iron pan!!
2 large Idaho potatoes
salt and pepper to taste
butter - you call the exact amount, but we're talking tablespoons here, this is not a diet dish
Use a fancy slicing device to get nice thin, uniform rounds of potato. In your baby cast iron, throw down a healthy (at least a tablespoon) pat of butter. Turn the heat up to medium and make sure the butter melts and coats the bottom of the pan. Preheat your oven to 400 F.
Begin to assemble your Pommes Anna. This dish gets flipped when done, so the first slices in the pan should be pretty. Save your weird off-sized ones to hide in the middle layer. Overlap beautiful uniform round pieces, like so:
Then add another layer of potatoes, this time covering the empty places. After every 2 layers, add a pinch of salt and a sprinkle of pepper. After about every 3 layers, add another pat of butter, breaking it up with your fingers into little dabs, like so:I'm a little random in my administration of the salt, pepper and butter. Just as long as you use enough. It can get rather peppery though so don't use a lot, it shouldn't be overwhelming, despite what my picture shows. When you've layered off all the potatoes and butter, cover the pan with foil and pop it in the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a knife goes in with no resistance. Carefully slide a knife around the edge then flip onto a plate. This is where it matters if you have a good cast iron pan or not. Mine usually pops out. It has a gorgeous presentation provided that you watch it and don't leave it in one place on a gas burner for too long while doing other things. If you do that you get a burnt spot like me. Also, feel free to throw a bit of cheese between the layers, like parm or gruyere. But it really doesn't need anything. Just potatoes, butter, salt and some high heat.